Hornstein, Kalish, Kasper & O’Connor campaign for change

By Shasta Webb

Seniors Emma Kalish, Rebecca Hornstein, Shaina Kasper, and Sarah O’Connor all come from backgrounds of community and on-campus organizing. With a shared passion for social justice, these women, with support of many other students on campus, are taking part in a national movement to “Kick Wallstreet Off Campus.” Macalester’s chapter, Kick Wells Fargo Off Campus (KWOC) focuses on holding the Mac administration to its morals by moving money away from Wells Fargo and aiming to transact with a more transparent financial institution. The Mac Weekly sat down with Kalish, Hornstein, Kasper, and O’Connor to get a better look at what being involved in KWOC means—in the present and in the future. The Mac Weekly: What is KWOC? Rebecca Hornstein: It is a campaign led by students in solidarity a lot of community members who are also working to hold Wells Fargo accountable for its actions in the foreclosure crisis. We’re trying to get [Macalester] to move its money out of Wells Fargo. It came about as a result of a group of students formerly known as Occupy Mac that became in anti-foreclosure and social justice work in the Twin Cities. We saw a lot of very cool campaigns that community members were leading to hold banks accountable for the destruction that they’ve caused in the community. We realize that Macalester is an institution with a lot of power in the Twin Cities and the things that we do and the places we put our money impact the community no matter what, so it’s up to us to make sure that happens in a positive way. How did each of you come to be involved with KWOC? Emma Kalish: I returned from abroad and I was dissatisfied with some of the things I saw at Macalester. KWOC looked like a good way to get involved in something that was already happening and being effective, which was really important to me. Shaina Kasper: I studied abroad all of last year and saw how a lot of the rest of the world was impacted by our banking decisions. I really wanted to get involved but I really didn’t know how. I went to an Occupy Mac meeting and got sucked into this. Sarah O’Connor: I was also abroad all of last year and I sort of missed the Occupy movement on campus. KWOC seemed to be an effective organization that was making things happen, so I followed some friends to a meeting once—friends that do things on campus that I really respect—and became involved in this. RH: I’m from [Minnesota] I’ve seen the way that Macalester is really connected to the community. We talk about a Mac bubble, but I think that’s sort of a lie because we’re not a bubble. What we do impacts the Twin Cities. We’re not just doing this because we want something to be annoyed with at Macalester. This is actually something that is happening in the community and we can really make positive change. Macalester can be involved in a movement that is already happening in the Twin Cities. SK: All of us come from backgrounds in organizing—MPIRG, MULCH, and all other sorts of organizations on and off campus. I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but I was getting frustrated with the slow rate of change and the amount of effort it took to pass legislation that might not even be effective. This is a much more direct way of making a positive impact on our communities. EK: KWOC is the kind of thing where if you come once, you can’t really stop. How is KWOC more than just an organization you’re all part of this year? EK: Wells Fargo does a lot of awful things, not just related to foreclosures. Another thing they are involved in is the financing of private prisons. Last semester I did an internship involving legal assistance for people, many of whom were incarcerated in private prisons. I started to understand just how ridiculous private prisons are, which inspired me to get involved in KWOC. SO: I don’t think that is this something that is just an org that I’m going to just do this year at Macalester. I think that organizing for social change is a life project. EK: We’re all seniors, but many of the other people in the group aren’t. Once we succeed in this campaign, which is going to happen really soon, we’re not just going to dissolve as a group. I think there are a lot of other things that can happen with this. It’s not just about this one issue. RH: We feel like we’re acting on the values that we learn at Macalester. In a lot of my classes across a lot of different departments we learn about the impact banks have had, especially on the financial crisis. We learn about a lot of these issues very theoretically, but actually seeing people in the community actually acting in this movement is a way to connect what we’ve learned at Macalester to our actions and our values. Has being involved in KWOC changed any of your plans for the future? SO: This has introduced me to organizing as a thing you can spend your life doing. It doesn’t have to end with graduation. SK: This particular issue is only one part of the broken capitalist system, not to sound too anarchist, but the ways I’ve come about this are centered around food and waste and sanitation. I’ve learned about how our everyday actions have larger implications. RH: By doing this you really start to see how all the issues that we’re involved in separately are all connected. We’re part of this group called Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, which consists of a bunch of labor and community groups that are involved in a lot of different issues, but they’re all targeting Wells Fargo and big banks. By coming together around a common target, even though all the issues are different, you can see how everything connects. What else are you all involved in? RH: I’m one of the matriarchs of Mac Jews. I was also involved in MPIRG. SK: As was I. SO: I was once an MPIRGer. I’m involved in MULCH. EK: We all do a lot of direct service type projects too. Sarah and I were in Lives of Commitment for two years and this movement is different than that, but sort of naturally part of the same kinds of things. What has being a part of this group added to your time at Mac? What will you take with you from this experience? SO: I’ve learned a whole curriculum of strategic organizing that is a really valuable and applicable skill. It’s a way to apply things I’ve learned at Macalester in a way that I think you don’t get in a class. RH: It’s also cool because you get to meet a bunch of really cool people off campus by talking about these issues that we all really care about and see as relevant to our lives—and talking to other students and administrators and learning how this school works. EK: We just had an event for supportive alumni. It was cool to reconnect with alumni who are still in the area who are interested in what we’re doing. What is KWOC’s mission statement? How is Mac’s chapter acting to achieve its goals? EK: The final goal of this campaign is to have the Macalester administration do a request for proposals process where different banks would be able to submit their ideas and their policies about how they would use [Macalester’s] money. RH: We want a transparent process that we can all get involved in and make Macalester’s banking align with its values. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced? RH: The administration has been really open to talking with us, which we really appreciate, and that’s not how it is at most schools. Other schools aren’t as open to hearing about this kind of thing. EK: A struggle we’ve been having is that this isn’t something that Macalester does every day. They do requests for proposals when they’re deciding anything, but those are usually more based on cost. They’re supportive of our ideas though. RH: We could spend all of our time doing this, but we have other things to do too. A challenge is definitely the time commitment part of it. How would someone interested in these issues get involved? EK: Students should come to our event on December fourth in the Chapel at 7 PM where we’re going to talk about how Wells Fargo is not holding up any of the pillars of Macalester
with many different members of the community. RH: There will be poetry and music. It will be really informative and fun. refresh –>