This feed was created by mixing existing feeds from various sources.
Updated: 5 hours 1 min ago
[via: https://meaningness.com/metablog/post-apocalyptic-health-care ]
I mentioned politics briefly above, but they probably deserve more space here. Libertarian-minded people keep talking about how there’s too much red tape and the economy is being throttled. And less libertarian-minded people keep interpreting it as not caring about the poor, or not understanding that government has an important role in a civilized society, or as a “dog whistle” for racism, or whatever. I don’t know why more people don’t just come out and say “LOOK, REALLY OUR MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST TEN TIMES AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO FOR NO REASON, PLUS THEY SEEM TO BE GOING DOWN IN QUALITY, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY, AND WE’RE MOSTLY JUST DESPERATELY FLAILING AROUND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS HERE.” State that clearly, and a lot of political debates take on a different light.
For example: some people promote free universal college education, remembering a time when it was easy for middle class people to afford college if they wanted it. Other people oppose the policy, remembering a time when people didn’t depend on government handouts. Both are true! My uncle paid for his tuition at a really good college just by working a pretty easy summer job – not so hard when college cost a tenth of what it did now. The modern conflict between opponents and proponents of free college education is over how to distribute our losses. In the old days, we could combine low taxes with widely available education. Now we can’t, and we have to argue about which value to sacrifice.
Or: some people get upset about teachers’ unions, saying they must be sucking the “dynamism” out of education because of increasing costs. Others people fiercely defend them, saying teachers are underpaid and overworked. Once again, in the context of cost disease, both are obviously true. The taxpayers are just trying to protect their right to get education as cheaply as they used to. The teachers are trying to protect their right to make as much money as they used to. The conflict between the taxpayers and the teachers’ unions is about how to distribute losses; somebody is going to have to be worse off than they were a generation ago, so who should it be?
And the same is true to greater or lesser degrees in the various debates over health care, public housing, et cetera.
Imagine if tomorrow, the price of water dectupled. Suddenly people have to choose between drinking and washing dishes. Activists argue that taking a shower is a basic human right, and grumpy talk show hosts point out that in their day, parents taught their children not to waste water. A coalition promotes laws ensuring government-subsidized free water for poor families; a Fox News investigative report shows that some people receiving water on the government dime are taking long luxurious showers. Everyone gets really angry and there’s lots of talk about basic compassion and personal responsibility and whatever but all of this is secondary to why does water costs ten times what it used to?
I think this is the basic intuition behind so many people, even those who genuinely want to help the poor, are afraid of “tax and spend” policies. In the context of cost disease, these look like industries constantly doubling, tripling, or dectupling their price, and the government saying “Okay, fine,” and increasing taxes however much it costs to pay for whatever they’re demanding now.
If we give everyone free college education, that solves a big social problem. It also locks in a price which is ten times too high for no reason. This isn’t fair to the government, which has to pay ten times more than it should. It’s not fair to the poor people, who have to face the stigma of accepting handouts for something they could easily have afforded themselves if it was at its proper price. And it’s not fair to future generations if colleges take this opportunity to increase the cost by twenty times, and then our children have to subsidize that.
I’m not sure how many people currently opposed to paying for free health care, or free college, or whatever, would be happy to pay for health care that cost less, that was less wasteful and more efficient, and whose price we expected to go down rather than up with every passing year. I expect it would be a lot.
And if it isn’t, who cares? The people who want to help the poor have enough political capital to spend eg $500 billion on Medicaid; if that were to go ten times further, then everyone could get the health care they need without any more political action needed. If some government program found a way to give poor people good health insurance for a few hundred dollars a year, college tuition for about a thousand, and housing for only two-thirds what it costs now, that would be the greatest anti-poverty advance in history. That program is called “having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago”.
In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildrens’ generation would have a 15 hour work week. At the time, it made sense. GDP was rising so quickly that anyone who could draw a line on a graph could tell that our generation would be four or five times richer than his. And the average middle-class person in his generation felt like they were doing pretty well and had most of what they needed. Why wouldn’t they decide to take some time off and settle for a lifestyle merely twice as luxurious as Keynes’ own?
Keynes was sort of right. GDP per capita is 4-5x greater today than in his time. Yet we still work forty hour weeks, and some large-but-inconsistently-reported percent of Americans (76? 55? 47?) still live paycheck to paycheck.
And yes, part of this is because inequality is increasing and most of the gains are going to the rich. But this alone wouldn’t be a disaster; we’d get to Keynes’ utopia a little slower than we might otherwise, but eventually we’d get there. Most gains going to the rich means at least some gains are going to the poor. And at least there’s a lot of mainstream awareness of the problem.
I’m more worried about the part where the cost of basic human needs goes up faster than wages do. Even if you’re making twice as much money, if your health care and education and so on cost ten times as much, you’re going to start falling behind. Right now the standard of living isn’t just stagnant, it’s at risk of declining, and a lot of that is student loans and health insurance costs and so on.
What’s happening? I don’t know and I find it really scary."
"He is perhaps best known for The Undercommons, an absolutely essential work on the contemporary university (and much, much more) co-written with Fred Moten. But an Internet search will show interests pushing in all kinds of exciting directions — from study to infrastructure, from cultures of finance to leisure, from public administration to the metroversity."
"There is as little point in demanding something of this president as of the last. Not only because we will not get it, but because it is probably not what we want. We get sucked into policy. But the university, the NEA and the NEH, these institutions are just the enervating compromise, the residue of a past battle. Preserving them has the perverse effect of weakening us. These are just settlements we have to reject in our ongoing war against democratic despotism, which is of course the ongoing war against us.
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about democratic despotism in ‘The African Roots of War,’ published in 1915. The current US regime could be said to be the realization of this trajectory of democratic despotism. Du Bois was very specific about democratic despotism. He observed capitalists in the United States and Europe offering a compact with their white working classes, offering a share, however meager, in the nation’s wealth. This share would be extracted from black and brown peoples living in the nation, but excluded from this pact, and through imperialism, shares would be extracted from what Du Bois called the black, brown, and yellow peoples throughout the globe. Democratic despotism was a cross-class alliance based on the color line. Through this agreement, governments could function as ‘democracies.’ Indeed participation in a white democracy was part of what being offered as part of the stabilization package. The modern university is a phenomenon of this agreement sealed along the color line. Thus I would say the undercommons remains the moving violation of that agreement.
I have a friend called Jonathan Pincus. He’s a very smart Marxist development economist, and recently he turned his attention to the development and future of universities around the world. He points out that the deal between the capitalist classes and the nation-state is fraying. One effect of this is that the capitalist classes do not want to pay for universities that serve a national purpose anymore, whether that purpose is producing research, training labour, or preserving national culture and identity. They only want to pay for universities to educate their children — that is, teach them the etiquette of the capitalist classes — and their children go to Princeton or Oxford, or wherever. But their children certainly do not go to Rutgers-Newark nor UC-Riverside, never mind state colleges, small private colleges, and numerous other regional universities. As Jonathan notes universities like Princeton already cater to a global, not national, capitalist class. They are flourishing. The question this raises for me is not whether the vast number of colleges and universities outside the attention of the global capitalist classes will continue to be funded. They won’t, except where vestiges of the white middle class can effectively threaten legislatures to give their kids and not Latino, Black, Asian, and Indigenous kids, the remaining bits of this system. But what can we do, together with the rest of these kids, with these abandoned factories of knowledge? That’s what interests me. How can we occupy them once they are discarded?"
" Fred and I work under the influence of Denise Ferreira Da Silva here, as elsewhere. She speaks about difference without separability and about entanglement in a way that becomes most available through this nautical event, through blackness. She adds that without separability, our ideas and practices of determinacy and sequentiality, which I’ve reduced to time and space here, also get called into question. Her work is rich and deep and I am still finding my way through this entangled world with her help. Shipping and the Shipped, the show at the Bergen triennial, owes much to her thought."
"And so, to shift registers slightly from our thing to theirs, if you think about recent political battles coming out of the United States and its imperial decline, they could all be seen as logistical. So, I agree with you Michael that logistics can be a capacious category for understanding what they are doing, as well as what we are trying to do. The Black Snake winding through Dakota lands, the wall along the current border with Mexico, the ban directed at the seven Islamic countries the US has strategised to destroy and dominate, these are all about the movement of energy, goods, and labour, about ensuring control of the flows. So too the South China Sea ‘stand-off’ is a reaction to China’s ‘belt and road’ strategy — the Silk Road Belt and the Maritime Silk Road — China’s plan for connectivity, shipping, logistics across vast territory. The Maritime Silk Road is to run from Papua New Guinea to East Africa and the Silk Road Belt from the ports of Southern Italy and Greece through Turkey to Siberia. China is building this infrastructure as we write, all along these routes, in massive undertakings. Infrastructure is however only one aspect of logistics, or one dimension might be a better way to put it.
Another dimension of logistics is its unconscious. The dream of logistics, and you can find this in the academic journals, is the elimination of human time, the elimination of the slowness and error of human decision-making, actions, and indeed mere bodily presence. Now you might think this means replacing truck drivers with self-driving trucks running automated routes where algorithms recalculate constantly and link to fuel prices and inventory signals, all without people having to intervene, and you would be right. But interestingly the jobs that have already been replaced by the most important machine in logistics — the algorithm — are management jobs."
"Finally, one might object that logistics does not have much to say about something like police brutality, or as my friend Dylan Rodriguez would correct me, police, since police brutality is, as he says, redundant. But what Fred and I tried to suggest in our piece ‘Leave Our Mikes Alone’ is that the demand for access — intensified by logistical capitalism — also identifies the inaccessible as sabotage. Anyone who does not immediately open oneself fully to the police upon demand for access is a saboteur. But anti-black racism means it is impossible for black people to comply with this order for access since black people are by definition opaque to the police and to white supremacist society. Access kills, but not indiscriminately."
