KEY COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

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"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Experimental College at SFSU gets media attention - a good thing?

Yesterday, the latest volume (issue #4) of the SFSU Golden Gate Express came out. The cover story is the brewing controversy over the resurgence of the Experimental College at SFSU.

Will Nelson and Kelly Corwin are not college teachers. They have long, sunny blonde hair draping their shoulders; they wear tattered jeans and sneakers. However, every Wednesday night for two hours in HSS 201, these SF State students are teachers to roughly 20 students.
Nelson, 22, and Corwin, 25, teach a Student Activism course, which explores social movements through comparative analysis, and for which some of the students are getting course credit.
The pair are working through the Experimental College, which was established in 1966 by the Black Student Union and Third World Liberation Front in protest of racial discrimination and lack of ethnic-centered curriculum. However, despite the support of some faculty, the administration is not backing the college’s courses.  READ MORE......
Here's the email that Kelly and Will sent out to professors asking for their support.  It seems clear that at least one person who got this email forwarded it to the provost, whose response is illustrated in the following email from the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities:
College of Arts and Humanities hmnts@sfsu.edu



to undisclosed recipients
Provost Rosser has asked the deans to remind faculty that 699 courses for independent study are to be used only when an individual student is doing work with a particular faculty member.  The situation outlined in the e-mail below is NOT an appropriate use of an independent study. 

Faculty should understand that students cannot teach courses without faculty being present during class sessions and that under no circumstances are students to determine the final grades of other students.

Re 685s, see information below:

http://www.sfsu.edu/~senate/documents/policies/S97-200.html

Senae Policy clearly delineates what a student may not do:
Instructional aides may not:
  • be enrolled concurrently in the class for which they are an instructional aide;
  • design the course syllabus or learning objectives;
  • grade non-objective tests or papers;
  • write exams; or
  • have access to student records, including addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, and grades.
Any and all activities of the Instructional Aide, including contributing to lectures, presentations or demonstrations, or leading class discussions, must be carefully monitored by the instructor of record, who must be present at all times when the regular instructionally-related class is formally in session.
The instructional aides should be enrolled in a 685.
My email response to the reporter's questions:
Why do you believe it's important to continue with the Experimental College? What is your own history with the college and also Occupy SFSU?

I HAVE STUDIED ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION FOR A LONG TIME AND HAVE FOCUSED ON THE HISTORY OF THE 1964 MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM SCHOOLS AS WELL AS HIGHLANDER FOLK SCHOOL.  THE EXPERIMENTAL COLLEGE IS IN THIS TRADITION OF STUDENTS ASKING AND TRYING TO ANSWER THEIR OWN QUESTIONS.  I CO-FOUNDED THE SF FREEDOM SCHOOL IN 2005 AS A WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO LEARN FROM THE VETERANS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT (TO LEARN HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE ACTIVISTS).  I HAVE BEEN TEACHING A COUPLE OF COURSES OFF AND ON AT SFSU FOR ABOUT 5 YEARS (I THINK?)  I HAVE NO CONNECTION TO OCCUPY SFSU, ALTHOUGH I AM TRYING TO FIND OUT HOW TO CONNECT WITH THOSE ORGANIZING THE MARCH 1-5 EVENTS ON CAMPUS. 
Why do you think the initial resurrection of the Experimental College, went so low in participation after 2009?  
I THINK THERE WAS A SPLIT AMONG THE STUDENT FOUNDERS AND ONE SMALL GROUP BECAME VERY IDEOLOGICAL AND DOMINERRING, THUS ALIENATING MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO PARTICIPATE. 
What steps have you, as a sponsor, tried to make this semester in order to combat the lack of structure that followed the ExCo's original resurface?

I HAVE WORKED CLOSELY WITH THE THREE STUDENTS WHO HAVE DEVELOPED CURRICULUM SO AS TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND HOW THEY CAN MOST EFFECTIVELY ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS.   I HAVE TAUGHT THEM PREVIOUSLY IN MY POLITICAL MOVEMENTS COURSE AND STRESSED THAT DISCIPLINE AND RESEARCH ARE AMONG THE KEY COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL LEARNING.  JAMES LAWSON - A DISCIPLE OF GANDHI AND MENTOR TO MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. -- STRESSED TO THE STUDENTS HE TAUGHT IN NASHVILLE (1960 SIT INS) THAT IF ONE IS GOING TO ORGANIZE NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION, ONE HAS TO BE "FIERCELY DISCIPLINED."  ONE HAS TO STUDY NONVIOLENCE THOROUGHLY IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND IT.  SOMETHING THAT THE OCCUPIERS HAVE YET TO DO.  THERE ARE TWO STUDENTS ON CAMPUS WHO WANT TO EXPLORE THESE IDEAS MORE FULLY AND HAVE CREATED A COURSE TO DO SO. 
Facilitators of the Student Activism Course, Will Nelson and Kelly Corwin haven't spoken with SF State about the college, yet have heard "indirectly" about the school's concerns about the program, according to Nelson. Have you or James Martel spoken with the campus about their feelings about the ExCo? 
NO, I HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO ANYONE.  I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THE ADMINISTRATION WOULD WANT TO DISCOURAGE STUDENTS FROM ASKING AND ANSWERING THEIR OWN QUESTIONS -- WHETHER IT IS HOW TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY OR HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE ADVOCATES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.  CREATING AND IMPLEMENTING THEIR OWN COURSES (WITH EXPERIENCED ADVISING, NATURALLY) IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY FOR STUDENTS TO LEARN HOW TO THINK CRITICALLY.  We have been here before...The "8 year study" from 1930-42): to form “democracy as a way of life,” 
the pupil must be brought back into the picture. After all he is the leading figure in the play. He is the future citizen, who will have to deal with all the desperate problems which we seem unable to solve and which are bound to constitute a part of our legacy to him. . . . He is entitled to have all the light that the school can furnish on underlying issues and he should have opportunity for the exercise of enlightened and independent judgment. (Bode 1937, 97–98)
I CAN ONLY SURMISE THAT THE ADMINISTRATION MIGHT BE AFRAID THAT STUDENTS MIGHT LEARN HOW TO REALLY BECOME AGENTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE, LIKE THE STUDENTS IN THE MS FREEDOM SCHOOLS LEARNED HOW TO CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL PARTY IN MS IN 1964.  SO FAR, THE ORGANIZERS OF THE OCCUPY MVT DON'T KNOW HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE ADVOCATE'S FOR THEIR AND OTHER'S NEEDS. BUT THEY ARE BEGINNING TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS THAT WOULD LEAD THEM TO BECOMING MORE EFFECTIVE ADVOCATES AND ORGANIZERS.  IF THE ADMINISTRATION TRULY BELIEVES IN ITS MISSION TO "
  • Fostering a collegial and cooperative intellectual environment that includes recognition and appreciation of differing viewpoints and promotes academic freedom within the University community; and
  • Serving the communities with which its students and faculty are engaged.
THEN, IF THERE IS A DEMAND FOR STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF AN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM THAT SEES THE ABOVE AS ITS MISSION, THEN I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THE ADMINISTRATION ISN'T PROVIDING STRUCTURAL SUPPORT FOR SUCH A PROGRAM.


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