Thursday Night 03.12.2009 — edu-factory — Conflicts and Transformations of the University — Discussion with Anna Curcio

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Thursday Night 03.12.2009 — edu-factory — Conflicts and Transformations of the
University — Discussion with Anna Curcio
1. About this Thursday Night
2. About edu-factory
3. About Anna Curcio
4. Why We Finally, Really Took Back NYU !
5. Students and Labor: Shut NYC Down!
6. Useful links
1. About Thursday Night
What: Discussion with Anna Curcio
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 4th floor (directions below)
When: Thursday Night 03.12.2009 @ 7:15 PM
Who: Open and Free To All
We have witnessed recently a number of important events including student-activist occupations at the New School and then NYU, and a well-attended student and faculty walkout at Hunter College this past Thursday to protest tuition hikes. Connected to this on a local level are several groups and struggles which have been involved in discussions at Beaver in the past two years. This would include the coalition of students and community organizations fighting Columbia University’s expansion into Harlem, in doing so fighting in gentrification in Harlem in general. This would also include graduate student organizing at NYU in the late 90s and early 200s, as well as the GSOC strike at NYU in 2005-06.
Resistance in the city and and against the educational establishment takes time to develop, and these are important recent moments for such struggles. While our event will expand the frame outside of New York City alone, it’s clear even on the local level that there is mounting resistance at many institutions, public and private. While the space between organizing and occupation as tactics may at times seem to put some of these groups at odds, in all cases there is a reaction to the neoliberalization of the university as a multinational player in terms of property, investment, and intellectual capital.
This thursday, we are pleased to have Anna present and discuss the edu-factory collective, and to be able to connect these struggles across national boundaries. We also hope this event will look to networks between activist groups working on knowledge production and university struggles in the city. What are the relevant questions at the moment in this regard, and how to go on with the fight? How do we link activists both inside and outside institutions in New York City and beyond?
2. About edu-factory
edu-factory is a transnational project on Conflicts and transformation of the university. Since university is today a space where the ownership of knowledge, the reproduction of the labor force, and the creation of social and cultural stratification are all at stake, edu-factory aims to build up a process oriented to de-structure the university system.
For the last two year the project has run as web based discussion. About 500 militants, students and researchers have participated in a transnational mailing-list discussion on the transformations to the university, the production of knowledge and forms of conflict. Two temporally circumscribed and thematically identified rounds of discussion took place: the first on conflicts in the production of knowledge and the second on hierarchisation of the market for education and the construction of autonomous institutions.
But the project has assumed a life that beyond the list. Participation in and organization of events in three different continents (Europe, Australia, and North America) have become part of edu-factory. Materials from the list have been collected and translated for a book publication in Italian: L’università globale: Il nuovo mercato del sapere (Roma: Manifestolibri, 2008). This volume became a central reference point in the ‘anomalous wave’ movement of students, researchers, parents and teachers that swept Italy in late 2008. Autonomedia Books will publish an English version of the text in early 2009, while a Spanish version of the book will be out by Traficantes de Sueños in spring 2009.
Right now edu-factory has just entered in a new stage, this is a twin process that focus on both the construction of edu-factory as an organized network who aim to connect struggles inside the university system, and the production of a transnational journal who could give continuity to the analysis on university transformations and knowledge production carried on in edu-factory, as well as it could offer a stable platform of connection among the critical research projects, auto-education experiments, and struggles that connect to the project.
3. About Anna Curcio
Anna Curcio is an italian political activist and university researcher. She is
founder member of edu-factory collective.
4. Why We Finally, Really Took Back NYU !
Written by Take Back NYU!
Thursday, 19 February 2009 00:00
A group of student-empowering, social-justice-minded rabblerousers have occupied the Marketplace at Kimmel and we refuse to move until our demands are met. All are encouraged to join us on the third floor and help us sustain this occupation until NYU complies with our demands. (Our demands are listed below)
We apologize for inconveniencing the loyal lunchgoers of the Kimmel Marketplace, but we are not sorry for causing a disruption! Established channels have been insufficient to make our voices heard by the administration, and we have waited too long to be taken seriously. By disrupting the University’s functioning now, we are forcing the administration to deal with those people it depends upon the most—we, the students!
