Why Occupy? And Why the Humanities Building?
First and foremost, it is important for us to express our unease with the term “occupation.” The term’s historical indebtedness to militarization/colonial exploitation is difficult to disassociate. We use the term merely as a means of putting ourselves in direct solidarity with the “occupations” that have been occurring the world over from universities to factories to foreclosed homes; from Asia to Europe to Africa to central and south America and, now, here in the United States. They are happening and they are growing. The term that is perhaps more appropriate, and which still expresses the spirit of these movements, is “reclamation.”
Now to the question: why reclaim? Well, none other than CSUF’s own strategic planner Michael Parker, as well the university’s administration, has put out the call. In a document that was released as “pre-event reading” for the President’s Planning Retreat held on January 20th, 2010 Parker wrote the following:
If degrees obviously lead to jobs in fields like healthcare, public administration and pre-legal training, science and engineering, research support, communications, business, pre-medical and dental training that can be seen as crucial to society, then we make our case. More esoteric offerings such as literature, philosophy, fine arts, and so forth will only be justified in the minds of the public as they are clearly related to practical concerns. The fact that these are traditional parts of comprehensive universities is no longer a strong enough argument to the public. (p. 5)
Parker’s argument is that, given the current social mandate (i.e. the demand for high level job preparation in areas like public administration, business and communications), the Schools of Humanities and Arts, along with their subsequent disciplines, are “socially irrelevant.”
However, the term “social mandate” is duplicitous as it, in reality, refers to no social body whatsoever. Instead, it refers to various components of the global economy. As Parker writes: “…international corporations, the European economic Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international trade groups have become an organizing principle for society and are once again reshaping the nature of universities.” (p. 10) Thus, it seems clear to us that the Schools of Humanities and Arts are not “socially” irrelevant but, instead, “economically” irrelevant and, even, politically dangerous to the established economic order that has become an “organizing principle for society.”
Throughout the Presidents Planning Retreat document, as well as another document by Parker entitled “Strategic Planning Activities 10-08 to 09-09”, students, faculty and staff are consistently referred to as “human capital”, “producers”, “consumers” as well as short- and long-term “payoffs” meant for “repurposing” and “downsizing”. It is in the Schools of Humanities and Arts that we learn both the facts and expressions of various forms of social resistance to the commodification of everything – even the commodification of our lives. And it is precisely these programs (Afro-Ethnic Studies, Chicana and Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, Modern Languages, Classical Guitar, and so many more) that show us a world beyond mere commodities and engage critically with the established order of the global economy, that Parker designates as “merely desirable” and “non-essential.” WE are not surprised because WE are dangerous.
And this is precisely why we are reclaiming the Humanities building: because we do not trust an administration that seeks to marginalize alternative narratives to the University of Phoenix business model (p. 10); because we cannot acquiesce to a university administration that called the 2007 CSUF on-campus noose-hangings merely an “offensive act” and not a hate crime; because we refuse to allow the absence of any disruption to a university system that seeks to expel Muslim students at UC Irvine for protesting a pro-Zionist speaker while a woman who hangs a noose at UC San Diego faces mere suspension; because it is absolutely impossible to offer our complicity towards the systematic downsizing of staff and adjunct faculty; and, finally, because we offer our solidarity to the Tongva Indians who, for 18 years, have been fighting developers to preserve the Puvunga, a burial ground on the western edge of campus of CSU Long Beach.
As our project may be to open the school of Humanities to the communities beyond the university context, those outside might ask: why the barricades? The school of Humanities cannot be a truly autonomous space until we have built the community to defend it, to ensure a space devoid of police, university and state violence and repression. As Michael Parker and the university administration have put the call out to reclaim spaces, we put the call out to those communities that wish to oppose systematic and conventional racism, classism and sexism.
For the full Michael Parker documents:
csuf links university and military planning
csuf planning committee deems humanities and arts esoteric
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
CSU Fullerton Occupied (Reclaimed)!
As of this morning, according to occupyca, between 15-18 people barricaded themselves into the Humanities building. As of 6:51 am, cops had entered the building, detained four, and were talking to the rest. Check back for updates. In the meantime, the communiqué: