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Tag Archives: Free universities

Alternative & Sustainable Universities

SUSTAINING ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSITIES

UK Free University Network (FUN)

Sustaining Alternative Universities

Collaborative Research Conference

1–2 December 2012

Oxford, UK

 

They will admit that little is to be expected from present-day governments, since these live and act according to a murderous code. Hope remains only in the most difficult task of all: to reconsider everything from the ground up, so as to shape a living society inside a dying society. [People] must therefore, as individuals, draw up among themselves, within frontiers and across them, a new social contract which will unite them according to more reasonable principles.’ (Albert Camus, ‘Neither victim nor executioner’, 1946)

Following on from the inaugural meeting of the UK Free University Network held in early 2012, we are calling out to representatives of all free universities and to all those who wish to participate in a conference with a more focused objective.

In recent years, we have witnessed the accelerated neoliberal capitalist colonisation of the university. In the UK (and far beyond) many students are now priced out of higher education and the academic finds him/herself subservient to the logic and interests of capital. In response to this intolerable reality, many groups of scholars, students, and others have come together independently to create alternative, ‘free’ universities.

The ‘Sustaining Alternative Universities’ conference, as a space for coordinating research and sharing knowledge and experience, seeks to support these projects in taking further decisive steps towards the creation of a national movement of individuals and organisations dedicated to the construction and development of alternative democratic, critical, and ultimately sustainable higher education communities.

 

Sustainability: history, dialogue, and practice

The successes of this movement hinge on its sustainability. ‘How can we build, develop, and maintain truly sustainable educational communities outside the existing institutional frameworks?’ is the question upon which our collective investigations and discussions should be founded. Therefore, our collective task is to conceptualise, research, imagine, and, ultimately, cultivate a sustainable movement based on a network of locally-based, sustainable, free universities. We believe that this conference can help us to successfully undertake this task through a three-step process.

Step one: history. An intrinsic element of building sustainability today must surely be to learn from the history of previous projects of popular, democratic and radical education here in the UK, and beyond. Therefore, we invite representatives of each free university to conduct and present research into the history of these traditions in their specific locality, drawing on their own particular influences. Researchers should keep in mind the practical purpose driving this research and consider issues such as: Who participated in these efforts? How were they structured, organised, and sustained? What was the significance of their historical and spatial context? What lessons can be derived from these efforts for our own endeavours today?

We hope that this shared research effort will allow us to both map out a history of popular / democratic / radical higher education in the UK, and to identify ways these can inform our own current projects. Ultimately, this collaborative research endeavour could also help us trace the roots of our network.

Step two: dialogue. The next step is to engage in dialogue with one another, and with our histories. We need to both imagine our ideals and talk freely and openly about the challenges and obstacles that impede our ambitions and objectives today. We need to name the material, social and subjective conditions that constrain the actualisation of our imagination and hopes. At the conference, we aim to draw on our collective experiences in democratic education to create a supportive, democratic space in which participants feel able to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in these areas.

Step three: practice. Finally, we need to take the lessons and ideas derived from our historical research and dialogue and put them into practice. The conference will culminate in a session in which we all make plans for practical action to take things forward on a local and national level.

 

Affinities and collaborations

We invite collaboration and co-operation with all. Beyond the Free University Network itself, we particularly welcome collaboration from members of the following groups:

Academic members of the ‘For a Public University’ working group and Campaign for the Public University. We at FUN have not forsaken the mainstream university, and many of our members are not only academics or students, but also active in defending the public university. We recognise the rich traditions of critical pedagogy within the university and the enduring possibilities of its democratic promise. We welcome contributions from all academics.

Members of the Co-operative Movement. Clearly, the co-operative model of organisation offers much for free universities today to draw on, and at least one in the UK is explicitly organised upon co-operative principles. We welcome members of the Co-operative Movement who might contribute to our historical and contemporary understanding of co-operative education, and/or who would like to build bridges between these two movements.

University workers who are not academics. All too often, non-academic staff working in universities are marginalised within or excluded from these discussions. Their contributions, knowledges, experiences and possibilities are overlooked. We seek to redress this situation and invite all those making invaluable contributions to higher education in ways that are not specifically ‘academic’ to participate in this conference.

Students and all those desiring to learn. Critical pedagogy aspires to break down hierarchical boundaries between students and teachers, and to expand the right of learning to everyone whether they occupy the role of ‘student’ or not. In the democratic universities we envisage, students shape their own learning experiences. We welcome contributions from students, past, present, and future.

All others who share our principles, and who are active in creating alternative institutions in other areas of social life, particularly in education. There is much we can learn from each other.

 

An open, democratic, egalitarian, anti-elitist intellectuality

This is a critical pedagogical and political project. This conference is not intended to be a typical academic conference based exclusively on theoretically dense papers and presentations. There is validity, truth, importance, and profound insight in many other methods and ways of expressing knowledge, and we open our conference and minds to these. We believe that narrative – telling stories – is a particularly important means for reaching the personal and social heart of the obstacles and challenges that confront us in our ambitions to create democratic and sustainable learning communities.

