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<nettime> Jerome Roos: In Amsterdam,
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 11 Mar 2015 02:33:34 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Jerome Roos: In Amsterdam,

As a (sometimes) participant, I can vouch that this is a very good round-up.
Cheerio, p+5D!
bwo Barbara Strebel - in Basel.

original to:

In Amsterdam, a revolt against the neoliberal university

by Jerome Roos on March 8, 2015

The student occupation at the University of Amsterdam speaks to a
deepening crisis of higher education not just in the Netherlands but
across the globe.

[Image: David Graeber speaks at the Maagdenhuis (by Malcolm Kratz)].

For three weeks now, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has been shaken by
a wave of student protests against the neoliberalization of higher
education and the lack of democratic accountability in internal
decision-making. Last week, UvA staff joined the rebellion, declaring
their solidarity with the students and threatening further actions if
their demands are not met. With the university?s main administrative
building ? the Maagdenhuis ? now occupied by students, the governing
council has been forced into an awkward position: will it honor the
demands of the academic community for greater democratization, or will it
continue to obey the neoliberal logic of bureaucratic financialization?

While the struggle at UvA has been mostly local and national in character,
the implications of the issues raised by its students and staff reach far
beyond the borders of the Netherlands. Higher education is in crisis
across the developed world. Structurally underfunded, severely
over-financialized and profoundly undemocratic, universities everywhere
are increasingly abandoning their most crucial social functions of yore ?
to produce high-quality research and educate the next generation of
skilled, conscious citizens ? and devolving ever more into quasi-private
companies run by an utterly detached managerial elite.

To make matters worse, these managers ? rather than focusing on improving
the quality of education or streamlining internal decision-making
processes to free up as much time and as many resources as possible for
knowledge-transfer and research ? are actually being paid six-sum figures
to push around insane amounts of pointless paperwork, forcing destructive
workloads and unrealistic expectations onto increasingly precarious staff,
treating students like simple-minded consumers and impersonal statistics,
and putting immense pressure on highly talented researchers to spew out
mind-numbing amounts of nonsensical garbage just to meet rigid
quantitative publication quotas that completely fail to recognize the
social and qualitative dimensions of scholarly work.

The protesters at UvA thus find themselves at the front-line of what is
essentially a global fightback against the commodification of higher
education and the steady reduction of knowledge and learning to an
increasingly unaffordable consumer good. In many countries, this
neoliberal logic has resulted in dramatic tuition hikes and budget cuts,
combined with the metastization of a culture of top-down managerialism,
creeping bureaucratization and the systematic precarization of academic
labor ? with all the attendant consequences of rising student
indebtedness, the proliferation of work floor bullying, and deepening
anxiety, depression and burnout among university staff.

Interestingly, it has been precisely the countries where this
neoliberalization of higher education has proceeded furthest that have
experienced the most spectacular student protests in recent years: from
the Penguin Revolution in Chile to the Red Square movement in Québec, and
from the campus occupations in California and the recent student debt
strike at Everest College to the student riots in the UK. The Netherlands,
still 10 years behind the curve, has long been eager to catch up with its
neoliberal counterparts. Witnessing the recent student revolts in these
countries, it should probably have known better not to push this logic too
far. As Polanyi famously argued, there is a limit to how far you can go in
commodifying the commons. At some point, the commoners will rebel.

In this sense, the counter-movement now stirring in Amsterdam may well be
a harbinger of what is yet to come. Ewald Engelen, Professor of Financial
Geography at UvA and a renowned critic of financialization, was only
partly exaggerating when he referred to the Maagdenhuis as ?the most
interesting place in Western Europe right now.? After years of suffering
in silence, the academic community here has finally risen up to reclaim
their own university, with staff and students joining forces not only to
demand a radical change in the way research, teaching and higher learning
is funded and organized, but developing exciting new methods of
participatory self-governance in the process.

So far, the administration has refused to take any concrete steps to meet
the students? and staff?s demands, but it is already clear that it has
suffered a resounding ideological defeat. Suddenly, the critique of
financialization, bureaucratization, top-down managerialism and the lack
of democratic decision-making has made its way onto the eight o?clock news
and onto the front-pages of all the leading newspapers ? no mean feat in a
country as thoroughly neoliberalized and depoliticized as the Netherlands.
A handful of rebellious students have effectively jolted their teachers
into action, and the academic community, once atomized and apathetic, has
quickly sprung into a state of collective self-organization. Suddenly,
there is resistance.

Those who make the university have reclaimed its administrative heart. A
large banner calling for direct democracy now hangs in front of the
rector?s office ? the managerial elite is nowhere to be seen. As this
budding movement grows in strength and spreads to other universities in
the country, new horizons are rapidly opening up for further protests
elsewhere. While the next weeks will be crucial in determining how far the
movement can go, those who have been lucky enough to catch a whiff of the
bottom-up changes blowing through the UvA can be forgiven for being
hopeful. All these years, the neoliberal university quietly bred its own
nemesis ? now let?s rejoice as we join in the rebellion.

Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at the
European University Institute and founding editor of ROAR Magazine. Follow
him on Twitter at  {AT} JeromeRoos.

3 comments? read them below or add one

Mary Pishney March 8, 2015 at 21:27

    So encouraging to hear of people in other nations who are fighting
against the NWO plans to reduce education to producing ?non-critical
thinkers? and instead, ?compliant workers? as stated by Jay
Rockefeller, a family who has done ALL they could to acheive that dark
goal. I just read and now realize that these twin, destructive goals
have been around since 1875 when first posited by none other than John
Dewey, the high holy priest of American education. I was a
public/private, elementary school teacher for three decades, during
which time I saw the total destruction of my profession, my career and
health and financial life torn to shreds. The story of the destruction
of America public education is a nightmare of Orwellian proportions. I
wish these students well in their crusade to expose the covert evil of
such forces.

ahmed said March 9, 2015 at 02:11

    university > business.
    whereby values of the people are equal but and because the people are
not the same. moreover
    business for the people of the university should benefit the people of
the university, the prize is linked to businesses, yet for the people
idea of a enlightenment and personal journey, a revolution longed by
the people, listen; for the people by the people, it is here where we
come at a crux.

Marie G. March 10, 2015 at 00:15

    Thanks for the great article! At the University of Toronto in Canada
we are also fighting austerity in education. Graduate students are
currently on strike to secure appropriate funding and recognition of
their work as teaching assistants. http://www.weareuoft.ca

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