The Free University of New York City – May 1

by The North Star on April 20, 2012

Mission Statement

The Free University is a collective educational experiment that will be held on May 1, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In solidarity with the general strike, the Free University offers a public space for the 99% to disengage from an unequal system and imagine a model for alternative education. Those gathered in Madison Square Park, and those meeting in other spaces in solidarity, will create a university that is open to all, without debt or tuition for students, without pre-requisites, age limits or any other disqualifying requirements. Learning can only happen through interaction, exchange, and dialogue. To create a living future together, all must be included and welcome.

Free University as Strike

The Free University is a form of strike, but it is not merely a withdrawal of labor. As students, educators, citizens and non-citizens, we strike with affirmation – actively bringing into being the world we want to see. It is a strike for an educational system that serves our collective needs and desires. It is a strike to become decision-makers in our collective future, for knowledge to be a genuine commons and a collaborative production – not a source of profit.

How to participate / What it will look like

The Free University is an open invitation to educators around New York City to participate in May Day 2012. During the day, lectures, workshops, skill-shares, and discussions will be held — all open to the public. If you are in solidarity with the general strike but cannot cancel your class, bring it here! We also invite all educators interested in volunteering special sessions and classes for the day. We will have designated spaces for the quieter and more intimate classes. Sign up here:


We must create the Free University because our universities are becoming less and less free. Higher education is made less accessible by withdrawal of public support, the rising cost of tuition, and an admission system that makes university campuses replicate inequalities in wealth and societal power rather than reverse them. Higher education is devalued through austerity measures, corporate streamlining, productivity metrics, and budget cuts. We refuse to allow the university to become a place of ever-increasing surveillance, policing, and repression of dissent. We oppose the modeling of the university on corporate structures from unjustified executive compensation to the unnecessary standardization of the curriculum to the exploitation of contracted and adjunct labor. We strike against being doomed to lifelong debt, constant training and re-skilling, and against a system that saddles us with the cost of producing exploitable workers for the market. We refuse an educational system governed by the dictates of competition, individualism, and profit.

The site chosen for this Free University is symbolic. Madison Square Park is the public space closest to the site of the Free Academy of the City of New York, the school which was to become the City University of New York. We honor the historic commitment of educators to build free, public universities for all.

No single day, park, or effort can contain our vision; instead, we propose and will struggle to make all our universities places of free education, inquiry, and access to knowledge for all. We demand that our society put forward the necessary resources to provide such an education for all.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

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