What's next for Bank of America protester Molly Katchpole?

Nov 07, 2011

Chat live with Molly Katchpole, the 22-year-old underemployed college grad who ignited a nationwide movement by starting a petition to get Bank of America to back off its proposal to charge a debit card fee, at Monday at Noon ET. Ask her questions about her Bank of America petition, how it has played a role in the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, unemployment and what she plans on doing next.

Grad Katchpole, who sparked Bank of America debit fee protest, needs a job
Photo Gallery: Molly Katchpole, overnight sensation

Hey everyone! I'm excited to answer your questions... ask anything! 

Molly, thanks for chatting. I noticed on the comments to the article that when someone made reference to the quote you gave on your impending student loans ("Really."), you would comment in reply that you'd like a chance to email with them on that topic. So please, here's your chance: would you elaborate on your quote in the story? Because it came off as though you were both suprised and upset that you had to pay off the student loans you obtained in order to get your degree. I thought you sounded unrealistic in the quote, but I'm happy to give you the benefit of the doubt, and more space to explain. Thanks.

Ah! The question I wanted to answer. So glad you've asked.

So, paying student loans is not surprising, of course. I've known all four years that I'd have to start after 6 months of graduating. When I was talking to Ian, we were having a more in-depth discussion about student loans. My response isn't fully in the article, of course - he only has so much space. 

My sentiment is this: it doesn't seem to do any good to have just a 6-month period to "save money." I think the root of the problem lies there - I'd love to try to change that. Every single one of my friends who has loans to pay off is terrified. We're scared. We just had 4 years of learning and trying to earn money, and now it's like, Well shoot. Six months goes by pretty fast. 

I'm not unrealistic - I think my quote was just a quick, passionate response and very much encapsulates how every recent grad feels.


Since it is the headline for this discussion, I believe we still need someone at ask the question, so, in case no one else asks: "What is next for Molly Katchpole?" Are there other crusades you wish to undertake?

This is going to be a very broad answer, but something that's ALWAYS interested me is how to make big, complex issues more accessible to the general public. 

I think that we need to educate one another as much as possible with truthful, factual, yet heartfelt information especially as it relates to politics and policy. I hate to see people rely on outlets like CNN and FOX News for their information because it's so skewed. I'd love to try to fix that. 

I don't understand why you (or anyone) takes on so many loans when it seems impossible you will be able to pay them. Why didn't you start with community college, or school part time paying as you go, or a less expensive school or a degree that was more likely to make you employable. I really don't understand if kids today are so financially illiterate that you truly do not understand what a loan is or interest or what signing a contract to repay those loans really means.

I'm not sure if this is a question or a criticism, but I'm going to try to answer it regardless.

I'm not financially illiterate, and neither are my friends who have loans. We understand what a contract is and we understand what repaying loans means.

That being said, I think it's perfectly okay and reasonable to frankly get pissed off and frustrated with not making much money and knowing that you worked your tail off. 

I know you're referring to my quote, and it was just a burst of frustration. I find it hard to believe that other people don't get caught up in their feelings sometimes, too.

. . . just a "good for you" for starting that petition. And good luck in your job hunt.

Thank you - it's nice to hear that.

Have you got any job offers through your activism?

No job offers, but people have expressed interest in talking to me - which is exciting. I love having conversations with people and learning about what they do. 

I presume you haven't decided what to do next.  If not, is there something you would like to do independently?  As in self-employed?  It seems like you have good instincts for social issues.

Well, independent stuff interests me as long as it's backed by a full-time job, too. The realm I am looking into - progressive politics - has a long history of being somewhat divided and not working together, so I think being self-employed may not be the best route for that area.

Did you expect the petition to get as big as it did?

I thought it would get maybe a few ten-thousand signatures... but never 300,000+, and BofA backing down completely was a HUGE surprise.

More than anything I just wanted to raise awareness and urge people to take action. 

What do you want to see eventually coming out of the Occupy movement? In other words, what changes would you like to see effected?

More than anything, I want workers to earn more money. I want the pay scale back to where it was 30 years ago.

