Nomadic University Meeting Minutes—October 28, 2011, 60 Wall Street

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Nomadic University Meeting—October 28, 2011

Consensus Model Explained

Recap of NU’s Timeline

  • First meeting, October 18, 2011
  • Second Meeting (at the New School), October 22, 2011: Creation of temporary task forces to allow for deeper engagement on various important questions

Task Force Introduction

Alternative Models Research and Critique Task Force

  • This task force is examining alternative models of free universities and critiquing them (e.g., University of San Francisco) to determine which aspects NU should integrate and which NU should not.

Labor Context/Community Task Force

  • This task force is thinking about ways NU can and should plug into the labor market and communities.

Definitions/Concepts Task Force

  • This task force is attempting to delineate the meanings of important terms (e.g., “university” and “nomadic”).

Intersection of OWS Principles and  NU Task Force (Principles and Goals—OWS and Beyond)

  • This task force is attempting to determine how NU can and should incorporate OWS principles.

Task Force Updates

Alternative Models Research and Critique Task Force

  • Group members started looking at similar institutions in the United States and different countries (e.g., Norway and India).
  • Suggestion: Summarize the reasons the task force suggests each model to save meeting time.

Labor Context/Community Task Force

  • Group members decided that they will map the five boroughs (e.g., organizations, needs/desires, current capacity/capability—What communities need and what they can offer). They hope to begin a dialogue with the city. They started searching for articles on mapping methods. They asserted that the mapping method and the information they collect should help not only us but also others. They hope to publish a booklet or pamphlet. Such mapping is useful in itself (e.g., politically). They acknowledged that they must balance theory and praxis. They have not yet begun the mapping. They are still conducting research to ascertain the best way to proceed.
  • Suggestions: Create a wiki for all the data they gather. Optimize use of the NU subcommittee’s current skill sets (determine what they are and put them to best use despite current task force affiliations).

Definitions/Concepts Task Force

  • Group members realized that while exploring different relevant terms, they were mimicking the learning process that would eventually go on at NU: 1) Asking what is this and what do we know, 2) problematizing the answers, and 3) synthesizing the results. Learning = thinking differently. The market and the state are enclosures that limit thought, so just creating hospitable spaces and valuing conversations in themselves are important. During their discussions, they each brought a unique perspective (illustrated the importance of interdisciplinarity). Their discussion and learning environments in general mirror the symposium (but without Socrates). They noted that the exclusionary aspect  of the term university has the potential to shut people out and stressed the importance of using the equality of intelligences as a theoretical framework (in learning environments, teachers and students hold equal standing).
  • Suggestions: Document the process they use and the paradoxes they discover.

Intersection of OWS Principles and  NU Task Force (Principles and Goals—OWS and Beyond)

  • Group members started a spreadsheet of the principles listed on and the NU goals as captured in the minutes from the last meeting (October 22, 2001). On October 25, 2011, they had a conference call to discuss how NU is interpreting the goals of the OWS movement. They noted that just as OWS is a movement in development, the resulting spreadsheet is a living document.

Possible NU Principles (based on OWS Principles of Solidarity below)

Note: I probably got some of these wrong. Please correct any mistakes I made.

1)      Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democratic processes

2)      Implementing collective, communal, and continual education

3)      Ensuring that that education is liberatory, empowering, and generative and challenges all forms of oppression

They aren’t sure about using “challenges all forms of oppression” (not sure if possible).

4)      Rethink the commodification of education and recognize people’s inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and peace

5)      Right to be educated in a manner that respects people’s inherent worth

They aren’t sure about the use of “right” as it means acknowledging a state. They are considering using inclusivity.

This defining of principles is a work in progress.

OWS Principles of Solidarity

Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:

1)      Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;

2)      Exercising personal and collective responsibility;

3)      Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;

4)      Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;

5)      Redefining how labor is valued;

6)      The sanctity of individual privacy;

7)      The belief that education is human right; and

8)      Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

We are daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality.  We are consolidating the other proposed principles of solidarity, after which demands will follow.

