gracekuipers

A lot of the points made in the readings for this week about the neoliberal college campus (especially in the Sudbury introduction) were interestingly echoed acutely in a meeting I was at after reading them. UC Berkeley is, like many public campuses, facing a budget deficit of $150 million and the response is disproportionately affecting humanities, rather than the other “products” that the student-consumers are receiving. We are trying to organize as graduate students to resist against the budget cuts that hit education, but it also intersects with our own scholarship: for instance, teaching assistantships are almost eliminated for our department, Art History, where there is a new requirement that only courses of over 50+ students will be granted teaching assistants. Of course, non-western art history courses rarely ever attract such student enrollment, but they do attract more diverse students than the art history courses about Europe and the United States. It also recalled other points about “radical pedagogy” that was brought up in some of the introductions: teaching itself can be a form of activism, but it seems that this model for universities that treats students like consumers and universities like a business threatens that possibility.

 

One of the main points that surfaced throughout all of these readings and indeed, seems to be a main point of thought surrounding public scholarship, was that the University itself, and the space of the campus is an axis along which activist-scholarship defines itself, whether or not it choses to be a part of it. There seemed to be ambivalent relationships to the institution of the university and its limitations, potentials, and responsibilities.
What I had a hard time discerning, although it seemed to be a central question of all of these readings, is where activism leaves dialogue and shades into “action,” whatever that means. It’s maybe the fact that they were all introductions, which tend to provide space for questions rather than answers, but even the works they were introducing seemed to differ from traditional scholarship only in urgency: what humanities project in 2017 doesn’t revolve around questions of race, class, gender, or identity? Of course, the mode of speaking about and describing something is problematic, but it can, as we have seen, also be a form of activism in itself.