As of the Regent’s meeting vote on November 18th, UC tuition has gone up over $800. A year at UCLA, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Davis and Irvine now costs over $11,000 when in 2000 it cost $3,429. That means if you make $10 an hour, you’ll have to work 80 more hours next year, or if you’re a Freshman, take out $2,400 more in debt before you graduate. The tremors of the economic crisis continues to spread, and our chances of getting a job we want with our degrees becomes more and more slim. This is our future...
How can we understand this tuition hike in the context of broader social conditions? We find ourselves in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. 2008 was a shock to the economy as a whole and will no doubt render the world we lived in before unrecognizable. Overproduction of and speculation on real estate, the creation of unsustainable financial tools to be invested in, rising mortgage, credit card and student loan debt -- all of these created a crisis in which banks couldn’t lend, people couldn’t pay their bills and abandoned their homes, and states and governments ran out of money to spend. In order to cope with the massive problems caused by the financial crisis, governments around the world have responded in two major ways: austerity measures and debt financing.
Austerity: the Dialectic of Too Much and Not Enough
A certain narrative frames tuition hikes as the result of problems with the university budget and the lack of money coming in from the State of California. At one level, the problem is not a lack of money, but a question of how it is prioritized. Billions of dollars flow through the UC system. This money gets directed away from raises for workers and undergraduate education and goes to executive bonuses, new police stations and expensive graduate student housing. Let’s also not forget that the State of California spends more money on prisons than education. Public spending in general has expanded over the neoliberal period, funding such endeavors as bailouts for the largest banks and war in the Middle East. The logic that would posit the budget cuts and fee hikes as the necessary results of the economic crisis are therefore false. The University has, from this perspective “too much.”
Yet at another level, we can see a long term-trend towards a defunding of the public sector by governments and the implementation of austerity measures. These measures involve cutting funding to social services, such as hospitals and libraries, public transportation, and of course, education in order to compensate for a lack of money coming in from elsewhere. What this means is that in order to deal with the problems caused by bankers, speculators and stock brokers – those who brought on the financial crisis – governments place the burden on students, forcing them to pay more for their education. The university seen from this perspective, will continue to have “not enough.”
Debt and its False Master
The other pole of austerity is debt financing, meaning the use of bonds and loans in order to pay for an economic system in ruins. This occurs at a national level – the US government deficit has expanded exponentially since the Clinton years – and at the level of the individual seen in the expansion of consumer debt.
Because of this economic crisis, we have seen how governments, even with austerity measures in place, still can't afford to fund the public sector fully. Therefore, they prop it up artificially by selling bonds (to countries such as China, Japan or Germany). In other words, the public sector continues to rely on an increasing amount of debt and growing national budget deficits.
Furthermore, the lack of public spending that comes with austerity measures displaces the financial costs of an education onto students, and this often means increased personal debt – student loans, credit cards. In turn, student loan and credit card debt become complex financial instruments that investors speculate on, recreating the very dynamics that created the 2008 collapse in the first place.
The University as a Ruin to Come
How does the university function within this economic collapse? A university degree used to promise a middle class wage for those who could get in and graduate. Tuition could be seen as an investment in a secure future. Whereas once the university specialized workers for a growing economy, in the era of postfordism and the eclipse of full-time salaried jobs, the promise of a university degree is breaking down. The university prepares us for jobs that have vanished. The university becomes more and more about labor discipline, the need to create a subjectivity which internalizes the demand to be hirable, the self-fashioning of human capital. We learn to become adaptable workers, capable of entering into the changing needs of the system, people who see social life through the lens of adding all our experiences to a CV.
Against the Wall
While these disciplining forces are at work, we have seen a different type of trend within the university: the emergence of vibrant student struggles all over the world. Since 2008, there have been waves of student occupations and blockades against austerity measures and other key student issues. This November we have seen occupations at British universities against the tripling of student fees and the closure of high schools across France in support of the general strike against pension reform.
One might say that once the economy “recovers,” all will return to normal – fees go back down, and austerity measures be reversed. But what if, as thinkers such as Gopal Balakrishnan, David Harvey and Robert Brenner have argued, we have reached the limits of capital? Debt, austerity and the fluctuations of the economy show us that the kind of growth we have known since the end of World War II in America is no longer sustainable. It is the private sector itself that is now propped up by consumer and government debt: a permanent bubble economy, an unsustainable economics. What if this is not one more crisis to add to the ash heap of time, but the burning away of the ashes themselves?
The Situation is Excellent
Students have historically catalyzed and supported broader movements: in May 68 in France, in Mexico City in 2000 and in Greece in 2008. Student struggles are indicative of larger social and economic dynamics, bound to them and capable of transforming them.
One path to take is retrenchment – to pull of the cap over one's eyes so as to not see the monster, walk dejectedly across the ruins This is no option. There are no easy answers for how to resist; we have no idea what to do, but we will do it. Reworking our struggle will be our education, the ruins will be our friend. Because of this, we say: “there is great disorder under heaven; the situation is excellent.”
and buildings at UCLA, expressing their outrage over fee hikes,
reductions to worker hours, the exclusion of people of color from the
university and the economic crisis that has destroyed the lives of
At noon we converged in the center of campus with workers from AFSCME,
SETC, AFT, UPTE, and other students and faculty. After the rally,
over 300 of us went into the main administration building where we
voiced a list of demands to the administration.
This space was the most integrated and diverse many of us had ever
seen on campus. There were Chican@, African American, Asian, white
and Middle Eastern students fighting together; there were professors,
lecturers, service workers and community members standing in
At one point a megaphone was passed around to anyone who wished to
speak and tell their story of why they were fighting for the
university. Several people talked about being first-generation
students and many were afraid they would also be the last generation
in their families to go to school. One woman talked about how her
Latin American studies class inspired her to think about struggles in
Guatemala and Chile, and how they are related to what’s going on here.
Another woman talked about her mother who had come to America from
Mexico to give her daughter a better future. Some talked about the
financial crisis that has devastated America and the world at large.
Others condemned a federal budget that funds the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Afterwards, people read poetry, played music and danced.
It was an ecstatic experience, and for many of us, it was our first
time taking such direct action at UCLA.
We feel that actions like this and those around California today
reflect a growing worldwide resistance to an economic system bent on
generating profits for the few, regardless of the well-being of the
vast majority of people. As students, we are only one small part of a
much larger struggle. We know that a public university is what is
necessary for a society that values social justice. And we recognize
that a financialized university becomes the training ground for
corporate executives, investment bankers, military and political
strategists and others who hold a stake in the existing global power
Worker, student, faculty solidarity at UCLA. Solidarity with you and
your struggles and with struggles around the world.
We are faced with an eruption that no one can yet explain, an eruption that does not yet have a name. But we need to stop and ask ourselves: how did we get here? And now that we are here, is what is happening at universities across the world something real, a true rupture with the present order?
The 00's destroyed our dreams. The horror of September 11th in New York was quickly translated into the global horror of the neoconvservative agenda. We saw wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that could not be stopped by millions of people marching in both Washington D.C. and Tehran, in Islamabad and Mumbai, in Palestine and Israel, in Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Lagos and Istanbul. The anti-war movement became our iconic moment of revolt and the living nightmare of defeat.
With environmental devastation looming, no health care and the temerity and fear we learned in the Bush years, the future seemed a grey haze. At the same time, the housing market was booming, invincible. Credit flowed freely. Gas prices decline from the near $4 a gallon we'd seen earlier in the decade. Students had the promise of finding, if not equal prosperity as their parents, something approximating the middle class life they'd grown up in, or seen generations of Americans fight for.
We had two options.
One, we could try to get jobs that might secure that kind of life. But the only people making money were the ones who knew how to cheat the very system that promised a fair chance for all. That's what the guys at Enron proved to us, what Bernard Madoff's $65 billion investment scheme proved to us. That's what real estate agents making a quick buck off of loans they knew would fall through proved to us. And that's what the CEO's of banks who gave themselves raises in the midst of the biggest economic downfall since the Great Depression proved to us.