Our demands, though many and varied, are united by the desire to empower students to take part in the governance of their University.
By making public the endowment and budget, and establishing a student voice in the investment of funds and on the Board of Trustees, we are creating a means for active student participation in the administration of the University. By providing union rights for graduate students and collective bargaining rights for work study employees, we are guaranteeing that the students upon whom the University depends for labor are treated and compensated fairly.
By drastically reducing the amount that tuition can increase, we are forcing the University to reassess its spending and cut back appropriately (instead of making a low-income student take out more loans, perhaps the University can build one less abroad site). By forcing the University to meet 100% of students’ financial need, we are ensuring that students spend less time working multiple jobs to make ends meet and more time making the University a place where active minds flourish.
By demanding investigation into war and genocide profiteers, providing aid to Gaza, and offering scholarshipts to Palestinian students, we are demanding that the University heed our own voices immediately. Through these demands we are also stating our solidarity with the students who have occupied their universities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere demanding aid for war-torn Gaza.
By demanding students have priority in reserving space in NYU buildings, we are literally making space for ourselves in the University, and putting students above groups who rent out space in our buildings. By allowing the public access to Bobst Library and the wealth of knowledge it contains we are building a bridge between NYU and the community it so often displaces, while empowering students of all universities (as well as alums of our own) to take part in information that is too often consolidated in the Ivory Tower.
We have waited too long for the University to respond of its own volition. We have let administrators push us around through endless red tape, through never-ending tuition hikes, through unfair labor practices, through secrecy and lies, through power being consolidated in a tiny group of (mostly) rich white dudes who know nothing about our lives as students. We wrote John Sexton a nice letter and struggled to contain our rage in Town Hall after Town Hall; we’ve agitated and tabled and built our coalition. Our demands serve and concern all students. We refuse to dignify the University’s lack of response with our own inaction.
So we take action! We’ve got food and sleeping bags and good friends and we are not going anywhere. Join us! This is a sleepover for student empowerment, a party for participation in the University, a disruption for democracy, an occupation for all!
5. Students and Labor: Shut NYC Down!
by CUNY Internationalist Group
No Tuition! Open Admissions! Free Mass Transit!
We Need a Revolutionary Workers Party
On March 5, some 75,000 New York City workers demonstrated in a huge labor protest against threatened budget cuts as the capitalist economic crisis deepens. The rally, which extended more than 13 blocks, from City Hall north to Canal Street, was by far the largest mobilization of union members in recent years. Naturally there was hardly a mention in the bourgeois media.
The city workers were joined by hundreds of students and faculty from the City University of New York. The municipal labor tops saw the action as a pressure tactic on the state government, calling for a “fair budget for all” while showcasing Democratic Party politicians. The principal student demands, however, were: “No Tuition Hike – No Cuts – No Layoffs.” After a walkout at Hunter College and rally at the downtown BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College), the energetic student contingent poured into the street chanting, “Students, Labor, Shut the City Down.”
The CUNY Internationalist Clubs actively participated in organizing the student actions. We publish here the Revolution leaflet distributed at the protests which underlines the role of the Democrats and calls for powerful working-class action against the ruling-class attack.
MARCH 5 – Since September, students at the City University of New York (CUNY), along with “part time” adjunct teachers, have been fighting against threatened tuition increases, budget cuts and layoffs. This struggle has reached a crucial point. Demo­cratic governor David Paterson’s budget for 2009-2010 includes a tuition increase of $600 a year or more at four-year colleges, and $300 at CUNY community colleges, which are already some of the most expensive in the country.
At a time when college enrollment is mushrooming as people lose their jobs, CUNY’s academic departments are cutting budgets, laying off adjuncts and canceling some class sections. This is a plan for the expulsion of tens of thousands of working class and poor students, for whom CUNY is their only opportunity to earn a college degree. A $300 per term tuition hike has already been ordered for the State University (SUNY). It’s the same story across the country.
