Free Education? Contemporary Struggles – Roundtables & Film Screening


Sunday, January 27, 2019

2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Sunday, January 27, 2pm-6pm
Closing event for Free Education! The Free University of New York, Alternate U, and Learning Liberation. Organized by Common Notions, Free University of New York City, and Interference Archive/Jakob Jakobsen.
Film Screening: Who Teaches Them?
Screening of the episode Who Teaches Them? (1966) from the WGBH series Radical Americans. This TV program presents interviews with the founding trio of the Free University of New York, Sharon Krebs, James Mellen and Allen Krebs. The program describes FUNY as a radical left wing school in opposition to right wing patriotic and free market schools such as Rampart College and Harding College. Who Teaches Them? opens up the social, political and educational landscape of the mid 1960s.
Introduced by Jakob Jakobsen.
Wages for Students Roundtable
With George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici, and Wilson Sherwin. Moderated by Malav Kanuga and Jakob Jakobsen.
Wages for Students was an affront and a campaign against the neoliberalization of the university, at a time in the mid 1970s when this process was just beginning. Forty years later, the highly profitable business of education not only continues to exploit the unpaid labor of the students, but now also makes them pay for it. Today, as the student debt crisis reaches staggering proportions, and when students around the world are refusing to continue this collaborationism, the pamphlet’s central call resounds as loudly as ever: “for education against education!”
Wages for Students was written and published anonymously by activists linked to the journal Zerowork during student strikes in the fall of 1975. Deeply influenced by the Wages for Housework Campaign’s analysis of capitalism and emerging in relation to struggles such as Black Power, anticolonial resistance, and the antiwar movements, the authors sought to fight against the role of universities as conceived by capital and its state. The pamphlet debates the strategies of the student movement at the time and denounces the regime of forced unpaid work imposed everyday upon millions of students.
This round table will discuss these and other critical questions with one of the original authors of the Wages for Students perspective as well as fellow travelers. Wages for Students was republished in 2016 by Common Notions with a new introduction by the original authors, George Caffentzis, Monty Neill, and John Willshire-Carrera, alongside a transcript of a collective discussion at 16 Beaver following a public reading of the pamphlet.
PLEASE NOTE: There will be a study group reading of Wages for Students at Interference Archive on January 20th 2pm-4pm with one of the original authors, George Caffentzis. Those joining our study group will have a discount price of Wages for Students courtesy of Common Notions (RSVP & copies will be available in advance at the Interference Archive and you can write to to reserve your copy).
George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and autonomist Marxist. He is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and a founding member of the Midnight Notes Collective. His most recent book is In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Common Notions/PM Press, 2013).
Silvia Federici is a long-time feminist, writer, and teacher living in Brooklyn, NY. Born in Italy, Federici has lectured and taught widely in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the U.S. She has participated in numerous international movements and social struggles, including feminist, education, anti-death penalty, as well as anti-nuclear and anti-globalization
Wilson Sherwin—former translator, documentary film producer, electrician—is a Doctoral Candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center completing her dissertation “Rich in Needs: the radical imaginary of the national welfare rights movement.” She is also a member of CUNY Struggle, a militant rank-and-file caucus of the PSC committed to challenging academic precarity.
Malav Kanuga is a cultural anthropologist trained at the City University of New York and founding editor of Common Notions Publishing House.
Jakob Jakobsen is a visual artist and political organizer. He has worked with autonomous education the last 20 years and has curated the current exhibition Free Education! at Interference Archive together with Bonnie Gordon, Jen Hoyer, and Josh MacPhee. He edited the 2016 Wages for Students together with Maria Berrios and Malav Kanuga
To transform NYC, start with CUNY – Free University of New York City roundtable
With Amelia Fortunato, Sarah Gee, Shayhan Lewis, and Sabrina Rich. Moderated by Conor Tomás Reed.
The City University of New York has long acted as a locus of broader struggles for working people’s right to thrive in New York City. At present, multiple campaigns are co-emerging to transform the university and the city with a potential impact not seen in decades. CUNY adjunct faculty’s demand for “$7k or Strike” in the current union contract is amassing the power to strike so as to double their salaries and move toward pay equity. CUNY and NYC opposition to Amazon’s proposed $3 billion headquarters in Queens could overturn the mayor and governor’s decision before construction begins. In the face of bigoted faculty members hiding behind “free speech,” women students of color-led coalitions are using media and Black feminist pedagogies to resist how “academic freedom” and Title IX policies may actually protect hate speech. As well, nearing the 50th anniversary of the 1969 City College Strike that created a wave of CUNY Ethnic Studies programs, students are reviving demands to reinstate or defend existing Ethnic Studies to decolonize our curriculum.
In this special roundtable hosted by the Free University of New York City, we will hear from the following:
Amelia Fortunato (she/her) is a CUNY Graduate Center PhD student, John Jay College faculty, and member of CUNY Struggle. Amelia will contextualize the “$7k or Strike” campaign, briefly outlining the history of this rank-and-file rebellion at CUNY; explain the current organizing goals, strategy, and tactics; and discuss the challenges of organizing a strike with union leadership support while navigating the anti-strike Taylor Law.
Sarah Gee (she/they) is a Brooklyn College student and member of the Brooklyn College Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Fuck Off Amazon. Sarah will discuss the groundswell opposition to Amazon HQ2, which could bring gentrification, over-policing, and displacement, while multiple city services like NYCHA, the MTA, CUNY, and the K-12 public schools system fall apart from disinvestment.
Shayhan Lewis (she/her) is a Brooklyn College student and member of the Brooklyn College Student Union. Shayhan will share how campus coalitions were built to foreground women students of color in the face of racist and sexist faculty statements, and how documentary media and Black feminist pedagogies contribute to raising an intersectional framework of social justice towards fundamentally changing the university.
Sabrina Rich (she/her) is a Hunter College student and member of The Coalition for the Revitalization of Asian American Studies at Hunter (CRAASH). Sabrina will focus on the fight for an Asian American Studies Department at Hunter College, and will also discuss how the underfunding of Ethnic Studies goes hand in hand with the exploitation of adjuncts and the severe lack of resources for students of color.
Conor Tomás Reed (no pronouns), who will moderate the roundtable, is a CUNY Graduate Center PhD student, Brooklyn College faculty, and co-founding participant in the Free University of New York City.
Closing Discussion
Final discussion with all participants.
This event is part of a project sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant. Any views expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.