Columbia University offering course in Occupy movement

Students can take courses in everything from ancient art to The Simpsons at different universities, but now Columbia University students will be able to learn more about one of the biggest news stories of 2011.

Dr. Hannah Appel will be teaching a course all about the Occupy protest and it will include a lot of fieldwork.

"The course offers training in ethnographic research methods alongside a critical exploration of the conjunctural issues in the Occupy movement: Wall Street, finance capital, and inequality; political strategies, property and public space, and the question of anarchy; and genealogies of the contemporary moment in global social movements," reads the course syllabus. "This class is about rigorous and creative intellectual inquiry, not movement-building or political conversation."

Appel claims to have spent nights at Zuccotti Park in New York City and defends the movement on her blog.

"It is important to push back against the rhetoric of 'disorganization' or 'a movement without a message' coming from left, right and centre."

Of course, the ironic part to the class is hard to miss. Columbia is an Ivy League private school that routinely ranks as one of the best in the U.S. Tuition for a Bachelor of Arts or Science is more than $23,000 a year, making it more than four times the price of most bachelor degrees at public schools in Canada. And according to Inside Higher Ed, full-time Columbia professors earn on average $191,400.

Those numbers are a lot closer to the top per cent rather than the 99 per cent. The Blaze argues if professors want to have a discussion on "income inequality," they should talk about these figures in relation to average salaries for Marines or police officers.

As many as 30 students will take part in the anthropology class that will involve classroom seminars and as part of the fieldwork students must get involved in ongoing Occupy projects.

While the protests have turned violent in the past, she writes on the syllabus students will be safe.

"I can say with absolute certainty that there is no foreseeable risk in teaching this as a field-based class," reads the syllabus. "On the contrary, the risks of disengaged scholarship seem more profound."

Given her background, Appel still feels she will be objective.

"Inevitably, my experience will colour the way I teach, but I feel equipped to teach objectively," Appel told The New York Post. "It's best to be critical of the things we hold most sacred."

(Reuters photo)

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