Clarifying Questions

  • Q: Is this task force representative or authoritative? A: Don’t know yet.
  • Q: What do these principles mean in the context of Nomadic University? A: Don’t know yet.
  • Q: How will they be applied? A: Application (to actions/communities) will be discussed and implemented in time.


  • Nomadic University Wiki + forum so that all members of the NU group can contribute to the different task forces

Concluding Comment

  • The task forces are groups enabling deeper engagement, not static or permanent. Now is the moment to re-evaluate them.

One Response to “Nomadic University Meeting Minutes—October 28, 2011, 60 Wall Street”

  1. chris crews

    Here’s the full text of the 1st draft from the Principles and Goals working group within the Nomadic University: They are also posted on the website:

    The following is the first working draft from the Principles and Goals Task Force of the Nomadic University. This is an attempt to translate the ideals of Occupy Wall Street into a framework for educational change and liberation. This document does not map out specific concrete proposals or strategies, but rather tries to lay down a conceptual framework to inform how we approach and develop a liberatory model of educational learning.

    OWS Principle
    Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy.

    Nomadic University Translation
    The educational process and structures should incorporate and prioritize direct, transparent, and participatory democratic processes.

    Although many people call the United States a democratic nation, the reality is that we do not have direct, transparent or participatory political structures. Instead, we find ourselves living in a country where money directs politics, where secrecy hides abuses of power, and where our participation as political subjects has been reduced to the symbolic act of a meaningless vote for the lesser of two evils. We have lost control over the decisions which directly impact and shape our lives, yet we continue to support this broken political system.

    The experience of Occupy Wall Street, and the General Assembly in particular, demonstrates that direct, face-to-face political decision making is possible. If the experience of OWS so far is to have a lasting impact on our society, these values and practices must be taught and modeled from a very early age. We believe one task of an emancipatory political education project like the Nomadic University is to develop and support direct and transparent models of political participation.

    OWS Principle
    Exercising personal and collective responsibility.

    Nomadic University Translation
    We all share a responsibility to ensure that all have a right to be educated in a collective, communal, and continual process.

    In order to genuinely mean anything, responsibility must be grounded in an understanding of our place within a larger community. This could be a community of people struggling to make a better world, an ecological community we are all a part of, or a physical space we call our neighborhood. Regardless of how we understand the word community, there is a sense of give and take, of a personal and political responsibility for the general collective good.

    The same is true for education. We have a responsibility to share our collective wisdom with each other so we may learn and generate new forms of knowledge. We further recognize that there are multiple modes of learning which in turn produce many diverse ways of knowledge creation and transmission. An emancipatory approach to education must focus on both the content of what we learn and the processes used to generate that knowledge.

    OWS Principle
    Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions.

    Nomadic University Translation
    THIS WILL BE REVISED: In the educational process, all are seen as equal teachers and learners. Empowering individuals to be conscious of differences such that they can be negotiated in more compassionate, respectful, and productive ways will be prioritized.

    OWS Principle
    Empowering one another against all forms of oppression.

    Nomadic University Translation
    Education should be liberatory, empowering, and generative KEEP THE REST?: to challenge all forms of oppression.

    (These two were merged together, as they really seem to be aiming at the same thing, since they are both addressing issues of power and privilege).