 

Where and when

In the spirit of the Occupy movement, we have decided to host this conference on higher education in Oxford for obvious historical reasons.

We propose that the conference will be held on the weekend of 1–2 December 2012.

We recognise the high cost of transport and accommodation and ask those in a position to do so to offer contributions to help unwaged participants to attend. A system will be created to make this transparent and possible.

 

Impact and output

Only joking!

We want this conference to be the turning point at which we really begin to cultivate a sustainable and flourishing free university movement. We hope you can join us for this conference.

If you are interested in participating in the conference and/or in its planning of and preparation, please contact either Sarah Amsler (samsler@lincoln.ac.uk) or Joel Lazarus (joel_lazarus@hotmail.com). 

We aim to have a coordinating committee established by 13 August.

 

Venue

The location of the conference venue will depend on final numbers. However, what is certain is that this conference’s organisation will be guided by fully inclusive principles. This means a family friendly venue with park/playground nearby and a safe indoor space for children of all ages to play. Childcare duties will not preclude participation at this conference. Equally, we will ensure that the venue is fully accessible and that all dietary requirements are catered for. Please contact us if you have any concerns, ideas, or requests.

 

**END**

 

‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Reworking the University

 

Reworking the University: Visions, Strategies, Demands

 

CALL FOR IDEAS

 

April 24-26, 2009, University of Minnesota

 

 

The current ‘financial meltdown’ has exacerbated the ongoing crises within the university, resulting in even greater budget cuts, tuition hikes, hiring freezes and layoffs. Responses from university administrations have been predominantly reactive and have served to fortify the university as an institution of neoliberal capitalism. The administration and others have narrated this crisis as an external force that, while dramatic in the short rub, can nonetheless be managed properly. It is clear to many, however, that the neoliberal logic that has been used to transform the university over the past few decades has failed at a systemic level; the neoliberal death spiral has come home to the university.

 

In contrast to these reactionary responses, we seek to create a space for collective re-evaluation of the university in crisis as an opportunity for real transformation. Last year’s conference, “Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, Value” (April 2008), sought to challenge the supposed inevitability of the neoliberal university. As a continuation of this project, “Reworking the University” seeks to draw together academics, artists, and activists, to share and produce political visions, strategies and demands for building an alternative university in common.

 

“Reworking the University” seeks to generate a vibrant, political exchange by troubling the traditional format of the academic conference. To this end, we hope to produce spaces for individuals and groups from different backgrounds and across a variety of institutional boundaries to converge. While the conference will include the presentation of papers on the topic of “Reworking the University”, the committee’s selection process will prioritize workshops, roundtables, trainings, art installations, film screenings, performances, and other forms of creative engagement.

 

The conference organizing collective has selected several questions and themes that emerged out of the 2008 conference that we will address in various formats. If you have interest in participating, please provide us with a description of your proposed contribution. We encourage you to self-organize a session (i.e. workshop, roundtable, training, etc.) and submit it as a whole. Feel free to use the blog: http://rethinkingtheu.wordpress.com to help  facilitate session organizing.

 

Below is a list of possible topics and we, of course, welcome additional suggestions. In submitting your ideas for sessions, please give us as much information as possible – suggestions for themes, other participants and the session format.

 

The Reworking the University conference coincides with “Reclaim Your Education – Global Week of Action 2009” (April 20-27): http://emancipating-education-for-all.org  Organizers also encourage suggestions for additional actions as part of this event.

 

Send your suggestions (of up to 500 words) to: comradmn@gmail.com

 

The deadline for submissions is February 10th 2009

 

 

Prospective Themes and Issues:

Confronting American Apartheid: Access to Education

The Financial Crisis and the University

Counter/Radical Cartographies and Disorientation Guides

Corporate Funding and the University

Autonomous/Open/Free Universities

The Poverty of Student Life

Post-Enlightenment Visions: Beyond the Liberal Model

Anarchism and Education

Adjunct Unionization

Organizing Across Campuses, Cities, and Regions

Post-Antioch Universities & the Antioch Legacy

Anti-militarization Movements in the University

Prisons and Education

Undergrad Education Beyond Commodification

Historical Struggles in the University: May ’68 and Beyond

Autoreducation and Tactics for Direct Action in the Workplace

Contemporary Struggles in the University: The Anomalous Wave & Movements in Italy, Greece and elsewhere

Expropriating Institutional Space

Graduate Student Unionization and Radicalizing the Academy

Anti-professionalization; Anti-disciplinarity

Student Debt

Pedagogy of the Crisis

Creating Radical/Open Access Publications and the Politics of Citation

 

The schedule and proceedings from last year’s conference can be found at: http://www.makeumnpublic.org/conference.htm 

 

Sincerely

Committee on Revolutionzing the Academy (ComRAD)

 

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk