The University is ours!
The university belongs to us, those who teach, learn, research, council, clean, and create community. Together we can and do make the university work.
But today this university is in crisis. The neoliberal restructuring of post-secondary education seeks to further embed market logic and corporate-style management into the academy, killing consultation, autonomy and collective decision-making. The salaries of university presidents and the ranks of administrators swell, but the people the university is supposed to serve — students — are offered assembly-line education as class sizes grow, faculty is over-worked, and teaching positions become increasingly precarious. International students and scholars seeking post-secondary or graduate education are treated as cash cows rather than as people who might contribute to both research and society. Debt-burdened students are seen as captive markets by administrators, while faculty is encouraged to leverage public funds for private research on behalf of corporate sponsors.
The attack on what remains of public education has been total. Over the last year we have witnessed the closure of humanities programmes, further tuition hikes, the replacement of financial support with loans, union lockouts, and the accelerated development of private, for-profit universities. Yet at the same time we have seen growing waves of struggle against these incursions, as students, staff and faculty in Europe, Latin America, and across the Middle East organize, occupy and resist the transformation.
Our struggles are not limited to the university, but are a part the widespread resistance against the neoliberal market logic subsuming all sectors of our society. The university is a key battleground in this struggle, and a point of conjuncture for the various labour, economic and social justice struggles that face all of us – workers and students alike. Crucially, these struggles occur on stolen indigenous lands and manifest through colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, ablism and other forms of oppression that hurt and divide us and that shape what sorts of knowledge are considered valuable.
We cannot cede the ideal of the university as a site for struggle and debate. We cannot permit the dissolution of proliferating research, ideas and innovations free from the demands and control of the market. We cannot watch as universities are degraded into a mere site for corporate or state-sponsored research and marketing. The time to mobilize is now!
This conference will connect and chart the varied struggles against neoliberal restructuring of the university in North America and beyond. We envision a series of debriefings on experiences of resistance, the creation of a cartography of local and global struggles, and a strategizing session for students, teachers, workers and activists. We aim to develop a North American network of struggles.
We encourage presentations that raise questions and generate dialogue among the rest of the participants. Ideally, submissions will indicate the specific outcomes they hope will emerge from the discussion. We encourage participation from those with first-hand experience of these crises, and those engaged in the fight for free and public post-secondary education, especially student groups and trade unions.
For a better future for all – join us!