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Occupy protests spread to US college campuses

As the Occupy Wall Street protests have grown to cities across the United States, they've also taken root at US universities, where students have staged rallies and walk-outs from classes.

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"There hasn't for a long time been a single issue like the civil rights or the war in Vietnam that brings a whole generation together," Self said.

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Students at more than 120 universities have participated in protests so far. They range from students at elite private Ivy League colleges in the northeast, many who come from middle and upper class families, to those who work and attend state or community colleges full-time.

At Harvard, 70 students walked out of an introductory economics class taught by the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during President George W. Bush's administration to protest what they called the "biased nature" of the class, which they said, "contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America."

Gabriel Bayard, 18, a student who helped organize the walk-out, said the professor, Greg Mankiw, "makes questionable statements and tries to pass them off as fact." He pointed, for example, to the argument that economic equality and efficiency are a zero sum game.

"There's mounting economic evidence that's not the case," Bayard said.

At Rhode Island College, students have held teach-ins where professors are brought in to give lectures on topics like the history of student movements. Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur, a sociology professor at the school, said faculty are brought in to offer their expertise but participate as equals.

"We have things we can offer by virtue of our study in these areas," Arthur said. "But that doesn't make us any more qualified to speak than they are."

Arthur said it's fairly typical for social movements to have large student participation, in part because they have more time available. But that isn't the case at her school, where a majority of students work and are from working or lower class families.

"We have students that aren't available and they are still making the time to be part of a movement," said Arthur, whose research focuses on student activism.

Debt from college loans and poor job prospects after graduation are two of the main points of contention for student protesters. The unemployment rate for students who graduated from college in 2010 was 9.1 percent, among the highest levels in recent history, according to the Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to making college more affordable. Students graduated with an average of $25,250 in debt, 5 percent higher than a year before.

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