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Places of Privilege, Places of Struggle: Oral Histories of Activism and Movement Building in the University

Thu, October 9, 10:15 to 11:45am, Madison Concourse Hotel, Floor: 1, Assembly

Session Submission Type: Panel


Histories of universities are rarely woven into larger historical narratives. The university is a marginalized subtopic in most disciplines; despite faculty’s location in the academy, it is an understudied institution. These three papers contest the “ivory tower’s” division from U.S. social, political and cultural life by documenting interactions between social movements in and outside the university. Oral history projects located in these institutions--and shared beyond via online publications and social media--suggest larger implications for the study of social movements, and for the role of universities in society.

The presenters examine interactions between 1960s activism and universities; between feminist and queer organizing on and off of campus; and between a faculty union and the largest urban university in the nation. Carol Quirke explores SUNY’s failed attempt to contain student discontent engendered by the civil rights and anti-war movements by founding a non-traditional college in 1965. Experiments, a digital history exhibit, uses oral histories, primary sources, and photographs to explore the nature of a conflict which still shapes one of the most diverse public colleges in the nation. Monica L. Mercado interrogates the utility of cross-generational projects connecting past and present student activists at the University of Chicago. The collection and exhibition projects ‘On Equal Terms’--Educating Women at the University of Chicago and Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles: A LGBTQ History of the University of Chicago speak to the possibilities and constraints of collecting feminist and queer histories based in and around the university. Sharon Utakis examines the role of individuals’ stories in the winning of a paid parental leave benefit for faculty and staff at the City University of New York and develops guidelines for how other union victories can be achieved in Using Oral Histories to Develop a Union Blueprint for Action: Gaining Paid Parental Leave at CUNY.

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