(re)claiming space

Edit: this map of actions everywhere is amazing.
The chant of the day here at UCD’s protests and marches — part of the California-based national Day of Public Education protests, held March 4, the locus of a grassroots uprising and protest movement that has quickly gained steam to include all public education institutions affected by California’s massive budget cuts and beyond — the chant has been:

whose university? our university!

as the largest crowds I have ever seen at UCD march around the quad, assembling a kind of street fair on the union patio, and protest against the fee hikes, the corporatization of the university, the growing inaccessibility of college to those who are poor, disenfranchised, struggling — while our administrative structure grows ever larger, glossier, and more focused on private interests. There is also protest against some acts of hate speech that occurred recently on campus — there was a swastika left on someone’s door, and the LGBT center was vandalized — and there is an underlying current of protest at the world we live in, with its brutal recession and heavy movements of global economics and war and environmental and cultural loss that can sweep along an entire generation, unwillingly. These people are protesting for a place and time and space to be young and smart in, a place to act, a place to be.

(And there is a twitter feed, and a few thousand blogs and union sites and news articles, growing by the hour, if you’d like to follow along).

I should add a disclaimer that I’m writing this on my lunch hour. It is a new thing to me to work at a university during a protest — especially in a position where my job is, partly,┬áto spend university money. I have a responsibility to these angry, idealistic kids to do my job well, while living with the consequences of a broken economy myself: our jobs, our book budgets (and in my case) even our buildings are at risk. Without the rights of faculty, staff have to be careful to not violate their union contracts by striking on the one hand, but not disclaim their responsibilities as community members on the other. And at the end of the day, this is about community: building a better educational community, making education more valued in the larger community, making this community accessible to all.

Going forward, I like to think the projects I care about — building open educational resources, building global communities, supporting tools that help people work together, building and sustaining and teaching people how to use information resources — matter, in this larger context of community. If we are to repair our educational economy, we also have to reclaim publishing rights and make research available through open access and open licenses. We have to not wall the fruits of our intellectual labor off, but share them with the world. We have to make sure all kids have a chance, that people far remote from the University of California and its privileged grounds can benefit from our libraries and our work to collect knowledge. Going forward, we have to work on the information infrastructure to support a better, more open world: the infrastructure that will support a university that is truly, our university.

students block the street at UCD

p.s. as of right this minute UCD students are marching out to block the Freeway onramp, and I have no idea why — seems like a terrible idea, and dangerous. With their kind of numbers, they could easily occupy the admin building again. I agree with my friend Mark that a lot of the radical anti-capitalist language that’s being used is alienating to many, and probably not all that helpful: no one’s happy about the current situation. As such, I think protests need to be careful and measured, and with a clear point.

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