What is the Free University?

The Free University of New York City is an experiment in radical education and an attempt to create education as it ought to be, building on the historic tradition of movement freedom schools. First conceived as a form of educational strike in the run up to May Day, 2012, the Free University has since organized numerous days of free crowd-sourced education in community centers, museums, parks, public spaces, and subway stations in New York City.

Our project is born out of a recognition that the current system of higher education is as unequal as it is unsustainable, while vast sources of knowledge across communities are all-too-hidden and undervalued. With increasing tuition at public and private universities, the exploitation of adjunct labor, and the larger and larger amounts of debt that students are expected to take on, a university education is systematically becoming a rarefied commodity only available to the few. It is in this context that the Free University operates as a radical space of study and action. We collaborate on the following goals and principles:

  • to cooperatively work towards a new form of education that re-defines what it means to be educators and students.
  • to prefigure a more democratic, horizontal, and radical educational structure.
  • to empower ourselves, each other, and our communities to become decision-makers in our own processes of self-/collective education and self-/collective governance.
  • to expose the inequities of existing university systems and societies under capitalism.
  • to intentionally and conscientiously create educational spaces that are anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and anti-authoritarian.
  • to fight against the exploitation of teaching and learning labors.
  • to join others who see education as a form of direct action by withdrawing from the failing capitalist education system, and collaborating in the realization of a more accessible education for all.

Free University Statement of Intentions

We enter the space of the Free University with a commitment to:

  • Mutual respect and support
  • Anti-oppression
  • Nonviolence towards each other
  • Direct democracy

We support the empowerment of each person to challenge the histories and structures of oppression that marginalize some, and divide us all. These may include ableism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, racism, religious discrimination, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, among others.

We commit to learning about these different forms of oppression.

We understand individual freedoms are not above our collective safety, well-being, and ability to function cooperatively; individual freedom without responsibility to the community is not the Free University way.

We seek open and compassionate classrooms.

We encourage open and non-oppressive discussion.

We strive for accessible interchanges of languages, knowledge, and discussions.

We understand there are differences among us.

We respect, appreciate, and are aware of these differences.

We expect to listen and be listened to.

We are confident we can learn without policing or being policed.

Deliberate disruptions, accusations, violence, or other violations of this code are not within the spirit nor the hopes of the Free University.