While it is usually a serious research challenge, social movement scholars are often on the lookout for the “influence” of social movements. We’d like to know whether or not movement activity results in changes in line with movement demands. Intended outcomes are hardly the only consequences of movements, though. The Occupy movement is still young, and policy responses to its demands have yet to be seen. But unintended consequences are already emerging.
Here at Indiana University, the Occupy Bloomington activists have already gotten a change (of sorts) in IU policy, without even trying. Last year, IU administrators instituted a new plan for distributing student tickets to men’s basketball games. Rather than the old system, which assigned seats based on season ticket orders, the new system would allow students in certain sections of the stadium to get seats on a first-come, first-serve basis. Why the change? The athletic department was hoping to generate the kind of visible enthusiasm evident at other college basketball powerhouses like Duke, where students line up months in advance of major match-ups. Groups of students live in tents in an area now dubbed “Krzyzewskiville,” after the Blue Devils coach, in order to ensure courtside seats for the game.
Last weekend, undefeated Indiana hosted #1 ranked Kentucky in a much anticipated game, and as the week leading up to the game unfolded, the athletic department seemed to get its wish. IU students brought their tents and sleeping bags to Assembly Hall and began setting up “Camp Crean” (named for IU coach Tom Crean) four days before the game. Within hours of the initial encampment, however, IU administrators and athletic department officials arrived with a new policy: no tents. Why the sudden change of heart? Statements from the athletic department mention student safety (it’s cold out there!) and education (finals start soon!), but it seems the bulk of the concern may actually have been the implications for the Occupy Bloomington crowd (who, it should be noted, have not made an effort to set up camp on the IU campus; they’re in a park nearby). As the president of the IU Student Association said in describing the new policy:
We didn’t just want to say, “Yes, you can camp.” I would love to say that, but that’s very hard to restrict that to just the athletic facilities. If we would’ve said, “Yes, you can camp,” that would’ve also extended to all the Occupy Wall Street people, and they could’ve camped anywhere on campus.
So, it would appear, without any direct effort on their part, Occupy Bloomington has already had an influence on policy–albeit one that we might call preemptively repressive.