    A truly liberatory approach to education must challenge all forms of privilege, personal, institutional and structural. By privilege we mean the ways that different forms of power shape and generate what is considered legitimate forms of knowledge and ways of acting in the world. Privilege manifests in many forms:

    * In the form of continued exclusion, marginalization and criminalization of people of color by those defending and protecting white privilege.
    * Through economic exploitation and the creation of vast sums of wealth without labor.
    * In the gendered hierarchies which value males over females and which create a climate of misogyny and sexual violence against women.
    * Via heterosexual social norms acting as forms of social policing against transgendered and gender non-conforming lifeways.
    * Through the unequal treatment and exclusion of differently-abled bodies.
    * In the enslavement and death of millions of sentient beings through industrial farming, habitat destruction and similar ecologically destructive practices.
    * Via the continued displacement and attacks on indigenous communities and lifeways.
    * By the forced sexual trafficking and enslavement of young people, especially women.
    * In the exclusion of both young and old from meaningful involvement in society.
    * Through the various ways that language, citizenship and other political categories can open or close access and opportunities for a better, safer and more meaningful life.

    It is not enough to simply recognize these various forms of oppression and say we are against them. A truly liberatory education must go further and also seek to challenge them directly. For this to be possible, we need a critical anti-authoritarian pedagogy which systematically critiques and dissects how various forms of power and privilege operate in our world today. We must teach our movement about these structures and support efforts to dismantle them.

    But it is not enough to just recognize difference, we must also build respect for and protection of these values, regardless of what form they take. We find strength in diversity, not in homogeneity and uniformity. It is this cookie-cutter model of industrial education and standardized learning that we reject in our approach of communal knowledge creation. Rather than forcing people to live with unjust and arbitrary rules, we seek to create a space where we can learn, live and love respectfully and compassionately as a community of equals.

    OWS Principle
    Redefining how labor is valued.

    Nomadic University Translation
    We need a new curricula that re-thinks the intensive commodification of knowledge. (do we want to include “labor” specifically here?)

    Everyone should have the opportunity to support themselves through their own efforts, but we also recognize that in the world today that has become increasingly difficult. When we talk about valuing labor, we believe it is important to separate the concept of actual labor (physical or mental) from the concept of monetary value (capital), as the two are not equivalent. What counts as value has been reduced to punching time cards or counting up how many hours we worked. Many of us have lost touch with how or what we are actually producing, and in the process, we have been alienated from the products of our labor. This process has only increased with the outsourcing of jobs and the growth of an immaterial economy based on speculative future value. The current economic crisis will not fix itself, because it is the underlying system of economic incentives and profit motives that are the root of the problem.

    We seek a re-articulation of labor and value that recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of every person to a fair and living wage, whether that be in the form of currency or exchange. We believe that value is not only produced in the marketplace, but also in the face-to-face and hands-on process of creation. In other words, we understand value production as a much richer and more complex process than our economic system allows for. When we share knowledge we create a common language about what is valuable, but we do this above and beyond purely monetary calculations. We seek meaningful ways for each person to use their skills for the enrichment of the community while recognizing the importance of that contribution. Rethinking how we create and exchange this perceived labor value is a critical challenge of an emancipatory and anti-capitalism educational pedagogy.

    OWS Principle
    The belief that education is a human right.

    Nomadic University Translation
    All have the right to be educated in a manner that respects the inherent worth, dignity, and equal and inalienable rights of every individual; these principles are the basis of freedom, justice, and peace in the world and the educational process must adhere to them.

    We believe that everyone should have the opportunity and resources to further their own quest for knowledge and personal growth, be that intellectual, physical, emotional or spiritual. We believe everyone must have equal access to education, regardless of the form or type of learning, in order to realize this ideal. One way to achieve this is through a system of free public education. Another is through a model of community-based free schools. A third way might be found in some form of cooperative learning community. Whatever the means, the ultimate aims of a liberatory education project like this must be to ensure equal access and opportunity for any and all who seek it, regardless of any other considerations.

    OWS Principle
    Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

    Nomadic University Translation

    We believe that the principles of open-source reflect the same principles as our desire for a transformative and meaningful pedagogical approach. Learning should be free and open to all. Information should be accessible so that public critique and elaboration can occur. Group collaboration and idea development is key. Adaptability, creativity and hybridity are central to the horizontal and networked nature of a dynamic community or learners.