re:building the public university

a project of the building collective, made possible by a grant from the Santa Cruz Faculty Association.

project proposal:

Re: building the University is the creation of a convivial and relaxed space at the site of picket lines on March 1st, 2012. Students and staff plan to picket, and, indeed, blockade, both entrances to UCSC on this day, effectively shutting down the campus, much as happened on March 4th, 2010. On that day, and at countless marches and rallies before and since, we have hypothesized that the fatigue of standing and of sunlight might be obviated by access to a pleasant, comfortable place to sit, talk, and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It is in such spaces that dialog can flourish. Enlivened by struggle and by speeches, students and staff are often most acutely aware of the effects of the crisis, and the possibilities of transforming public education, during the day of action itself. And yet there are so few venues for sharing that awareness, let alone for documenting it for a wider audience. Our project seeks to provide a space to discuss such ideas, and prompts participants to record their thinking in the simple form of a postcard.

Re: building the University will create the space for dialog, as noted above, but it will also provide blank postcards with which to extend those dialogs to people who are not present on March 1st. Participants are prompted only with the text, “a public university could be:” at the top of each postcard. Though the building collective will have a list of potential recipients on hand (administrators, politicians, journalists), participants are encouraged to send the postcard to whomever they see fit. Art supplies, pencils, typewriters and clipboards will be available for writing and illustrating these postcards. When finished, participants will be encouraged to deposit their postcard into a collection box; all postcards collected will be scanned before mailing and posted on a website for the project, in order to document the thoughts and feelings of participants.

In order to create an appropriately comfortable space for dialog, and to better protect the grasses surrounding University’s main entrance, we will set out a large tarpaulin. Imagine it as a giant picnic blanket. Along with pens, pencils, and clipboards, we would like to make available to participants a collection of pillows, blankets, and portable furniture, as well as snacks and tea. Clearly some of these expenses exceed the scope of this small grant proposal; any such costs will be undertaken by the building collective in coordination with the General Assembly which is planning the day of action.

Finally, we recognize that one of the primary ways that students and staff engage in dialogs during actions such as this one is via social media, especially Twitter. As part of an installation that the building collective produced at the UCIRA “State of the Arts” Conference at UC San Diego in November 2010, we developed a javascript program that aggregates twitter posts related to actions at UC campuses and displays them in a scrolling timeline. This program will be updated to the appropriate hashtags for March 1st and presented publicly at the base of campus with wireless connection and battery-powered monitors. These tweets should serve as both fodder for dialog and as a reminder of the extent and expanse of these dialogs beyond our campus.

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