"I think students who study business are in a sense very logistical. Whereas a student studying music or history must say how can I fit what I like to do into this economy, a business student says how can I fit the economy into me. The business student is immediately ready for interoperability, for being accessed, plugged in, traversed by flows, modulated, wherever necessary. These students are unmediated by an interest, such as anthropology, that has to be converted into the economic in an extra step of logistical effort. Now, the curious other side to this is that the business student is also often ‘the last Fordist.’ Even when Fordism ‘never was’ for that particular student or her family. By this I mean because it is impossible to be interested, really, in Human Organisation and Development (the way it is inevitably taught as an extension of logistical capitalism), students place their interests elsewhere, in a non-work sphere. Now this is not true for those upper middle class business students who are convinced business can deliver meaning for them (including through green business, social entrepreneurship and all the rest of the more sophisticated delusions). But amongst the average student taking business courses, I have found little illusion about why they are doing it, or what it is going to be like, even if they have hopes. I say all this to say the student taking philosophy in your class is probably there to take philosophy, as if in an old-fashioned division between work and leisure. I am personally happy to make my classes into places of leisure under these circumstances (or any). The real question I want to ask with you both is this: outside of the places Jonathan is talking about — the global universities responding to a global capitalist class — students are struggling. They are over-worked, over-taught, piled with requirements and internships, plagued by debt and psychological distress, and they are often the new welfare state for grandparents, kids, and disabled relatives. In other words, leisure is being made impossible for them and I think this means it is hard to ask them to take our classes with a kind of leisure. How can we organize with the students for leisure as a first step toward study?"
"But I wanted to ask an unrelated, slightly inarticulate question. I mentioned at one point in our initial email conversation that I’m genuinely curious about the co-author phenomenon (Adorno & Horkheimer, Mouffe & Laclau, Hardt & Negri, etc.). I’m still curious about this, like the phenomenology of it versus any crude craft or process question, but I’m not quite sure how to ask it.
Actually, Michael, I also like to ask the question of how people write together. I always ask it when I find people writing together. In our case, we hung out together for fifteen years before we wrote anything down! But for us the transition to writing things down had two impulses. On the one hand, we were trying to understand our workplace, and we wrote a couple of early pieces about conditions of academic labour, one called the Academic Speed-Up, and another called Doing Academic Work. There was not much to them, but they did make us realize we could not consume ourselves with what the university was doing to us, to our colleagues, and to our students (to say nothing of our neighbours and neighbourhoods). We needed to focus on what we were doing and on what had long been done, study, black study. So we were impelled by black study, inspired by Edouard Glissant’s phrase, ‘the consent not to be a single being.’ We didn’t want to work or write by ourselves, to be individual authors, or voices, to be cited, acknowledged. We just wanted to go into debt. We had already asked for too much credit, because that is what the university wants you to do, and that is what we make students do, and that was asking all of us to hold ourselves in this impossible position of the self-determined person, or what we might call the usufructing self.
So the way we write is to lose that credit in conversation, jokes, over beers, in crowds of friends, with lovers, any way to get away from this impossibility and see what can come from this consent. And when I say any way, I mean it. We write in all kinds of ways and the only constant is losing the individuality and finding the sociality of our words and ideas. Our work emanates from our ensemble, and that’s about it. Sometimes I write something first, sometimes he does. Sometimes I add or comment, sometimes he might inlay my prose, sometimes we might extend each other’s sentences with commas and fragments, reversals and paradoxes, experimental phrasing and wording. In any case, we want as much to be less than two as more than two. Originality is our enemy, experimenting with what is already here is our friend(s).
This was the approach I tried to bring into the art world, while respecting what was already there, the forms of collaboration already at work, like the inspiring collectivities I have encountered, from Crater Invertido in Mexico to KUNCI in Indonesia. I don’t know that I have much insight into this world but I have had the chance to spend time with my friends through its support. And I am benefitting from people who are writing about the art world today, Max Haiven, for instance, Marina Vishmidt and Nora Sternfeld, some of the most interesting theory is coming out of this conjunction. Stevphen Shukaitis brings together psychographic drift with class composition analysis at one point in his new book. You don’t get that alchemy in studies of the creative industries! The importance of spending time together with your friends — a version of the leisure I want in my classroom — the art world is a place that has resources that can be liberated for that purpose. I witnessed this in the practice of Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, for instance. More than anyone else, the performance artist and dancer Valentina Desideri taught me this. Leisure, hanging out, as the ground for collective practice, as emergent, collective practice under constant revision, but also as the struggle against the time and unit measures, against the access, of logistical capitalism. Leisure as struggle. That was Michael Brown and his friends."
[Also at: http://undercommoning.org/undercommoning-within-against-and-beyond/ ]
"Undercommons (n.): The networks of rebellious solidarity that interlace within, against and beyond dominant institutions and power structures
Undercommoning (v.): The conscious and unconscious labors and process of interlacing the undercommons
The Undercommoning Project (n.): A network of radical organizers working in the shadow of the university.
The university-as-such (n.): Their dream, our nightmare.
Beyond the university-as-such (n.): Our dream, their nightmare.
THE UNIVERSITY IS A THIEF
No specter is haunting the university; the university is haunting us.
While we are accustomed to imagining “the university” as an enlightening institution that works in the public interest, we, The Undercommoning Project, hold that: in an age of skyrocketing tuition prices, soaring student debt, the hyperexploitation of precarious service workers, the proliferation of highly-paid senior administrative positions and the increased commercialization and corporatization of higher education, universities today are anything but a public good.
Indeed, we insist the university-as-such has never been a bastion of progress, learning, and fairness; it has always excluded individuals and communities on the basis of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship and politics. Indeed, it is implicated in the past and present of slavery and colonial genocide in North America.
Worse, the university has always been a thief, stealing people’s labor, time and energy. We charge that the university-as-such is a criminal institution. Along with the Edu-Factory Collective we understand the university today as a key institution of an emerging form of global, racial capitalism, one that is a laboratory for new forms of oppression and exploitation, rather than an innocent institution for the common good.
From its pirating of Indigenous biomedical knowledge to the marginalization and containment of non-traditional inquiry, from the training of corporate kleptocrats to the cronyistic production of private patents, from the university’s role in gentrification and urban enclosures to the actions and implications of its investments and endowments, from the white-supremacist and eurocentric knowledge it exalts to its dark collaborations with the military-industrial complex, the university thrives on its thievery.
So when we say the university-as-such is criminal, we mean criminal like the police: a force of racialized and class-based figures of authority, enforcement, and violence that guards, incarcerates, entraps, on the one hand, and on the other, punishes freedom, solidarity, and communal potential.
You may accuse us of losing faith in the university; it never had faith in us. Long ago it transformed us, as it had others before us, into overwhelmed debtors, precarious adjuncts, and exploited service sector workers. We were only the latest in a long line of its waste products.
You may accuse us of devaluing study, learning and research; far from it — we value them so greatly that we know they must be liberated from the structures of the university-as-such, which today already lie in ruins. The university-as-such can be the occasion for the joys of study, of solidarity, of poetic play, of learning and honing our powers. We refuse to relinquish these pleasures. But we will insist that these are gifts we give one another, not tokens of the university’s affection for its subjects.
We dream of the thing to come after the university.
WITHIN, AGAINST, BEYOND
Therefore, when we say that we organize in the shadow of the university, we mean that we organize with those who have been used and abused by the university-as-such: students and workers of color who endure institutional racism while having their images used in the name of diversity; precariously employed adjunct faculty who must rely on social or communal assistance for survival; exploited graduate teaching fellows still urged to play the rigged academic game; custodial and food services staff who are treated as disposable in patriarchal and racist divisions of labor; so-called “dropouts” who’ve been ejected from the university because they can’t stand its discipline; students and former students who will be haunted by debt for decades; and organizers who educate, study, and research outside and in spite of the university’s present configurations.
We want to experiment, explore and enjoy building solidarity between these outcasts onto whom the university-as-such casts its shadow, in order to create conditions where something monstrously new can grow amidst the rubble. And so our study must be molded in the traditions of freedom schools and oral histories, of fugitive campfires and underground reading groups. We value autonomous study as an exercise in cultivating collective, transformative liberation.
We have no nostalgia for the fabled university of the past, the mythical ivory tower of meritocracy, civility and white collegiality: that supposedly utopian place never existed, at least not for anyone outside the raced, classed and gendered elite.
We also have no nostalgia for the future long promised by advocates of the university-as-such. We do not believe access to present universities merely needs to be widened or brought into the virtual world, nor do we believe that the mission of the public university merely needs to be redeemed from the forces of managerialism or commercialization. We believe the university-as-such must be abolished.
Of course we believe in the value of high-caliber research. Of course we believe everyone should be able to study to develop their skills and knowledge. Of course we believe in debate, freedom of expression and rigorous critical thinking. Of course we believe in communal intellectual joy. We believe in them so fiercely we refuse to continue to see them enclosed, warped, choked, defined by and destroyed in the university-as-such.
Does this sound entitled? It should. The undercommons deserves to enjoy and reinvent all that it produces, which is to say everything. It is our collective labor and knowledge that university-as-such prepares, consumes, digests and uses to reproduce itself: we are mobilizing to reclaim that labor and knowledge, within, against and beyond the university-as-such, in the name of producing something monstrous.
KNOWING/PRACTICING OUR VALUE
Thus we advocate grassroots study groups and collective research projects within, against and beyond the university as we know it. We advocate the creation of new networks of study, theory, knowledge and collaborative learning outside the system of credit(s) and of debt. We see the university-as-such not as an alma mater (“giving mother”) but as a parasite. It feeds off its students’ future earnings via their debt, and off its increasingly precarious employees via their labor; it thrives on the good intentions, the tragic idealism, and the betrayed hopes of those over whom it casts its shadow.
Undercommoning is the process of discovering and practicing our value within, against and beyond the university’s measures. We refuse to suffer silently the depression and anxieties the university-as-such and its constant crises instill, trigger and exploit. We will not relinquish the senses of radical wonder, passionate curiosity, and critical integrity we create together. We insist that the splendor of the university is not to be found in the mahogany or the oak of its aristocratic chambers but in the tapestry and grain of insurgent collaborations.
We recognize that the university as it currently exists is part of an archipelago of social institutions of neoliberal, free-market racial capitalism. It includes the for-profit prison and the non-for-profit agency, the offshore army base and the offshore tax haven, the underfunded public and the elite private school, the migrant-worker staffed shop floor and the Wall Street trading floor, the factory and the factory farm. All are organs for sorting, exalting, exploiting, drilling, controlling and/or wasting what they call “human capital” and that we call our lives.
We are well aware of how much privilege and comfort the university-as-such affords many of its inhabitants, employees and clients. But the privileges of this university life are less evidence of institutional largesse than they are how the university-as-such sustains and reproduces the reigning social order. If this university appears to provide a greater latitude of freedom for independent thought and action, and if it bears within it resources unlike any other, we can nevertheless only advocate, along with Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, who coined the term “the undercommons,” that the only appropriate relation to the university today is a criminal one.
To resist the university-as-such from within is to recognize that it has already turned us into criminals in its own image. If the university is, today, already a criminal institution, one built on the theft of the time and the resources of those it overshadows, we who enjoy its bitter embrace must refuse its codes and values of ownership and propriety.