The battle is coming to a head as the state Senate and Assembly (both now controlled by the Democratic Party) are preparing to pass this cutback budget by April 1. Importantly, protests and anti-tuition-hike student groups have sprung up at a number of CUNY campuses. But it’s going to take a lot more to fight this ruling-class assault. We need to mobilize real power to beat back the Democrats’ attacks – the power of the organized working class.
On March 5, tens of thousands of city workers will hit the streets to oppose cuts. So will we. The demonstration at City Hall has been called by leaders of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), SEIU 1199, DC 37 and other city workers unions, as well as the Working Families Party (a shill for the Democrats) and various coalitions. They’re calling it a “rally for New York.” A UFT leaflet called for a “fair budget for all.” Like “we’re all in it together”? No way! Do you see the Wall Street bankers “sacrificing”?
Now Democrat Obama’s auto bailout would eliminate 50,000 auto workers jobs. Billionaire mayor Bloomberg, the ultimate Republicrat, is demanding that city workers pay 10 percent of health care premiums. The MTA is ordering transit fare hikes and service cuts. To defeat the attack on our right to education, to put a stop to Paterson’s multi-billion-dollar cutbacks in health care and layoffs and to throw back Bloomberg’s “givebacks,” we need to link student protest with a powerful class struggle of the workers against the bosses and their parties.
They Want to Kick You Out of CUNY
Let’s begin by calling things by their right names. Tuition at CUNY is nothing other than a tax on students. All CUNY and SUNY tuition payments go to New York State’s general fund, to be spent however the legislature pleases, which means prisons, cops and corporate subsidies. Now Paterson trumpets that “only” 80 percent of the new tuition hike will go to the state, with the remainder going to the CUNY administration, which pays campus cops a lot more than it pays adjunct professors who teach most of the courses.
Tuition is a particularly regressive tax, hitting poor and working people hardest. Maybe the ruling class considers it a luxury tax, for the “luxury” of getting educated. Or a sin tax, for the “sin” of going to school to learn. We in the CUNY Internationalist Clubs are not only against a tuition hike, we call for the complete elimination of tuition and for living stipends for students so they can afford to study. Impossible? Hardly. CUNY has already eliminated tuition for the students in its “honors” college, and gives them free laptops. These are the students CUNY authorities and the ruling class want.
Look at the numbers: 62 percent of CUNY community college students come from households that earn less than $30,000 a year. 44 percent of them work at least 20 hours a week. 80 percent of them are black, Latino or Asian. Those who can only afford to go to school part-time don’t get state TAP (tuition assistance). These are the CUNY students the authorities don’t want, many of whom will be eliminated by this tuition purge. This is the latest episode of the war against open admissions.
In 1969, black and Puerto Rican student protesters audaciously took over City College, at the time 96 percent white, demanding that admissions reflect the composition of city schools. After two weeks of sharp struggle, the powerful city unions weighed in demanding that all high school graduates in New York be accepted at CUNY. Enrollment soared as hundreds of thousands of the children of New York City’s multi-ethnic, multinational working class headed for CUNY. Remedial and bilingual classes were established to help the students who had been shortchanged by overcrowded, underfunded, and de facto segregated public schools.
But in 1975-76, the Wall Street banks established an emergency dictatorship board over all New York City government in order to gouge the workers to pay for another economic crisis. They shut down CUNY for two weeks when the faculty refused to work without pay. The president of CUNY called for five campuses to be closed – pointedly including Hostos and Medgar Evers community colleges, which served the oppressed Puerto Rican and black communities of NYC. Once the CUNY student body was majority non-white and poor, the “tuition” tax was imposed for the first time, like a poll tax, and has steadily increased ever since.