Playing by those rules revolted us.
So we chose to go to school, more because we thought we should than because we knew what we were doing. Some of us went to develop our love of the sciences, the arts, philosophy, politics, and literature. But we knew that these degrees -- even in the sciences -- didn't mean we would find a fulfilling job where our skills would be put to their full use. Our degrees held no promise of economic stability or anything more than a stamp on our way towards the next round of education, skills training or a new career.
The economy no longer needed just our bodies, or even a specialized set of knowledge or "intellectual" skills. It needed us to become highly adaptable, more professional, yet more relaxed, more personable, ready to work with people in different parts of the company, newly emerging companies, companies in different countries. This economy needed us to switch careers when jobs moved overseas, shut down or became obsolete to those who hoped to make a profit from us.
It required us to learn how to design web pages in a week or become a "leader" in our office. Fewer of us became the workers caught in the cogs of the machines. We became the baristas who had to smile while we spilled espresso on ourselves, graphic designers who checked our email in between the digitalized images we mistook for our own art, restaurant servers who knew the ins and outs of organic wines we couldn't afford, dotcomers who worked twelve hour days in our "casual-fun" offices.
To learn the new skills in the university would mean more loans, more work-study jobs or shit jobs in the world and more checks cut to the university itself. It would mean more time in limbo, between the comforts of youth and the promise of a joyous transition into adulthood.
And then in September of 2008 the economy went into freefall.
We lost our jobs, our friends or our parents lost their jobs. We didn't know how the fuck to pay back credit card debt we'd accumulated in the delirium of the housing bubble. For those of us in school, or thinking of going to school, the cuts to public education annihilated our last illusions of so-called prosperity. The crisis took away all ideas that our generation had a future comparable to that of the last generation.
In 2009 those cuts to public education symptomatic of the 00's became monstrously visible. In the past few months, we have seen library hours reduced, writing programs shut, tuition raised, cultural services destroyed and schools go on furlough for weeks at a time while funds continue to pour into stadium and police station renovations, the business schools and executive pocketbooks. We have seen office workers on furlough, custodians and service workers laid off.
We are angry but many of us feel powerless. As we have said, the defeat of the anti-war movement and the consequences for those who have had to flee -- or stay behind -- in Iraq and Afghanistan constitute the fundamental trauma of our generation, acknowledged or not. Traditional activism: marches, rallies, signing petitions, calls to Congress did nothing to stop the right-wing agenda. And while we may have put momentary hope in Obama, and stood in awe as America elected an African American president, we have become increasingly disillusioned by his refusal to fight for health care, environmental standards, for ending the wars abroad, indeed for a better world.
It is easy to feel powerless.
Yet what the older generation may not yet understand is that our generation's problem is that we do not lack ideals; we suffer from an excess of them. We are not unaware of important causes, we are starving for a way to realize them.
So companies prey on our starvation. They offer us a product to satiate our need for community, for purpose. We take our ideals and become the generation of Whole Foods-shoppers, Prius-drivers and American Apparel-clothes wearers. We show off our causes gladly on our Facebook page and on our t-shirts. Not only have we been sold our ideals back to us in the form of the shoes we buy and the coffee we drink, we are conscious of how our very passion is being co-opted. And still we do it, because we crave an imaginary community over no community.
Some will say that as long as we must buy things in this economy, why not buy whatever is organic, fair trade, sweatshop-free, environmentally friendly, free range? Do we need to support the most corrupt of companies and their labor practices?
We do not hope to answer those questions. Rather we need to acknowledge that the real problem is this: consumption is now framed as a question of what causes we support, what communities we are involved in. This is the opposite of the commodity fetish that hid social relations beneath the veneer of objects. Now commodities must advertise the social relations we wish to be part of.