Don’t just steal a piece of chalk and write on the sidewalk. We advocate forming autonomous study and affinity groups that build alliances between students, faculty, workers, families, insiders and outsiders. We advocate using the university’s classrooms, spaces, libraries, databases and infrastructure as resources for abolitionist organizing. We advocate repurposing trade unions and student associations as platforms for developing new forms of mutual aid and solidarity within and beyond the university-as-such. We advocate taking time with and taking pleasure in our evolving collective powers. We advocate revolt.
You may accuse us of abandoning the university. Far from it; we would be loath to give the university-as-such the satisfaction. Rather, we recognize the centrality of the university-as-such in the reproduction of contemporary power. It has an unprecedented importance as the supposed key to employment in the extortionist capitalist economy. A large proportion of North Americans feel they have no choice but to seek a “necessary” degree while saddling themselves with debt; for others, even this limited access is out of reach.
We locate our struggle within and against the university-as-such, not in the name of its survival and restoration, but of our own. The university-as-such teems with dangerous social tensions and contradictions that cannot be ignored. These tensions build as the university is used to warehouse whole generations for whom capitalism has little use, as the university increasingly teaches us that we will be made to compete for any chance at a decent life. The university’s criminal contradictions demand our fugitive resistance.
Nevertheless we also know that as the university-as-such accumulates tensions and contradictions these may inspire and catalyze reactionary forces of hatred and violence on the part of others. Already the elites of the university-as-such are closing ranks, with administrators, faculty and complicit students conscripted to defend the idealized, imaginary institution from the barbarian hordes.
Whether they rally behind the tattered banners of “civility”, “excellence”, “collegiality” or “tradition” they are really championing a neoliberal institution that rewards the few while oppressing the many. Incidents of racism, misogyny, transphobia, abuse, rape culture, and hatred on campuses are on the rise and the university-as-such has all but destroyed the elusive academic freedom and job security for those who would challenge power, which faculty and students of the past sought through difficult struggle.
We, by undercommoning together, are slowly building a network of organizers, with members currently located in Anglophone North America, of those eager to link their struggle with others around the world. We, by undercommoning together, want to transform the tensions inherent to the university-as-such into visions, actions and experiments for a radically different world.
We will shout in every common space that the values the university-as-such claims to profess — of knowledge, fairness, inquiry and truth — cannot thrive in our capitalist, white-supremacist, hetero-patriarchal and colonial economy, based as it is on ignorance, greed, sorrow and fear.
We insist that the struggle for a better world and against the university-as-such is necessarily anti-colonial, anti-racist, feminist, queer, trans-liberationist and anti-ableist. We insist that free education is about freedom in these terms, not simply the absence of tuition fees or tokenistic inclusion.
We are already building the thing that will come after the university-as-such. We build it in stolen and redirected classroom discussions. We build through shared cigarettes or small gestures of compassion and solidarity. We build it on the picket lines and in the lunch lines and between the lines of essays and manifestos, in our statements of support and letters of condemnation. It emerges as we capture and liberate our time and thought, together. The reality of the undercommons is all around us in the reality of our struggle to collectively know ourselves and our power. Our goal is to create the tools and toys by which undercommoners can find one another and make common cause.
To that end we facilitate digital and local discussions with activists working in generative and surprising ways. We collect and broadcast examples of tactics, ideas, inspirations and techniques. In all we do, we seek to sustain alternative institutions seeking to build new forms of research, study and collaborative learning in and outside of the university’s shadow."
"No nostalgia for the past | No nostalgia for the future
Undercommoning is building a North American network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the (neo)liberal, (neo)colonial university.
We host critical discussions and engagements to build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and undercommons-centred power. We aspire to create heterogenous networks that will link disparate geographic locations while also facilitating meaningful relationships around local, place-based organizing.
Undercommoning is an evolving network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the neoliberal, (neo)colonial university in North America. We seek to experiment with and broadcast new ways of working together, new forms of study, and new pathways to solidarity."
"What is the Undercommoning Project?
We participate in and affirm those activist projects that oppose and seek alternatives to gentrification, commercialization, rising student debt and tuition, low wages for university staff and contract labor, and the academy’s attempts to hold a monopoly on the production of knowledge.
We host occasional critical online discussions called “encounters,” broadcast and publish interviews with activists, and otherwise solicit and disseminate texts and projects that build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and to sustain and amplify the undercommons: those networks of struggle, study and creativity that exist within, outside and in spite of the university.
We aim to create platforms to connect those struggling in the shadows of the university: not only workers and students within the institution, but those for free education, autonomous learning, and collective study outside of the university’s walls. The Undercommoning project provides a framework to link diverse local struggles so that they can gain strength and insight from one another’s efforts and visions.
What does Undercommoning mean?
We discuss the project and its goals in more detail in this article: http://undercommoning.org/undercommoning-within-against-and-beyond/
Who we are
The Undercommoning Project is an alliance of outcasts and fugitive knowledge workers struggling in the margins and on the edges of the universities that wrought us.
As a network, we aim to connect to one another both continentally and locally, appropriating where we can the new technologies of digital communication and meeting in person when possible.
The network is maintained by a rotating “Collective” of 10-15 people, most of whom are precarious academic or university workers, some of whom have exited the university. We work semi-anonymously to avoid the recuperative and repressive forces of academic capitalism.
