Friday, December 02, 2011

An education in occupation

You might have heard that students have once again occupied a building at New School. It happened the day I flew to San Francisco for AAR, when police blocked the flow of a march of students from around the city which had intended to go from Union Square to Foley Square. The student study space at Fifth Ave and 14th Street (itself a victory of the last student occupation, one of whose demands was student space) became the center of a "Citywide All Student Occupation." Apparently it became quite an exciting space of meetings, discussions, etc., a mini-Zuccotti with flashbacks to Italian anarchism and other student movements around the world. Our university president announced he would let them stay, as vigorous discussion of issues of the day is what The New School is all about - so long as everyone stayed safe.

But it was also in a rented space, and the building owner and the fire marshal lodged complaints. The president offered the occupiers another space (a gallery in a building the university owns) and after a long and apparently very contentious debate, most of a General Assembly agreed to move. A remnant, insisting that you can't occupy a place someone offers you, held out in the student study center. They weren't going to leave, they announced on their website, and barricaded themselves in in anticipation of a police raid. On Thanksgiving I was one of several faculty invited by deans to a meeting Friday morning - perhaps we could talk to the occupiers? But by the time we showed up, the occupations had ended. The study center was empty, and five non-New School students sleeping in the gallery left too. Both spaces had been graffiti'd,the gallery in an angry hurry (this picture), the former in more organic and often witty ways (the rest). (We were taken on a tour of the spaces, where I took these pictures, there being no other reason for our gathering, besides worrying about the inevitable "next occupation" with anxiety and also desire.) And that, amazingly, was that. Both spaces are returned to their usual use, and the occupation has - at least for now - evaporated. Meanwhile, a university which made headlines for the NYPD-involved overreactions to earlier occupations is being praised for achieving a peaceful resolution - in the same week as Occupy evictions across the land and the UC Davis pepper-spraying seen around the world, no less. Peaceful discussion continues! And someone's proposed we print a t-shirt: We Promise You an Education and an Occupation.

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