Undressing the Academy, or The Student Handjob
University of Strategic Optimism
The weary student handbook genre is in need of a belligerent mauling. This is our crack at the job. We don’t want to talk down to anyone, but neither do we want to chat them up, so this is an attempt at thinking out the university from our own perspective, that of students. Here we air our dirty snapshot of the academy, at least semi-naked, just as we come across it.
This potted guide is our pot shot at undressing and dressing down this place, the university, and understanding our place within it: its problems and potential, its power-relations and its possibilities for politicisation. It is not an outpouring of theories, more stories – a collection of experiences and practical tips, observations, suggestions and clues – a thinking (and occasional fantasizing) out loud. This is our attempt to share some of the knowledge to be gleaned in the university, but a knowledge that is rarely measured on any certificate come graduation day.
Written collectively by the University for Strategic Optimism, in the queasy come-down afterglow of the recent wave of student activism in the UK (but looking forward to cracking-off another round), this guide attempts to contextualise our struggle and to bring it closer to home. Just what is the university that we are fighting for anyway? And what perhaps could it be?
Bio: The University for Strategic Optimism is a nomadic university with a transitory campus, based on the principle of free and open education, a return of politics to the public, and the politicisation of public space. To date, the UfSO has operated as a framework for the collective production of political activity, as a space for study, discussion and collective writing, as well as delivering a course of performative lecture interventions in public spaces ranging from banks to supermarkets.
You can also download it here: Undressing The Academy.
Release date November 6, 2011.
“I love the Undressing the Academy as a rejoinder and anecdote to the stream of educational propaganda shoveled through my college’s listserv. We are constantly being told how to engage students, help them be responsive learners, how we should be co-learners, what skills we need them to develop so that they will become leaders (“leadership” is the new buzzword–but really? who is it kidding? as an object of pedagogical practice it’s another vehicle for extend corporate logics more deeply into society, grasping people at younger ages, and disciplining the curriculum). The cynicism and anger in Undressing the Academy are like having students stare blankly at an enthusiastic lecturer giving them guidelines for success and then take a massive shit in the middle of the class before walking out of room… The book is like a cry for education free from capitalism, free from exploitation, competition, and the miserable conditions that leave students with no time to think open and faculty with no time to teach.” – Jodi Dean