We reject the artificial hierarchies of knowledge and prestige that are the weapons of the university. As such, we are open to anyone onto whom the university casts its shadow, from custodial workers to dropouts, from adjunct faculty to administrative support staff, from students to food servers, from trade unionists to activists building alternative institutions.
We work in the tradition of militant inquiry: bottom-up collective learning dedicated to building community capacities for radical social change. Our project seeks to amplify everyday forms of resistance. The online forum is a place to share radical critiques and strategies for overturning a system where education is a transaction. Further, we recognize the education many of us have received owes an unpayable debt to oppression in the forms of colonialism, slavery, and dispossession of indigenous communities.
What we do?
While we are just getting off the ground now, as a collective, we aim to……
• Host regular online meet-ups for organizers and thinkers to learn about one another’s struggles and build solidarity and capacity.
• Publish interviews, transcripts, essays, news and examples from struggles around the world
• Organize local events where organizers can gather and make common cause.
• Act as a network for organizers and activists within, against, and beyond the university.
• Reveal and challenge the North American university as a site working at the junction of settler-colonialism, neoliberal capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and other systems of domination and exploitation. We also diagnose the university as a key institution of power that works in concert with police, prisons, the financial system, the ‘lower’ education system, punitive state bureaucracies, culture industries and other means of oppression.
• Catalyze intersectional solidarity between and beyond laborers of the university, including: precarious academic workers; clerical, technical, food service, maintenance, and other support workers; subcontracted workers; exploited student laborers; international learners’ and those ejected from or refused by the university.
• Valorize the labor of the “undercommons”, promoting the autonomy of these forms of bottom-up refusal, collaboration, solidarity and mass intellectuality that the university at once subjugates and requires for its survival.
How can I find out more?
• Anti-colonial: towards the reclamation and revalourization of Indigenous, non-white and proletarian forms of learning/study/community-building/praxis.
• Anti-racist: Towards a politics of liberation, against the afterlives of slavery and ongoing forms of racial capitalism which universities sustain and reproduce
• Anticapitalist: against the university as an Edu-factory and against schools as reproducers of class relations
• No nostalgia: for the public education or Keynesian university-that-never-was
• Feminist: for dismantling patriarchy and hetero-and-cis-sexism
• Trans-&-Queer-Liberationist: Towards a queer rebellion, against homonormative forms of capture and the valo(u)rization of new capitalist demographics
• Autonomist: grassroots self-organization, extraparliamentary, non-sectarian
• Accomplices: beyond allyship, strategizing with, not for, and ready to betray academic institutions
• Undercommoning: radical networks, resource redirection, subversion, non-participation
• Experimentation/exodus: radical creativity and courage
• Solidarity: learning/study in league with communities, struggles, etc.
• Strategic optimism: not just a pity party or a social club"
On 11/30 hear how some of our most esteemed #colleges & #universities are trying to come to terms with connections…
via: https://twitter.com/WDeresiewicz/status/785623854626385920 ]
"Alder is a new kind of college built on relationships, bringing the best of the liberal arts to a richly inclusive student body in the heart of Portland.
The health of our communities depends on dynamic thinkers who can approach complex systems with curiosity, creativity and nuance. In order to create a more equitable and inclusive future, we will also need leaders drawn from a wide range of backgrounds. Alder will be a two year liberal arts college for students who will become these thought leaders.
STUDENT SUCCESS BUILT ON RELATIONSHIPS
Alder will focus on the crucial first two years of college, offering a rigorous yet supportive academic environment, where full-time faculty teach a richly inclusive and deeply diverse student body recruited from the talent we know is right here in Oregon.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
Recruitment will be local (Portland metro area), and focus on building relationships with high school staff and teachers to identify students who would benefit most from an Alder education.
Students take courses with the same cohort throughout their two years, giving them the time to develop relationships with peers and professors and create a vibrant, tight-knit intellectual community.
Students spend two years with a core group of faculty who are engaged in collaborative pedagogy.
Based on the success of learning communities, the two-year curriculum is integrated to encourage coherent cross-subject learning. Faculty collaboratively develop syllabi and scaffold assignments to build skills across disciplines and quarters.
EQUITY, DIVERSITY, INCLUSION
Learning increases when students interact with classmates from different backgrounds. Society benefits when a more diverse group of students pursues liberal arts education. Alder College will prioritize admitting and retaining a diverse student body through its recruitment practices.
Whether students decide their next step means attending a four-year college or university, entering the workforce, or pursuing an alternative program of study, Alder College will provide them with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions.
OUR STUDENTS, OUR CITY
We know that the best way to serve both our students and our city is by cultivating thick networks that encourage exploration and ongoing dialogue. By creating teams of community members and supporters, we will begin these conversations that will continue long after the first students walk through our doors.
COMMUNITY & STUDENT OUTREACH
Through strong connections with local organizations and high schools, Alder will work with teachers and mentors to identify students who would benefit from Alder’s rigorous yet supportive academic environment.
ARTS & CULTURE
The liberal arts are thriving all over the Portland area in theaters and galleries, at concerts and at book readings. Alder will tap into this rich artistic tapestry and show students that this is only the beginning of their intellectual engagement with the world.
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY
Alder will create an open dialogue with local business leaders to understand their workforce needs, help our students make informed career choices, and create a network that connects students with potential employers.
RETHINKING GENERAL EDUCATION
Alder will act as a lab school, sharing best practices with other institutions that may want to integrate elements of our work into their programs.
