I don’t need to tell you that higher education has both feet in the grave due to inane administrations aping neoliberal policies by pushing austerity on students, staff, and faculty. I don’t need to tell you that this has been going on for decades, and I also don’t need to tell you why or where or by whom it started. You already know, and if you don’t, you can find it without me telling you. However, most of you listening are in the choir of misfits who are in the know.
I also don’t need to tell you that we’re stronger when we can stand alongside all low-wage workers everywhere – including students, staff, other faculty (yes, even TT), and servers, custodial staff, WalMart checkers, the list goes on and on.
But I do need to tell you that we’ve already won.
Before you write me off as a dreamer, remember the slogan from May ’68: Be realistic. Demand the impossible.
I’m not saying that there’s no more work to do. The work is endless. So listen. You’ll hear echoes of May ’68 in every tear-gassed sit-in, as during the protest at CCSF, every student power convergence, as in Ann Arbor at the end of March, and every adjunct who has won the vote to unionize. You know that we, the non-tenure track, the contingent, are now 2/3 of the faculty.
Daniel Singer says in Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968: “When two thirds of an institution’s members are doomed to failure, it is a perfect hunting ground for political activists, and the university was beginning to be described as a school of misfits.”
The etymology of misfit: 1823: a garment that does not fit the person for whom it was intended.
Nothing about the situation in higher ed fits us. The outrageous tuition (who can imagine being a whole house in debt?), the underfunded faculty (2/3, remember, don’t make a living wage or have health benefits), and the overfed administration, whose bodies burst the seams.
So take a look at this map of Campus Resistance in 2014 (US). Already there are sixty-five markers on the map and I’m sure there are more. Campus resistance is spreading through the US. And, as most trends do, it’s started at the coasts, and it’s moving inward. I could map for a whole week and still not cover all the locations where we’re taking power back for ourselves, as students, staff, and faculty. This attempt is just a start, plus I’ll need to add all the graduate student unions, student assemblies, etc that are still active but haven’t held a major event this year. And every day there’s a new marker or two to add. That says, above all, the phrase we’ve heard from Strike Debt and our own student group here at Columbia: You Are Not A Loan (referring, of course, both to student debt as well as adjunct credit card debt).
Remember. We’ve already won.
The system is broken. We can give it a nudge so it tumbles over the cliff a little more quickly, and then we take it back. It’s all about the encounter, as Badiou says. So we begin: “The encounter is a beginning. But the beginning of what? It is at the point of acceptance: accepting or refusing what is happening to you.” At this point, our only option is to refuse. And we have to do it loudly. Otherwise, it remains in suspense. So talk. Loud. Share stories. Find allies. They’re everywhere, as you can see.
The Map: Campus Resistance in 2014 (US)