Anarchist University rallies against
By Laura Katsirdakis
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
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
"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