“How much does it cost to educate a student?” Alder will constantly ask how a new kind of school might answer that question.
SCALABLE & REPLICABLE
Alder is an incubator, developing practices that can be shared and modified to benefit students in a number of settings."
#Endowments Boom as #Colleges Bury Earnings Overseas via @NYTimes #highered #WealthManagement
Via How to Raise an Adult
"The Alumni Factor has three primary goals:
To give prospective students and their parents a more empowering, performance-based method of measuring and choosing colleges.
To give colleges and universities an objective assessment of their performance, based on the actual results of and input from their own alumni, that can be compared to other relevant colleges and universities. This is often difficult for an individual school to achieve on its own, but is essential to its improvement.
To give college alumni themselves a better perspective on the role their college played in their personal development and in the development of others, and how that compares to other colleges. This is interesting and entertaining for alumni, but it also helps improve colleges, since alumni are often active and influential voices as colleges set their improvement agendas.
The Alumni Factor Vision:
To become the most authoritative and trusted source of data and insights into the actual performance of colleges and universities."
From How to Raise an Adult
"CTCL is dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process.
The Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. (CTCL) story begins in 1996 when a book by the same name — Colleges That Change Lives — was published by retired New York Times education editor and journalist Loren Pope. A longtime student advocate and independent college counselor, Mr. Pope sought to change the way people thought about colleges by dispelling popularly held myths and challenging the conventional wisdom about college choice. His groundbreaking ideals were welcomed by students and the college counseling community alike. As a result, many of the colleges featured in the book began working together to further promote this philosophy of a student-centered college search. In 1998 the CTCL organization was formally organized, independent of Mr. Pope (although with his blessing) and his publisher.
Today, CTCL is regarded as a leading advocate on the subject of higher education access and college choice. In additional to the resources available through this web site, CTCL offers printed materials and numerous outreach efforts to students, families, college counselors, schools and education agencies. Additionally, CTCL supports those in college counseling roles who ascribe to a similar philosophy and are working to help students frame their college search beyond the ratings and rankings.
Furthermore, CTCL was founded on a philosophy of building the knowledge, character and values of young people by introducing them to a personalized and transformative collegiate experience. Although the member colleges approach this challenge with varying perspectives, institutional missions, and pedagogical strategies, a student-centered mission is common to all campuses. As an organization, CTCL will provide information and the opportunity to pursue a best-fit college to all students regardless of race, color, religion (creed), national origin (ancestry), sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, marital status, disability, military status, or any other means by which a student could be discriminated."
"The main thing is that twenty-first-century American kids are required to work more than their predecessors. This generation is raised on problem-solving to the exclusion of play. Authorities from the Brookings Institution to Time magazine have called for an end to summer vacation and the imposition of year-round compulsory schooling. But the possible downsides of this trade-off are almost never discussed.
Parents, teachers, policymakers, and employers are all so worried that children won’t “meet the demands of a changing world” that they don’t bother asking what kids are expected to do to meet those demands, and what problems they’re being equipped to solve. The anxious frenzy that surrounds the future has come to function as an excuse for the choices adults make for kids."
"This sort of intensive training isn’t just for the children of intellectuals; the theory behind the rhetoric advocating universal college attendance is that any and all kids should aspire to this level of work. College admissions have become the focus not only of secondary schooling but of contemporary American childhood writ large. The sad truth, however, is that college admissions are designed to funnel young adults onto different tracks, not to validate hard work. A jump in the number of Harvard-caliber students doesn’t have a corresponding effect on the size of the school’s freshman class. Instead, it allows the university to become even more selective and to raise prices, to stock up on geniuses and rich kids. This is the central problem with an education system designed to create the most human capital possible: an increase in ability within a competitive system doesn’t advantage all individuals.
In a world where every choice is an investment, growing up becomes a complex exercise in risk management. The more capital new employees already have when they enter the labor market, the less risky it is for their employers. Over time, firms have an incentive, as the economist Gary Becker put it, to “shift training costs to trainees.” If an employer pays to train workers, what’s to stop another company from luring them away once they’re skilled? The second firm could offer a signing bonus that costs less than the training and still benefit. Paying to train a worker is risky, and risk costs money. As American capitalism advanced, the training burden fell to the state, and then to families and kids themselves.
Childhood risk is less and less about death, illness, or grievous bodily harm and more and more about future prospects. But if it is every parent’s task to raise at least one successful American by America’s own standards, then the system is rigged so that most of them will fail. The ranks of the American elite are not infinitely expandable; in fact, they’re shrinking. Given that reality, parents are told that their children’s choices, actions, and accomplishments have lasting consequences. The Harley Avenue letter is merely one of the more dramatic examples of this fearmongering. With parental love as a guide, risk management has become risk elimination.
By looking at children as investments, it’s possible to see where the product of children’s labor is stored: in their human capital. It’s a kid’s job to stay eligible for the labor market (and not in jail, insane, or dead). Any work beyond that adds to their résumé. If more human capital automatically led to a higher standard of living, this model could be the foundation for an American meritocracy. But millennials’ extra work hasn’t earned them the promised higher standard of living. By every metric, this generation is the most educated in American history, yet its members are worse off economically than their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. Every authority from moms to presidents told millennials to accumulate as much human capital as they could; they did, but the market hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. What gives?