CUNY is run by an administration packed with ideological opponents of free public higher education and organized labor (see “Look Who’s Trusteeing at CUNY” in Revolution No. 5, September 2008). CUNY’s chancellor, Matthew Goldstein was promoted after eliminating remedial courses as president of Baruch. He then joined future Board of Trustees chairman Benno Schmidt, a notorious privatizer and union-buster imported from Yale, to finish off the remnants of open admissions by eliminating remedial courses at all CUNY four-year colleges in 1999. The bourgeois press hailed this in the name of upholding “standards.”
This is the gang that has been pushing for tuition hikes since long before the economic crisis broke. The capitalists are not against public education in general, they just want it to serve their profit system. They’re pouring billions into the City University capital budget, which is a bonanza for the construction companies. When the leadership of the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), calls on the government to “invest” in CUNY, they omit that the bankers’ government will invest on its own class terms, which has nothing to do with making CUNY accessible to working class and poor students, oppressed racial minorities, or immigrants.
Meanwhile they pay adjunct professors, who make up well over half the CUNY faculty (two-thirds in the community colleges), poverty wages, barely $20,000 a year if they’re lucky enough to get at least six courses. Now the administration is cutting back on the number of sections in what amounts to back-door layoffs and pay cuts. Students should wholeheartedly support the struggle of CUNY Contingents Unite, which advocates for adjunct faculty in the PSC, to eliminate the two-tier academic labor system.
Reformists Help the Democrats to Rescue U.S. imperialism
What’s needed is for student protest to become part of a class struggle against the Democrat-Republican regime of cutbacks and war. Yet many union leaders and various leftist groups seek to deflect the struggle by appealing to the Democratic party of budget cuts and imperialist war. There is the PSC tops’ call on Paterson to “invest in CUNY.” They are also pushing for the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” as is the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and other reformists with their calls to “tax the rich.” There is nothing the least bit radical about raising state taxes from 6.85 percent to 10.3 percent on incomes above $250,000 – the New York Times and other bourgeois spokesmen are all for it. And even if it passed, they’ll still use the money to bail out the banks and screw working people.
Earlier, the ISO came up with a petition, being circulated by the Hunter Student Union, calling for Hunter College president Raab to “come out against tuition hikes and support student activities in opposition to the tuition hikes.” Jennifer Raab was a political flack for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who was appointed in 2001 over the opposition of even the tame Faculty Senate. She was praised by the right-wing New York Observer (24 December 2000) for her support for the 1999 Schmidt report, which she called “a blueprint for reform.” Raab is part of the Goldstein team that’s behind the plan to continuously raise tuition. To call on her to support student protests against that can only promote illusions.
City University students, staff and low-paid contingent faculty are not alone. Workers throughout the city, particularly in the strategic Transit Workers Union Local 100 and health care workers, face cutbacks and job losses. Following a December 16 PSC rally outside Governor Paterson’s Manhattan office, we marched to a rally of TWU members opposing layoffs and a fare hike. A student takeover of one or more CUNY campuses, backed by faculty and with significant labor support could galvanize whole sections of the city population to fight against budget cuts and a tuition hike.
In any fight you need to be clear about who are your friends and who’s the enemy. From Albany to Washington, the Democrats are in control. They’re voting hundreds of billions to continue the colonial occupation of Iraq and what the Obama administration is calling the “Afpak” war (in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The Democrats and Republicans unite to shovel trillions into the banks’ vaults and bail out the Detroit auto companies, but they shaft auto workers, city workers, hospital workers, students and poor people, while staging Gestapo-like raids kidnapping masses of immigrant workers and locking up millions of blacks and Latinos.
Working people didn’t cause the economic crisis, and we won’t pay for it. The Wall Street panic and mass unemployment are caused by the nature of the capitalist system itself. Talk of “shared sacrifice” is sucker bait – don’t buy it! To fight the exclusion of tens of thousands of students from the largest urban public university in the U.S., which has graduated more minority students than any other institution of higher education, we need to forge a fighting alliance with workers and all the oppressed. That is how to beat back the lords of capital and turn defensive struggles into a fight for power against the system of war, racism and poverty.
To win this struggle we need to break with the Demo­crats and build a revolutionary workers party.
6. Useful links