ALTERNATIVE, AUTONOMOUS ACCREDITATIONproposed by thomasgokey
“HULK BELIEVE IN HEALING POWER OF LOVE. HULK ALSO BELIEVE IN HEALING POWER OF SMASH. HULK VAST. CONTAIN MULTITUDES.” –FEMINIST HULK
Since 2007 we’ve seen a renaissance of self-organized spaces where knowledge is freely produced and shared, such as hackerspaces, alternative and artist-run schools like The Public School, The Art School in the Art School, The University for Strategic Optimism, The Experimental College of the Twin Cities, The Anhoek School and many others. What these spaces prove is that the teaching and learning that happens at “real” universities is not so special or elevated or rare or inimitable.
Over the past 30 years we’ve witness the neo-liberal transformation of universities, both public and private, into corporations, ones that produce a social relation between students and teachers in which both are exploited. Tuition has increased 900% since 1978 while tenure-track positions have been replaced by precarious adjuncts and grad students.
Due to the economy and austerity measures (which never seem to require austerity from the rich) humanities programs in particular have come under fire since the values they produce are not values capital recognizes.
The university is a factory as our friends in the UK have reminded us. In factories, the workers themselves have all the know-how. The know-nothing owners need the workers more than the other way around. The only thing the workers need is access to the means of production. With the shift to the kind of immaterial labor that takes place in the humanities the only thing we need is the student-teacher relationship itself and this is something we ought to be able to gain control of and determine for ourselves. Any café, public square, university quad (or even a bank) can be transformed into a school. This exposes the corporate university for what it is, nothing more than a legitimized diploma mill, an ivy-walled bank that exchanges one form of credit (tuition) for another (academic). In this light it makes perfect sense for Syracuse University to sell out to JP Morgan Chase, they’re already in the same line of business.
The corporate “university” produces no value, it is simply a vampire that mediates this social relation between students and teachers. What schools like The Public School have shown us is that we don’t need this vampire at all. We can do it ourselves, we can become autonomous.
But at present what we do at The Public School or the Art School in the Art School et al. is not a threat to the corporate university at all for one simple reason: corporate universities have got a monopoly on accreditation. Right now they are the only ones who can notarize our brains. This is why they don’t mind at all when professors put their courses on YouTube where anyone can learn for free because this kind of learning doesn’t “count,” it isn’t recognized. The only value that the corporate “university” adds to the student/teacher relation is accreditation. Only the kind of education you have to pay them for counts, even when it is 100% identical as in the case of the UfSO.
In the spring of 2011 John Hutnyk taught a class at Goldsmiths University on Cultural Studies and Capitalism that was open to anyone in collaboration with The University for Strategic Optimism. The educational content was the same, but the students enrolled at Goldsmiths got formally recognized credit for the course whereas the students enrolled with the UfSO did not. We ought to be able to change this.
The task is how to weaponize (a non-violent weapon to be sure) The AS in the AS, The Public School, hackerspaces and similar schools. We want to turn these alternative spaces into weapons that can smash corporations and build true universities in their place. We want the administrators at Syracuse University (or NYU or Columbia or [fill in the name of your favorite loathsome corporate university]) to be scared shitless about what we can do without them, that we can educate our selves and each other without their vampiric interference.
What is needed to weaponize such schools is a networked, autonomous accreditation agency based on mutual recognition.
Thomas Gokey and Joanna Spitzner, representing the Art School in the Art School, invite other alternative educational ventures to meet at the NY Public School, not just to discuss these ideas, but to begin the active creation of such an autonomous accreditation agency. We invite all interested parties to join us in the flesh or in spirit (and by spirit we mean Skype).
We are all for education for its own sake. We are aware of the many difficulties and dangers of such a proposal. But even so there are many reasons to be optimistic that we can create an alternative accreditation system that does not simply reproduce the same nubureaucracy that governs corporate universities and that preserves the “education for its own sake” spirit of these various DIY projects. All we are advocating is making these DIY projects a genuine threat to existing systems of exploitation that currently exist within the university system.
JH: How to do this and still pay workers (including support staff, overheads, library, research, cafe, porters, what you would call janitors, grounds, tech, childcare, paint, etc)? Free at the point of delivery was a big consideration in our discussions – and there have been long discussions. In the factory, time is money, right, and workers control of factories still does not completely break that equation – a planned economy still requires some economic consideration. Differently distributed for sure, but… For this coming year, all our lectures in the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths will be open free to the public (from October – though we are currently thinking about perhaps working up a viable sign up option so people are encouraged to come for ten week blocks). The degree will still cost for Goldsmiths students. So, how to make credit transferrable? The Europe wide Bologna process is a nightmare, but something like this/better than this can and must be pursued.
tax credits, corporate sponsorship, Govt grants and robbing banks – its been done – all on the cards I guess…