Nomadic University Meeting—December 10, 2011

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Meeting minutes:

OWS Nomadic University 10th Dec 2011 in the Trump Tower atrium




Present (in no particular order):



Chris (Casuccio)











As many people were late getting to the meeting, we started out with some preliminary report-backs:


–          Jason and Zane reported back that this Thursday (8th Dec), they had had a successful “teacher training/facilitation” meeting in the Trump Tower atrium with 11-12 participants, discussing Glass-Stiegel and other related financial issues based on an article hand-out. Zane and Jason both wanted to emphasise that the success of the meeting was not so much to do with the content of the article, or the financial knowledge gained from the discussion, but rather the experience of learning together how to keep a class running in a horizontal, facilitation-based mode. They both felt it was a promising exercise, which they will continue to repeat and continue to learn from, and they invited everyone who wanted to come to their next meeting, on Thursday 15th Dec.


–          Chris reported back about having set up a Google doc to facilitate comments on the issue of naming our project. Some of the online commentators of the document weren’t there to represent their views, but Chris mentioned objections to “Occupy University” raised by Chris Crews based in it being, potentially, a neo-colonial word, particularly from a Native American perspective. Joe raised similar objections to the word “Nomadic”, from a global, nomadic peoples perspective. Ben argued that the problem was with calling the project a “University”, as that implied a far too traditional education project/institution. It was decided that we table this conversation until 1) there were more of us present, and 2) we had a clearer idea of what our University will look like.


We then started the “meeting proper”.




First agenda item: Karen’s draft introductory statement for our project, currently entitled Nomadic University.


The Statement is a three paragraph draft from 3rd Dec. Karen was looking for both specific comments on wording, line edits etc, and general comments about the sort of direction we should go in with this Statement. Should we, for example, try to articulate more precise goals of the University even while the process of drafting those ideas was at an early stage? The consensus at the end of a discussion with input from most of us, was that:

–          The Statement looked good in terms of its outline, provided we make it look less academic (Darragh).

–          It is important to integrate phrasing that implies values of social justice (Miguel), anti-capitalist protest (Joe) and a sense of “parallel” structure to the traditional institutes of learning that we’ll exist alongside (Miguel).

–          We/Karen should all keep working on it, and returning to it, as the larger University project unfolds.



Second agenda item: Joe’s hand-out, a proposal both for the structure of the University and a time-line for how/when to get started.


The discussion focused on how we can take the proposals presented in the Sat 3rd Dec meeting (by Jason, Ingrid, David, Joe, Miguel and Ruth) and make them fit together. Should this even happen, or are there differences between the ideas that won’t work together conceptually or practically when enacted? The cautious consensus was that the proposals are not antithetical as such, though it would perhaps take more than some tinkering to incorporate Miguel’s notion of what we’ve called a Core Syllabus with Joe’s idea of the University as a kind of host organisation offering whatever classes our teachers and learners want to have.


Issues raised:

–          Timeline. Joe’s time-line of starting with a Week of Inquiry on 18th Dec, unveiling the University on Jan 17th, might be too optimistic. Jason raised concerns about rushing our ideas, which may ultimately thwart our radical, innovative purpose. Joe said that the timeline might be utopian, but the steps could still be valid. Agreement from others about that.

–          Logistics. Darragh thought we should consider this over the break, how to break it down into 1) logistics, 2) topics (Miguel’s proposal) and 3) some sort of organised effort to inquire what people want to learn/teach (Jason’s proposal).

–          Discussion/development. Zane and Miguel both suggested we have a workshop of the proposal  – and the potential for merging proposals – at some point early in the New Year. This seemed like a good idea to many of us, though others, for example Ruth, thought it might be good to wait until the end of January to make sure everyone was back from the holidays. The concern with that was that momentum might drop. We agreed there should be a 2 hour meeting focusing on the proposals before the break.

–          Content. Karen thought two directions were emerging from the proposal(s): 1) Joe’s idea of a “capacious university”, hosting all kinds of content, but with OWS as a guiding principle both for pedagogy and content. The example we’ve used here is of a plumber/frakking activist teaching a course on how to fix your pipes and learning about the water system and its political status as a consequence of learning about pipe maintenance. 2) Miguel’s proposal which is based more in providing an entire alternative curriculum, for example on alternative economies. Now the challenge will be to see if the two directions are compatible.



Third agenda item: Ingrid’s walking tour proposal (already approved by consensus last meeting).


Ingrid said that the walking tours are not just a purpose in themselves, but they can also be a good way to build momentum for the larger, long-term university project we’re trying to build.


Issues raised:

–          Open Forum meeting this week. Somebody should go to find out if they can collaborate on the tours, as it should be a good fit with what they’re trying to do, post full-time occupation of Zucotti Park.

–          Translation. Ingrid wanted to emphasise that this should feel like an inclusive project, therefore it’s vital to have good translations and multi-lingual options available.

–          Resources. We need people recommended to us, perhaps people to partner with us from existing alternative tour operators (Ruth’s idea).

–          Content. Miguel suggested that the tours could be complimentary with courses of the University. Ingrid felt it was important that the tours could stand alone, but she was interested in seeing how a “field trips” version could be incorporated into the emerging university structure. Ingrid listed ideas such as property values, transportation, mobility, environmental projects and contextualising OWS. There are places in NYC where violence – arrest of protesters etc – has happened and which now are seen as just “regular” intersections, streets etc. Ingrid felt a walking tour could bring awareness and make us, in an unsentimental way, experience the importance of the history in the making that the struggle of the movement provides.


Fourth agenda item. What do we do over the holidays?


Zane had already suggested, in the course of discussing proposals, that we have a 2 hour meeting before the holidays, where we spend 30 minutes discussing the name question, and an hour and a half on Joe and Miguel’s large structural proposals. There was consensus on trying to make this happen, but no consensus on when. There was concern, voiced by Darragh and Ingrid, that we don’t use Dec 17th for a meeting, as that will be a day of direct action, being the three month anniversary of the beginning of the Zucotti Park occupation. Chris offered (and was prompted to offer!) to set up a doodle poll, where everyone could fill in their availability, for 3-4 days before and after 17th Dec.


We left it there to go have coffee together, with thanks to Zane for facilitating, and to Jason for taking stack!

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