There is a very brief amount of time – differing from one person to another – before a remembrance of the past becomes a commentary on the present. My memory of my time at PSU invariably comes with a price tag. The most fantastic act of repression could not make me see it otherwise.
I imagine most college graduates across the United States are experiencing a similar dissonance. On the one hand, the last three to ten years (seven for me!) have been meaningful, impactful, complex, happy, sad, and everything in between, and on the other hand the tangible thing we are taking away from this experience, unless you were fortunate enough to land a decent paying job, is a degree – a degree worth, on average (!!), $30,000.
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney have this to say about the university: “…it cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment.” And in the face of such conditions, they recommend we steal – steal the knowledge the university offers to spite its mission statement.
Because to be enlightened means to be done. And in the world of the university, with its ever growing corporatization, to be enlightened only means to be professionalized. ‘Let Knowledge Serve the City.’ Well, we know too much about what ‘knowledge’ means, and we know too much about what ‘the city’ is, to passively accept such a statement. For what is knowledge but the ability to work? And what is a city but a place where work happens? The question of what labor is best to perform, or what labor beneath our labor must occur for our professional knowledge to be accumulated, does not even enter the picture.
But, as Moten and Harney know, there is knowledge that escapes, and there are citizens of the city – a high proportion of them students – who loiter, who remain uncorrected, nonprofessional.
Indeed, perhaps where I learned the most was not in the classroom, but at those places I went with the tidbits I had learned in the classroom. Bars – why not? There not only could I speak of the classes I was taking, but I could speak of them angrily, violently, I could say outlandish things, we could tell jokes, we could do all the things that professionals cannot.
In the words of Moten and Harney, it was in those spaces where I stole from the university, where I disseminated without citation, badly paraphrased, and where, I have no doubt, it had the most impact.
The goal of this generation of students ought to be to put an end to the university. Look at how fantastically it has failed us! Perhaps it was our fault for buying what it was selling, but there is no going back, and quite literally there is no declaring bankruptcy. So in lieu of other options for redressing my financial grievances, I will steal the means I have acquired and put them to ends the university could not have foreseen – the end of the university itself, whatever that may look like.