I'm tired of the concept of "working hard" only applying to the people at the top. My father is a machinist and he works his ass off in manufacturing - but he isn't earning millions. Why is only ONE type of "working hard" being rewarded so massively? 

That's something I want to come out of Occupy.

We all were there. That's just the first few years of life after college, unless you have a trust fund. I remember the first year my sister graduated, she gave us stuff from the dollar store for Christmas. Now she has worked hard, sacraficed, saved and has a nice family, home, life. But WE ALL had to suffer through that poverty after college thing. The first few years are hard, but part of the deal. Unless you have a time machine to go back and be born in a rich family. This is life.

Absolutely. And that's what I meant. Of course I need to pay back loans, I get it. I know we're expected to. I think that quote is easy to misunderstand and take out of context. 

It was a simple expression of frustration, not a self-righteous, spoiled, out-of-touch quote from a 22-year-old who is expecting life to be handed to her... and I think that's how people are trying to paint it. 

What is your opinion of Occupy Wall Street?

Hi! I just answered a question about OWS - see my answer there. Thanks!

"That being said, I think it's perfectly okay and reasonable to frankly get pissed off and frustrated with not making much money and knowing that you worked your tail off." I'm sorry, but in the field you chose to study, did you really believe that there was a large market of high-paying jobs for freshly-minted college grads?

The other question I wanted to answer.

First off, my best friend graduated with a teaching degree and she isn't employed. Another friend was an engineering major and isn't employed. 

Second, I wouldn't change what I studied. Frankly, I learned how to write damn well, how to argue, how to research, how to look at issues from multiple angles, I learned about religion, philosophy, politics, society, I know how to take complex issues and make them easily digestible and accessible, and I learned how to be an effective communicator.

So yes, in college, I really believed what employers were looking for those qualities. Aren't they?

I majored in English, a subject people always turn their nose up at because it's not as straightforward pratical as, say, engineering.  But what people don't realize is that degree gives me a one-up in other career fields, where most of the people are inept writers or don't comprehend long, complex documents as well.  So two here's two cheers for majoring in something that many people are too narrow minded to consider valuable!

Cheers, my friend! Right on.

Since I was 15, for the past 15 years, I've been railing against our consumer culture, writing letters to editors, consumerist.org, etc., starting online petitions, writing blog and print articles, etc. And I'm not famous. How did you get famous?

Change.org helped me out by getting press involved when they saw that the petition was reaching tens of thousands of people. The fact that it went viral was beyond my control.

Keep writing letters, petitions, and articles, because I've done that since I was 15, too. You don't need to be "famous" to be effective. And, by the way... I'm hardly famous. 

Molly - congrats on the success of the campaign against $5 debit card fees. I will be pocketing $60 this year thanks to you. My concern is that the banks will have to make up for the lost revenues somehow. Some news articles have already indicated that they are coming up with a new method of charging. What kind of charge do you think they will implement and what are you doing to prepare for that?

Ugh, I know. Honestly, if they know what's good for them, they won't. I have no idea what I'll do - hopefully someone will feel empowered enough to do something!

Molly - As a college professor, I see a lot of apathy from students. Seeing you involved, making a difference is refreshing. What was the "deciding factor" that motivated you to get personally involved in the BoA petition?

It was just pure frustration that built up, I think. I couldn't tell you. I think that BofA's announcement came at the perfect time for people to rally and react, so I noticed that and went with it. It worked!

I've read (reasonable) criticism of student loan forgiveness that it unfairly penalizes those who pay off their loans. Would there be a way to provide rebates to those people so as to make the situation more level?

I have no idea. I'm not an expert, I'm just a frustrated kid with not much money and ten years of loan payments ahead. All I know is that reform needs to happen.

I'm wrapping this session up... any other questions?

And seriously, I said this in a few comments - email me if you want to chat. mkatchpole394@g.rwu.edu.

In This Chat
Molly Katchpole
Molly Katchpole is credited for starting a petition to get Bank of America to back off its proposal to charge a monthly debit-card fee. The bank abandoned the plan.
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