Newsday: 'Occupy' movement debated at Molloy

Occupy Wall Street came to the quiet, tidy campus of Molloy College in Rockville Centre Wednesday night, and while there were no demonstrations or signs, there was an intense debate in a jam-packed lecture hall about the causes of the movement and ways to fix the American economy, whose continuing troubles are at the heart of the protests.

Molloy, a small, independent Catholic college, is one of the first higher-education institutions on Long Island to publicly address the OWS movement, according to college officials. Nearly 300 people, students, professors and guests, crammed into the college's Hays Theater for more than two hours to listen to arguments for and against the protesters who occupied Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan and continue to demonstrate there.

Molloy vice president Edward J. Thompson, the moderator, said there is "no more contentious issue today" than OWS. The college, Thompson said, has a long history of publicly addressing national and international issues, including the war in Iraq and genocide in Rwanda.

Michael Russo, director of Molloy's Center for Social and Ethical Concerns, recently took students to Zuccotti Park, spoke extensively with protesters, and made a 15-minute film of the occupied park. "They're not bubble-headed kids," Russo said. "They're bright and more articulate than the average 20-year-old. The idea that these are Marxists is absurd."

Peter Fallon, a professor of media studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago, drew upon biblical figures such as the apostle Peter, who stood for the underprivileged. The "rules of capitalism," Fallon said, can be "quite unfair and unjust."

Thomas J. McNamara, an adjunct business law instructor at Molloy, said that while there may be reason for frustration among OWS protesters, their feelings should be directed toward the federal government, not Wall Street. "What the occupiers want to do is take money and pay it to themselves," McNamara said.

Fixes? Lower taxes and less government regulation, said McNamara. Better living standards for everybody, said Fallon.