This article was published originally in the invaluable NYULOCAL.
As Occupy Wall Street fans out into different parts of New York City (and, well, the world), Washington Square Park has quickly become the hub for student involvement in the protest. From the student walk-out earlier this month to the recent addition of a student general assembly by the fountain, university participation is picking up momentum.
This Saturday began the newest iteration of student organization: People’s University, a teach-in style lecture series of professors and academics, organized largely by graduate students and a few undergrads from NYU. They’re organized around the idea that education should be free and in public spaces, and “not a consumer good,” according to their Tumblr, so they’re bringing academia outdoors.
Teach-ins have been a staple of American protests since 1965, when 200 professors at the University of Michigan taught for 12 hours to protest the Vietnam war. Professors and other academics have been giving lectures to the protesters at Zuccotti for a few weeks now, including NYU professor Slavoj Zizek, journalist Naomi Klein and the Nation reporter Chris Hedges to name a few.
The group behind People’s U call themselves NYU4OWS, and work with New School and CUNY students to organize the student general assemblies that have began to be held in Washington Square Park too. The People’s U schedule of speakers is peopled thus far with such notables as Niel Smith, a famous geographer who teaches at CUNY, and Sujatha Fernandes, a sociology professor whose talk is listed as “Hip Hop for Social Change.” Based on this piece she wrote for HuffPo, it will be cool.