Tuesday, April 28, 2009

tent state

... or, in the first instance, a perfect example of how misleading the writing that appears within an image can be.   Because to anyone who doesn't know Rutgers's annual springtime sprouting of radical tents, Tent State, this could well look like some kind of camp set up by, yes, the Rutgers University Outdoors Club.   I have no doubt that they have a member or two or three living and sleeping and desperately trying to revise for finals in that tent, but the overall purpose is somewhat different from a celebration of hiking and climbing and digging useful pits.   Tent State has been pitched annually since 2003, and has migrated, as a movement, not just to other US campuses but to one or two - including Sussex - in England as well.   I'm very attached to its annual appearance.   First, it's a sure sign of spring on Voorhees Mall, together with the blossom and the weird blue coating that surrounds the grass seed that they put down for Commencement and that looks like rat poison.   And second, it makes me really encouraged and proud that there still are radical students out there... on some suitable occasion, I'll reminisce about occupying the Examination Schools in Oxford in 1973, for what seems now like the very tame cause of demanding a Central Students Union (only it was interventionist and anger-provoking at the time, and there still isn't a CSU ... what do we want? CSU!  When do we want it? Now!...   "now" is yet to come...).

Tent State was started in protest against funds being diverted from education into the Iraq war. I'm not completely convinced, still, of the total logic behind this, when it comes to the different disposition of state and federal funds.   But the protest against state cuts to higher education is even more relevant today (TS's website is remarkably conservative, I think, when it comes to discussing how much we're likely to be cut... within the School of Arts and Sciences, we're talking of up to 28% of the "cuttable budget" - that's after salaries and fellowships and scholarships etc etc have been paid.   That, in other words, is what departments live on from day to day - everything from paying for tuition that can't be covered from existing faculty and graduate bodies, to bringing in guest speakers and putting on conferences, to - and this is a big one - doing maintenance to departments and offices and classrooms.   And anyone who was in Murray 301 this afternoon, where we farcically tried to watch a color film (Blow Up) with direly imperfect blackout - including a broken blind behind the screen that projected a rear-lit pattern of sunstripes and, yes, broken blind into the middle of the image, and plastic blinds flapping and crashing against the windows (open because of the heat) in the wind - an exaggerated reference, I thought, to Antonioni's use of wind within the film itself - anyone who was there this afternoon in class will know exactly what I'm talking about.

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