As it turns out, just because you can produce an unprecedented amount of value doesn’t necessarily mean you can feed yourself under twenty-first-century American capitalism. Kids spend their childhoods investing the only thing they have: their effort, their attention, their days and nights, their labor time. (And, sometimes, a large chunk of whatever money their parents may have.) If the purpose of all this labor, all the lost play, all the hours doing unpleasant tasks, isn’t to ensure a good life for the kids doing the work, if it isn’t in the “interests of all children,” then what is it for?
When you ask most adults what any kid in particular should do with the next part of her life, the advice will generally include pursuing higher education. As the only sanctioned path, college admissions becomes a well-structured, high-stakes simulation of a worker’s entry into the labor market. Applicants inventory their achievements, being careful not to underestimate them, and present them in the most attractive package possible.
Then, using the data carefully and anxiously prepared by millions of kids about the human capital they’ve accumulated over the previous eighteen years, higher education institutions make decisions: collectively evaluating, accepting, and cutting hopeful children in tranches like collateralized debt obligations that are then sorted among the institutions according to their own rankings (for which they compete aggressively, of course). It is not the first time children are weighed, but it is the most comprehensive and often the most directly consequential. College admissions offices are rating agencies. Once the kid-bond is rated, it has four or so years until it’s expected to produce a return."
"Once ladders of social mobility, universities increasingly reinforce existing wealth, fueling a backlash that helped elect Donald Trump."
"America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.
The two are related: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.
Those criteria often serve as unofficial guidelines for some colleges’ admission decisions and financial priorities, with a deeply ingrained assumption that the more a school spends — and the more elite its student body — the higher it climbs in the rankings. And that reinforces what many see as a dire situation in American higher education.
“We are creating a permanent underclass in America based on education — something we’ve never had before,” said Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.
For instance, Southern Methodist University in Dallas conducted a billion-dollar fundraising drive devoted to many of the areas ranked by U.S. News, including spending more on faculty and recruiting students with higher SAT scores — and jumped in the rankings. Meanwhile, Georgia State University, which has become a national model for graduating more low- and moderate-income students, dropped 30 spots.
Among the factors in the U.S. News formula are:
—Students’ performance on standardized admissions tests, which correlate strongly with family income, more than high school grades, which have less of a correlation.
— Having a lower acceptance rate, which many colleges have sought to achieve by leaning more on early decision admissions; this hurts lower-income students who apply to more schools in order to compare financial aid packages.
— Performing well on surveys of high school guidance counselors from highly ranked high schools, while many high schools in less affluent areas have few or no counselors.
— Alumni giving, which creates incentives to appease alumni by accepting their kids.
Meanwhile, there is no measurement for the economic diversity of the student body, despite political pressure dating back to the Obama administration and a 2016 election that revealed rampant frustration over economic inequality. There is, however, growing evidence that elite universities have reinforced that inequality.
Recent studies have produced the most powerful statistical evidence in decades that higher education — once considered the ladder of economic mobility — is a prime source of rewarding established wealth. One report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that kids from the top quartile of income earners account for 72 percent of students at the nation’s most competitive schools, while those from the bottom quartile are just 3 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of those in the lowest quartile of income ever get a bachelor’s degree, research has shown.
The lack of economic diversity extends far beyond the Ivy League, and now includes scores of private and public universities, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, which used tax data to study campus economic trends from 2000 to 2011, the most recent years available. For instance, the University of Michigan enrolls just 16 percent of its student body from the bottom 60 percent of earners. Nearly 10 percent of its students are from the top 1 percent."
"Alexander noted that a key to success in the rankings is paying higher faculty salaries and spending more per student overall, which drives up tuition in an era when sticker price has kept many low-income students from even applying to college.
Much of the score “is about spending the most amount of money on the fewest amount of students — and generally, students you already know are going to succeed,” Alexander said. “We’re spending more money on students who need it the least — and U.S. News gives you high marks for that. I call it ‘the greatest inefficiency ranking in America.’”
Carol Christ, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley — perennially near the top of the rankings — said the extent to which U.S. News motivates schools to pick wealthier students is “mind-boggling.”
“At a time when we should all be concerned about the financial efficiency of higher education, U.S. News rankings certainly don’t reward for that,” Christ said. “It’s so troubling to me.”
Kirwan cast the problem in simpler terms, saying that U.S. News creates the false impression that schools with the wealthiest students are, based on their criteria, the best.
“If some foreign power wanted to diminish higher education in America, they would have created the U.S. News and World Report rankings,” he said. “You need both more college graduates in the economy and you need many more low-income students getting the benefit of higher education — and U.S. News and World Report has metrics that work directly in opposition to accomplishing those two things that our nation so badly needs.”
An elitist equation
Higher education in America is a fiercely competitive enterprise. It’s a market-based system in which status is largely based on perception — a university’s prestige has an inordinate effect on who applies and how easily students are able to get jobs with lucrative employers. And the mark of prestige, in recent decades, has been a ratings system begun by the nation’s third-largest news magazine.
Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford University sociologist who has studied college admission practices, said the U.S. News rankings have evolved into nothing less than “the machinery that organizes and governs this competition.”
“They’re kind of a peculiar form of governance,” he said. “They’re not states, they’re not official regulators, they don’t have the backing of a government agency. But they effectively serve as the governance of higher education in this country because schools essentially use them to make sense of who they are relative to each other. And families use them basically as a guide to the higher education marketplace.”"
Best #Colleges in America by State (Interactive Map)
Best #Colleges in America by State (Interactive Map)