October 23 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 30  

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Anarchist University rallies against hierarchy

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

An institutionalized anti-institutional university? What's the deal with that?

Canada's first Anarchist University opened in Toronto this past September offering free classes, though students gain no credits by completing a course. There is no single address for the school as classes are conducted in various community centres and homes of the volunteers across Toronto. Indeed, if you visit www.anarchistu.org and look at the link entitled "what's anarchist u?" you will find the answer to this question is "good question, what is anarchist u?"

"[Anarchist U resulted from] the frustration and weariness of formal institutional educational structures," said Christopher Smith, a facilitator for one of the courses. "[It is also] a statement against rising tuition fees," he said, adding the school also aims to get away from the impersonal aspect of educational facilities.

Smith said the university is aimed for people who for whatever reason can not deal with traditional education institutions. "It was created as a forum for them to talk about ideas and read interesting books," he said.

Smith added the classes are open for anyone to attend and the university has attracted a wide range of people. "It's right across the spectrum; people who participate are nine to fivers who show up in their suit and tie, artists, alternative high school students [and] PhD students - there are anywhere from 17 to 50 year-olds.

"[The university] does not necessarily advocate chaos," Smith explained. "It calls into question hierarchical forms of education and the traditional distinction between teachers and students.

"There are no teachers or professors," Smith said, adding instructors are referred to as "facilitators" to avoid a hierarchical relationship between them and students. Facilitators volunteer to direct the classes and all courses are run on the basis of proposals from volunteers, Smith said. There is also a collective that runs and operates the school.

"There's not a lot of anarchy going on in Canada," said John McDougall, a professor of political science at Western. "I doubt that any of them are actually anarchists," he said, adding they are probably picking up on the imagery of anarchy in order to make a statement against perceived problems with the current education system.

"I would for sure go to some of those classes; the literature class is probably not all about dead white men, it's education for education's sake and it would probably be more interesting as a result. Education should not be given on the basis of who can pay for it," said Elizabeth Wilson, a fourth-year political science student, when asked if she would consider attending Anarchist U.




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