Businessmen like Douglas Atkin are well aware of this, and his "The Culting of Brands" compares cutting-edge marketing strategies to the creation of cults centered around products (Mac, Harley Davidson, World of Warcraft). Commodities now provide us with an illusory feeling of community and social being in an imaginary realm, rather than in the concrete, material one. This economy tried to dress up our alienation in slogans of creativity and sophistication. It was no longer those in power who drove business, rather it was the customer, it was us. Consumer-generated ads that looked like video art projects hardly fooled us, but were at least more interesting than the old commercials on t.v. Business slogans made fun of consumerism, allowing us to ease our conscience and buy what we wanted.
Facebook is the model commodity of this fading decade, since it exposes both our desire for community and the reification of that desire at the same time. Our collective desire is now visible in the shadowy, inverted form of the things we buy, talk about and watch on t.v.
If the 60's and its tragedy in America revolved around the desire to extend popular struggle to issues of race, gender, orientation and environment, we are being resold that dream as farce.
Thus, it is easy to feel powerless, not merely because we are disenchanted with traditional activism and its results, but because our desire for collectivity has been displaced onto the realm of things, away from our material existence. We do too many things to show we care about this world; we do everything except come together to change it.
So now that our education and our very future are at stake, what do we do?
We can join the Facebook groups, wear the t-shirts and join the old student organizations and march at the rallies. We do not discourage any form of resistance at the same time that for many of us, these means no longer feel sufficient. Unlike some past radical movements, we say that no one should be discouraged from getting involved in struggle however they feel is right.
For those of us who are students, we need to understand our powerlessness and what role the university plays in both fostering and challenging it.
The university serves two main purposes which are antagonistic. First, the university allows for people, including people from disadvantaged backgrounds, a chance to "compete" in the economy. The university has allowed people to enter into the economy and carve out niches where before none existed. It is now easier for women, African Americans, Latin@s and Asian Americans to enter the workforce with a marketable skills set, at the same time that real equality remains distant. This dispersion of knowledge is one of the university's more progressive functions, yet it is the very aspect of the university that is now under attack.
The second role of the university is to serve to consolidate inequalities and funnel a generation of privileged students into the roles their parents occupied. By excluding people through test scores, economic and racial background, it cuts itself off from its mission of universal education. By handing out degrees, it gives a silent wink to employers that you are an obedient, pleasant, functioning member of society, and may have some skill set they can capitalize on. By prioritizing management and business departments, by funding only the scientific research that promises to produce the next great weapons, anti-depressant or supercomputers, it limits our capacity to create the world with our creativity. The university, in its links to the economy, channels our labor into only the most "practical" of endeavors.
There is no reconciliation between these two poles. The university must allow entry to more students at the same time that it excludes. This antagonism will continue to play itself out. What we are seeing now is a heightening of the tension between the roles the university plays. Its exclusionary side will gain in dominance unless we can adopt a new vision of the university.
We must therefore remember that the university has a third function as well, one almost now forgotten. The university's role, in spite of the cynicism that now attends such a claim, has been to create a vision of society and of political participation. It is this dream which we cannot jettison in our rush to overthrow the old order of the university. We can radicalize this dream, so that the university becomes a place in which the creation of new worlds takes place, a space in which new modes of social being develop and divisions between workers and students evaporate. For those of us who have been organizing with workers, faculty and other students, we not only know that such a space is not only possible, it is happening right now.
Therefore, we can and should accept the university's most radical goals: universal education, the affirmation of all areas of human knowledge and the creation of free beings. If we can affirm these things, it becomes easy to show how the university fails miserably on its promises. If we focus only on tuition hikes, worker layoffs, or cuts to class offerings, we allow the university to rebound and gain back some of the ground it has lost. If we simply wish to destroy or save the university, we only play into its ongoing antagonism. By affirming these radical promises of universal education, the affirmation of all areas of human knowledge and the creation of free beings, we can show how the university's link to the economy undermines its very foundations. We can show that only a student and worker run university could fulfill the dream spawned at its inception and carried on by generations.
