Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Academic Capitalism: Moving from Talking to Doing/Being


Last Thursday, while I was doing a presentation on Academic Capitalism
in class, 600 students, mostly Black, conducted a march protesting
the firing of the associate provost of equity and diversity, Dr. Cordell Black.

In addition to this, not only are the departments and offices serving
folks facing merger, but The Classics and The Chemical
and Life Sciences andComputer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences
are as well.

The question for me is who is cutting, what is the unstated
and stated rationale behind it
and to what extent is this process

It was only slightly ironic that this erupted on the day in which
I did this presentation.

I have found myself in the middle of struggle and in creating a democratic
There appears to be a desire on behalf of my campuses
to scalpel out the Negros and the "low earning" programs.

I suspect that there
is a desire to raise the profile of the school, by
reducing the number of Black
students enrolled in the University. There
is a connection between US News and world report ranking and SAT and
GPA's of students.

Been there, done that, seen it coming
a mile away. This process is both
scary and liberating.

Scary because a friend saw a facebook comment about academic
capitalism and sent me a message saying that I may want to reword

my comment because employers lurk on face book.
Its liberating
because I feel that I am an active participant in changing the
world in real time.

The way that I keep my mind right, if I have to go to zero, again, and I am forced
to leave school I will move back upstate and waitress or move to Vegas
and waitress.

It is hard to keep the fear of repercussions in check.

But my
only option is to walk timidly, and I didn't survive the crack epidemic,
law school and now grad school to walk timid. I am a child of God.

This process is forcing me to respect people who have done this work before.
I was hella smug about the pride march in DC because I didn't see
sufficient evidence that the white gay movement did substantial
building with the LGBTQ movement of color in California and
to be having ANOTHER march.

Now that I am in the middle of doing base building, I am far more
If I am learning anything about basebuilding, it is that you never
what you will learn, who will be useful. I am learning that I just have to
be honest, let people know what I am doing, and that folks will either
join or

I am learning to start small. Small is good, because small is how everything
It's hard. It continually means meeting people where they are. I have to
meet with people, send emails to folks I don't know and do know
check my ego at the door, listen, wait for emails, disagree with folks. Stay
continually TRYING to meet with people, ask questions and continually check
the desire to be bossy.

I am an old head. I sent and email to a professor saying that "I don't march"
but I want to be useful, not just complaining on the sidelines waiting for someone
to advocate for me. However, it seems like young folks seem to want to march
and meet with the administration.

She responded saying,

What does a march achieve and are those necessary goals at this point? For example, media attention, shame as a persuasive line of argumentation, personal release of anger etc. Is a march an effective strategy in relation to the nature of the administration? Is the march the beginning and the end of political activity? What other types of activity should immediately be on the table to supplement the march.

In other words I think that this is important because it politicizes the
student population, it shows the admin. that students are alert, it can
potentially build alliances through media attention. If it fizzles out without
any additional work e.g. teach in, petitions etc. then it becomes easy for the administration to wait it out. So it's not everything but its also not nothing.

I was relieved when I read her words, because she articulated my

I am more interested in seeing how power is laid out how, how has this process
has worked in the past, who has resisted this kind of thing successfully, and what
are peoples frame of reference?

We all have a stake in how this plays out. The University is a microcosm
of society.

Thoughts? You been apart of a struggle before? Any suggestions or kind words will be appreciated.


Rafi said...

Cool post....

One thing I could imagine attending the march might be useful for would be finding a whole bunch of prospects all in one place for further plans of organizing.

A simple flier with contact info giving people an appealing next step would have served you and them well. Introduce yourself, hand them a flier, tell them the work is just beginning, move on to the next person.

M.Dot. said...

Thank you Rafester. I think I may do that on Thursday.

Its like being a party promoter, no?

ann! said...

We're doing the same work in South Central. Base building. Finding out there is no base. Finding out there *is* a base but it looks different from what we'd thought it was. Me, personally, finding out that I *hella* took my previous base (students) for granted. Yeah, we were petty, yeah we were naive and sometimes irrational, but we were practically living on top of each other for four years (some five and six). Now out in 'real society' we have to fight military recruiters, police & parole restrictions, flashy billboards and the like to get the attention of our target demographic (17-25 brown and black men and women).

My suggestions from student organizing... Every year, I felt like we were reinventing the wheel. Within the five years at UCSC we marched for the same funding three times. It was like we didn't learn from the first time to secure 10-year pots that didn't have to be matched by flaky Chancellors.

So, in your base building, document everything. Everyone you make contact with gets put in a database. Every action you support gets documented from initial idea to final resolution. Shoot, every flyer you make gets placed in a binder, digitized and stored in a google mail account.

This way, Little M.Dot coming to Uni in 5 years doesn't have to start from scratch... she has an alumni database to call on and storyline of how to organize on her campus already created.

M.Dot. said...



1. Document everything.
2. Create our own institutional history
3. Secure 10 year funding pots, the same way the UNI does 10 year plans. SAY WORD BYRD.

God I love doing this work.

All that kaka reading and information synthesis
in law school is paying off in my ability to simultaneously, read, ask for help and synthesis and explain hella information.

I am seeing that this is something that I couldn't be taught. I/WE had to figure it out.

Thank you Ann.

Is there a realtionship between keeping documents and securing funding and starting from scratch?

arieswym said...

in response to your question to Ann,

Keeping documents allows you to not have to start from scratch. It can inform you what organizing methods have worked best on the campus in the past. Most important were information about the falculty/staff/administration that were most helpful to organizing efforts. Their long-term institutional memory combined with the organization's own institutional history makes it easier to secure funding and establish standing at the university.

Not reinventing the wheel every time a new group students comes or whenever there is a new push to achieve a goal also allows you to achieve goals more quickly. Generally college efforts are short term because of constant churn of students and any reduction in the start up time increases the effectiveness of efforts.

Additionally from my experiences at Rutgers, organizations that kept documents and maintained their institutional memory were generally treated better by the university, in terms of receiving additional funds and better access to the decision makers at the university.

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