Banana Slug Love
We, students of the City University of New York (CUNY), share the struggle with the students of UC Santa Cruz and the wider California State edufactory. In New York State just as in California, politicians (state) and business (capital) have seized the crisis for their own advantage. Among the host of vicious attacks on the poor and oppressed that have been caused by this crisis, the neoliberalization of the university has been extended and deepened through defunding our education and reverting our schools to places that are only accessible to the wealthy and privileged.
At CUNY, we have a long history of struggle. In 1969, Black and Puerto Rican students, joined later by asian and white students in solidarity (all of whom had to battle groups of white student “scabs” attempting to go to school), lead an occupation of City College (the flagship college within CUNY). The occupation and concomitant strike forced open the doors of privilege and won Open Admissions for all of CUNY, extending access to a tuition-free university, and established Black and Puerto Rican studies programs at many schools. This occupation ushered in a momentous shift in the race and class composition of CUNY’s student body and radically transformed CUNY into an institution enrolling students predominantly from communities of color and the working class. These changes embodied the struggle against the Keynesian University: rather than solely focusing on the training of future wage-workers, the university also became a space for self-determination and community-development for those most subjugated by oppressive power structures.
These gains have been under attack ever since. In New York, the fiscal crisis of 1975 was manufactured as a way to restore capitalist class power (the rate of profit, the imposition of forced work, the logic of the commodity-form) and one of the first targets was CUNY, where in 1975 tuition was charged for the first time in the history of the institution (something which must be understood as connected to the movements of 6 years prior).
Today, in the aftermath of this global financial crisis, capital (and the state) is again attempting to force us to pay for their crisis of control, their falling rates of profit and the evaporation of their stock portfolios (a black hole of fictitious capital). At CUNY we face continued city and state defunding, tuition increases, closed tenure-track searches, cancelled classes, and adjunct lay-offs.
Our response to the current crisis: OCCUPY NOW! Occupation not only forced open the doors of CUNY to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, but it saved the spaces that students of color fought for through decades of struggle, including schools such as Hostos, Medgar Evers, and York, which the City threatened to close during the 1970s fiscal crisis. Occupation also successfully prevented or reduced tuition increases in the 1980s and 1990s. And today, students at universities throughout the world chant, “The University Will Not Pay For Your Crisis.” Struggles and occupations circulate from Santa Cruz to New York, France to South Africa, Italy to Finland, Croatia to England, South Korea to Greece.
We do not wish to save the existing social contract; rather we fight for an explosion of the current conditions. We seek to liberate (or destroy!) the university-space in order to affirm our collective responsibility we have to one another, across all identities, to destroy the systems which pull us apart that oppress some in favor of others.
Occupation is an intervention, with the explicit intention of rupturing the existing flows of power in order to upend social relations, restructure them, and transform the spaces we occupy into a world that we desire.
Occupation recognizes we are the antagonism, we have the momentum, we can refuse, we can fight. And we are strong. And they will come to know that as we come to know it.
We dance in solidarity with our Santa Cruz comrades and return to the demand to claim these university-spaces as our own, as everybody’s, as social space.
We shall dance on the grave of the neoliberal university.
Students of the City University of New York