However, to realize this dream, we believe we need a new model of how to relate to one another, how to organize and how to partake in our common being. One that is not based on the leadership and party-politics models we are wary of, nor one based solely on the radical past of the 60's. We have great examples of solidarity among students and workers from that decade and others, but these examples, if given too much of our focus become nothing but monumental history, dead weight. We must create a new language, a new vision of the world, a new poetry.
For some of us, there are important touchstones outside of traditional activisim to imagine this type of coming-together:
1.) The WTO protests in Seattle & elsewhere that saw unions, environmentalists, feminists and students come together not out of a forced unity, but in a joyous uprising against the economic order.
2.) Worker occupations & community councils in Argentina in the wake of the 2001-2 economic collapse. By taking over factories that bosses threaten to shut down, workers saved their jobs and ran their workplaces for themselves. They did not ask permission, they took control of their workplace themselves! Neighborhood councils organized to help people hit by the economic collapse through barter, exchange, free services and solidarity.
3.) Some aspects of the anti-war movement, especially where it was not co-opted by any one group or "leaders" discouraging direct action. We were encouraged by the broad-based and global support for the movement and the antagonism to the American war machine and the economic system that drives it.
4.) Direct takeovers of space, direct takeovers of public resources. We have the example of the landless peasants of the MST in Brazil who take land left unused in order to grow crops and create a new life. We have the example of Bolivians who recaptured their water system from those who would make a profit of it, and who ran it for themselves.
5.) Student occupations throughout the 00's, and especially the recent ones at NYU, the New School, Vienna, London (LCC), Santa Cruz, CSU Fullerton, Heidelberg, Zurich, UC Berkeley and more. Takeovers of education to create a university for all, not simply those who can afford it.
The common points in these 5 touchstone moments are as follows:
· coming-together without the illusion of unity
· direct action and occupation of space
· the organization of councils & assemblies to make decisions, the rejection of leadership models
· a broad vision & solidarity across traditional lines that divide
· joy and community as well as rage and protest
If we are to build a student movement, we must conserve the past at the same time that we move beyond it, by working through its failures. In this regard, we have more to learn from Argentina in 2002 than Paris in 1968, more to learn from Seattle than Berkeley, more to learn from the anti-Iraq war movement than the anti-Vietnam movement, more to learn from Santa Cruz in 2009 than the Students for a Democratic Society.
We need songs that are more Outkast & Janelle Monae and less Bob Dylan, more the Arcade Fire and less the Beatles, more TV on the Radio and less Joan Baez, more Lil Wayne and less Marvin Gaye, more the Knife and less the Doors.
We need poems that don't repeat the shrunken dreams of the language poets or the now-xeroxed images of Kerouac and Ginsberg. We need a language born of our crisis, born of us.
We need art and literature that is one part David Lynch, one part Marc Danielewski, one part Basquiat and one part Matthew Barney. And we need to burn it and create our own from the ashes.
We should stop expecting everyone to participate only through direct action or on the other hand only through traditionally-organized channels. Our vision must be as broad as possible.
We need to support unions, workers and faculty if they need our help; we cannot wait for them to contact us, we must go to them. We are not so arrogant as to believe that we can create a new world alone.
We need festivals and occupations and discussions and university stoppages, impossible demands, not only sit-ins, teach-ins, one-hour walkouts, manifestos and passive resistance. We must no longer ask permission to be students, to take joy in our youth and share our lives with each other.
We need not demand everything or demand nothing. We must demand the very things that will expose the universities' ties to this economic order and make their bureaucracies collapse.
We invite you to reject these premises or accept some of them. We encourage you to debate them, try them out, discover you own and share them with others. No matter what happens, you are placing yourself within the event horizon of this movement. You are recognizing that something new, amazing and overpowering has occurred. Something that doesn't yet have a name.
