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#special issue: Knowledge in Action

Declaration of the Street University

Declaration of the Street University

 

Considering the repression and corruption in our universities, the growing commercialization of the educational process, and the fact that today’s students are alienated, demoralized, and depoliticized, a group of Petersburg university students, teachers, activists, researchers, and concerned citizens has initiated the creation of the Street University (SU).

The goal of the SU is revive the traditions of student self-governance and create an effective network of researchers, activists, and sympathetic citizens who are united by the desire to form an alternative field for the production and distribution of critical knowledge. The name Street University refers to a place that is by definition open, the only place where this kind of counter-knowledge can be invented. In this sense, the SU is the heir both to the experience of the ancients (Socrates, the Cynics, Aristotle) and to the experiments of modern times (the Situationists, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Joseph Beuys, the perestroika-era Leningrad Free University). In addition, the SU has set itself the goal of putting the public back into public space by conducting classes on the streets of our city and by furthering ties between the academic community and various social movements and initiatives.

The SU is a space for discussing current questions of social reality. Preference is given to such relevant themes as student movements; the international and Russian experience of alternative educational practices and counter-institutions; democratic artistic and research associations; civic resistance; the aesthetics and theory of avant-garde forms of creativity; and grassroots activism.

The SU presupposes that forms of self-expression are freely chosen. An SU class might take the form of an academic seminar or an artistic or social action (a lecture or paper followed by a discussion; an open discussion on a stated theme; a sociological survey; a performance; a collective manifestation; a field trip; a meeting with activists from other communities or social movements).

The SU sets itself two interrelated goals: the autonomy of the universities and the self-governance of students within the existing institutional structures, and the creation of an alternative network of counter-institutional practices. The SU opposes the practice of community, creative collaboration, and nonconformism to the individualistic values of careerism, professional success, and integration into the existing order. The SU is a space where self-education, daily practice, art and activism interact.

The SU is an open, continuously expanding network of Petersburg students, university teachers, researchers, activists, and concerned citizens. It is constructed on the principles of openness, self-organization, and self-governance, and it is not bound to any organization or institution. The SU includes a Coordinating Council (CC) whose main function is to organize and publicize the work of the SU.

The SU meets on Sundays at two o’clock on Solyanoi Pereulok, unless other arrangements are made. The composition of each subsequent meeting is determined through the exercise of direct democracy. Each person present at the meeting has the right to suggest the form and theme of a forthcoming meeting, talk or action, and s/he can cast one vote for or against other such proposals. This procedure is meant to encourage active participation in the work of the SU. The CC drafts the final program for the following meeting, posting this information on the university’s website and distributing it to the university’s mailing list no later than mid-week.

 

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