So. I’m going back to college.
I’m a year away from having what I’m convinced is the most vague and meaningless degree I could possibly have in “Society and Environment”. When I declared myself a Society and Environment major I mostly assumed that title was a joke, but nope. I’m literally majoring in literally everything.
After nearly three years of college the school let me know they were going to stop letting me enroll in classes if I didn’t pick something. I’d been a history major, a political science major, a philosophy major, and taken everything from Astronomy to “Queer Representations of the Male Form in Art and Media”. So I picked the most vague major that would still let me take hella weird classes and graduate in time.
At the end of three years I had something of a crisis of intention. I’d been watching the tar sands blockade happening all along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline, feeling pulled to join the fight across the country. I’d also been spending a ton of time at the Gill Tract working with Occupy the Farm to challenge UC Berkeley’s plan to commercially develop an incredible chunk of farmland that could help move the bay area towards self-reliance. But I was somehow spending hours and hours every day being talked at by professors in dark rooms, watching rows of students casually refreshing their facebook pages and checking their watches.
So I left. Over the last year and a half, I took a hippie bus down to New Orleans, organized an eviction defense of a beautiful community at the Albany Bulb, travelled the route of the Keystone pipeline talking to blockaders, fell in love several times, hopped a freight train, joined a band, and read a lot of really inspiring books. The time has felt better spent than any of those long hours in class.
Now I’m going back. Why? I certainly am not excited to give up the time I’ve been able to commit to activism and general badassery to regurgitating facts someone else has decided I should know. I’m not excited that my family will be giving (way too much) tuition money to an institution that is actively furthering military technology, studying plant genetics to sell GMOs, brutalizing protesters on campus, and reinforcing an ivory tower mentality in our community. I don’t really think it’s going to help me find a job; most of my graduate friends are working at coffee shops, living out of their cars, or working for morally objectionable companies trying to pay off their staggering debt.
So really, why go back?
I guess in part because I feel the weight of the privilege I have, being able to pursue a degree without accumulating any debt. And the only paying jobs I’ve seen and felt excited about even vaguely in the last couple years have required degrees, so I suppose that is a factor. And while I am bitter about the amount of time school takes from my concrete engagement with the world, sitting in a dark room arguing about metaphysics is kinda my guilty pleasure.
But I worry, too, that I’m going back to college because it’s the easiest path. Because it is much easier for me to take directions from some supposed authority than to take responsibility for my own time and really direct my own life. I’m currently struggling to build a campaign to resist the criminalization of homelessness happening here in the east bay area (and all over the country) and every day I have to fight to stay focused, to move forward, to use my time effectively. And that is exhausting. It will actually be really relaxing to have someone tell me exactly what to do every day for months at a time. I guess that’s also what having a job will be like…
Anyway, in sharing this, I’m trying to be really honest about what I think about this whole college thing, what I’m afraid of, what I’m getting myself into. But I don’t want to just go to school because I’m afraid of responsibility. I also want to be a responsible agent for change in the university. So here I also am committing to going back with the intention of organizing with students to fight privatization, commercial development, deportation, police brutality, and debt on campus. Because I’m fed up with this “public” university that is privately funded and interested in private gain.
Here we go.