When a moment like this happens, like the moment before you realize you are in love, everything changes. The world is thrown into confusion. The most important things you believed in before seemed petty. You want to give yourself over to this new, thrilling event. But you are afraid. You realize how much easier it is to stay entrenched in all the habits you've clung to for years. Yet you realize that if you love, you cannot be passive. You must remake your life itself in order to follow love to its end. So you take the risk, like a throw of the dice in the void. Finally you say to yourself, yes I am in love and yes I must fight for my love, no matter what comes of it.
And there are those of us who have also said: yes, I am in love with this movement and yes I must fight for this movement, no matter what comes of it. This event without a name.
For those of us who have made that decision, tossed those dice, all we can say is this: there is more ecstasy in this world than in the one we left behind. There is more ecstasy because, like falling in love, the old world means nothing now, because what you thought was impossible suddenly becomes the very thing you can throw your arms around, lose yourself in, speed off with to the far edges of the earth.
And if sweat is soaking your face, if your fingers are shaking, if your lips have gone dry, if you are more confused and excited then ever, ask yourself this: Am I perhaps in love with this movement as well?
And if we can venture a tentative name for our love, a name that belongs to none of us as individuals, yet belongs to all of us, together, it would only be this: We are the crisis!
These demands are impossible not in the sense that they cannot be realized, but rather that the current system would come undone if it did realize them. A brief list of impossible demands for this world.
The immediately realizable at all universities:
• The liberation of space for free student use, discussion and organizing. WE ARE THE CRISIS.
• Pushing public discourse to focus on the role of the university within larger economic structures and the impact of cut-backs on low-income people and people of color.
At the University of California with regards to its management, organization, and economic structure:
• The fulfillment and radicalization of the University's promise: absolute, free education for all, regardless of so-called "qualifications," test scores, race, class, gender or orientation.
• The declaration of the entire university as a "free speech" zone. At present, certain universities, such as UCLA, only recognize a certain space and time (Kerkhoff, from 12 to 1pm) as a "free speech zone."
• Budgetary and investment transparency. Full disclosure on how bonds are issued to private investors, backed with student tuition, and used to fuel unnecessary construction projects. An immediate halt on all construction and issuance of bonds until such transparency becomes a reality. Default on all bond payments until educational and workforce goals are met.
• An end to all furloughs and worker lay-offs.
• The removal of all Regents and President Yudof from power, as the students, workers and staff of the UC neither choose them nor endorse them.
• Disarm the university: UCPD cannot carry tasers or pepper spray on campus. The removal of military recruiters and the entire war apparatus from the university.
In the big picture:
• The negation of an economic system that links income to one's so-called level of education. We demand education for those without "qualifications" or the means to afford the ridiculous costs of tuition and we demand social and economic viability for those without degrees.
• The rejection of the role the university plays in funding the war machine, developing new technologies of destruction, and breeding the future's managers, bureaucrats and careerists. Education for social good.
• The expression of our solidarity and support for students internationally and in the US, and especially those in Vienna, UCSC, UC Berkeley CS Fullerton, CS Fresno who are fighting the commodification of education and the transformation of universities into business enterprises for private investors and money-hungry administrators.
• The encouragement of popular struggles among students and workers who are fighting to achieve meaning and autonomy in their lives.
Based on the New School Students' "What We Want" available here: http://www.newschoolinexile.com/Downloads/details/id=43.html
The first question that might present itself to anyone engaged in the current struggles at the university is this: is the university to be saved or destroyed?
To some, the answer seems obvious. Those who hope to salvage what may be no more than the university's illusion of public service certainly are right to see higher education as a path towards improved opportunities, towards a more even distribution of economic promise, without regards to race, gender and class. Therefore, demanding that financial aid and work study programs, cultural events, and course offerings in more potentially progressive departments such as Women's Studies, Chicano/a Studies and African American Studies stay off the chopping block is more than just; it is necessary.
