This May Day, a coalition of students and faculty from Brooklyn College, Columbia University, the CUNY Graduate Center, Eugene Lang College, Hunter College, New School for Social Research, New York University, the Occupy University, and Princeton University are collaborating to produce a “collective educational experiment” to be held on Tuesday, May 1st from 10am to 3pm. The action is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street’s call for a General Strike and a day without the 99%.
This day-long Free University of New York City is being conceived as a form of education strike in which we, a city-wide coalition of students and faculty, will simultaneously withdraw our labor from an increasingly privatized, securitized, and exploitative educational system and redirect our energies towards a vision of what education could be. The May Day strike and Free University will intervene in a dysfunctional, inequitable, and inaccessible system and will offer instead education that is open, free, and accessible to all. It is a strike against all forms of oppression and the perpetuation of class, racial, and gender inequalities within the contemporary universities. It is a strike which demands an educational system that actually serves the public’s needs and desires. It is a strike against the rising and unmanageable burden of national student debt. And above all, it is a strike which envisions a world in which students, educators, and the wider public may become decision-makers in their collective future.
The Free University is an expression of collective desires for educational justice and for knowledge to be a genuine commons and a collaborative process – not a source of profit. It is a call for free access to education at all levels and for all people, and for an educational system emancipated from the shackles of racism, patriarchy, homophobia and all other forms of oppression. The Free University is an open invitation to students, educators, workers, citizens, and non-citizens to join in a conversation about what education could be. The Free University calls for change.
Educators have scheduled over forty workshops, classes, and collective experiences during the five hour educational experiment. Attendees will be introduced to movements such as Take Back the Land, which has been occupying foreclosed housing; radical student organizing within the City University of New York (CUNY); and indigenous environmentalism. Other workshops focus on creating new ways of living, from permaculture to open access academic publishing, from nonviolent communication to immigration relief for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
The Free University is also a place to rethink the relevance and activities of conventional disciplines. Horizontal Pedagogy workshops reimagine the experience of education and experiment with alternative power dynamics, sources of motivation, and the movements of knowledge. Occupied Algebra and Science & Capitalism urge scientists and mathematicians to rethink their disciplines and approaches to teaching. Song-writing, art, theatre, and physical education (in the form of a “radical recess”) will be subjects of teaching, practice, and play.
More than two dozen university professors are also planning to hold their regularly scheduled classes in Madison Square as part of the Free University. Outspoken intellectuals will lead public courses: former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn will talk about mass incarceration in the United States; prominent political scientist Frances Fox-Piven will teach; Chris Hedges will discuss the topic of his book, The Death of the Liberal Class; and geographer David Havery will speak about Reclaiming the City for Anti-Capitalist Struggle.
This will also be a day of performances, including a reading of Nobel prize winner Dario Fo’s “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” by the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and a political wedding featuring CUNY’s Chancellor.
The Free University will conclude with a 3pm convergence of students, faculty, and staff protesting the many ways that our universities are becoming less and less free. This protest against student debt, rising tuition, exploitation of precarious adjunct labor, surveillance, and repression of on-campus dissent will end in a march to Union Square.
Also, some presenters and theatrics from the Free University will appear on Wednesday, May 2 at the New York City Student Manifestation on the Brooklyn College Quad at 12pm. Join us in taking back our education from the Board of Trustees, Wall Street, and our college administrators with a springtime union of privilege and security, free lunch, teach ins, and a collective bursting of student loan debt balloons. Wear red to show that you believe in the right to education for all.