To others, the opposite answer seems equally obvious. The university has become nothing more than one more space for venture capitalists to invest in, a space that, through tuition hikes, cuts to affirmative action and cultural programs excludes those it claims to help. It becomes a space where careerist twenty-somethings can buy their tickets to all the sterility of their parents' upper-middle class lives. To say that there is anything worthwhile left in the bureaucracy, cult of professionalism and alienation that attends the university would be tantamount to throwing your arms around a pile of bones.
So what's at the root of these two positions?
1.) The acknowledgment that the public university is caught in a profit model, not a public service model: it benefits from private capital in a way unimaginable at its inception.
In the 1960's the cost of a UC education, in inflation-adjusted dollars, was about $1,500 per year or $6,000 for a four-year education.* Under the November 2009 fee increases, students will be paying over $10,000 per year. So why does tuition cost eight times more while quality plummets?
2.) Because the university fails to put sufficient political pressure on voters and the state, educational cuts appear as nothing more than necessary evils, the result of an all-around belt tightening. Therefore, in its turn towards private capital, the university, now more than ever, is failing on its promise to be a public service. With tuition money pledged to investors and dwindling state funds, it lays off workers, reduces services, and especially disadvantages students of color and working class students. Entering students who often cannot afford rising tuition costs take out more loans, work longer hours or are forced to drop out. Some of the prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds don't apply or don't get in when enrollment is lowered. The UC reduces services that would help people attend school such as childcare, work-study and cultural programs.
The university has to be remade to abandon the profit model and become a public service with a truly universal scope. The "universal" mission of higher education so far extends only to those willing to suffer through boring high school classes, are good at hiding their drug use, cheating and disinterest, and be willing to go into massive debt for a stake in the economic lottery and the promise of a decent living. True equality of opportunity doesn't mean allowing for better access to a workforce that demands some succeed while others live in poverty.
However, the failure of equal opportunity starts at the K-12 level, as public schools in working class neighborhoods are underfunded, since the tax base is not the same as in your suburban neighborhood across town. The university is just the last part of the slide-off in equal opportunity.
3.) What I would emphasize, that I think both the pro-university and anti-university camps have missed is this:
The university's promise of equal opportunity is not enough, but the fundamental promise of equal opportunity promoted by the university should not be abanonded.
To simply say "destroy the university" reduces the social need for education to a naive catch-all phrase. It is important to rage against this specter of ivy covered majesty, but it cannot be done at the expense of what is liberating about the promise of universal education and the equal distribution of knowledge. On the other hand, to assume that we should preserve a university that funnels students into unequal standards of living is pernicious. Complicity with economic disparity masquerades under the empty slogan of "equal opportunity." Suppose we repealed all the tuition hikes, reinstated all the classes and cut library hours, got back work-study and ended worker furloughs. Suppose we even reduced costs to 1960's levels. Would we be victorious? Yes, if by victory we mean making life more tolerable. But, more emphatically, no, if what we mean is creating a more egalitarian society, where education does not determine economic success.
Instead, the promise of education for all must be radicalized, made a universal demand that strikes at the core of the economic structure:
We call for a university that cares nothing for the worth of what you have done before and has no bearing on your worth in society afterwards. A free university, devoted to universal education.
Therefore, the radical demand we make of the university appears as the most innocuous: since you cannot fulfill your own vision of universal education, we will do it for you and at your expense. Since you cannot use education as a means of liberating people, all people, from inequalities of wealth, class and status, we will take on this task. Since you exclude people from education based on the circumstances of birth, class, gender and race, we will allow everyone to join. Since your alchemy reduces knowledge and skills into the base metal of a person's profitability, we will destroy the link between education and worth. We will burn your degrees, the records of licences acquired, classes taken, scores received, grades inked on a whim.
This new university is impossible for capitalism to realize.
Therefore, we should not ask for the university to be destroyed, nor for it to be preserved. We should not ask it for anything. We should ask ourselves, and each other to take control of these universities, collectively, so that education can begin. We should use this chance to ensure that there are no more job talks, no more shitty lectures to attend, and that the university's degrees, and the little letters they would place after your name mean nothing more than the ashes left after a forest fire.