The Free University Ann Arbor, 1966

A Teacher must continually learn.
A Teacher must respond out of a deep respect for children as individuals.
A Teacher must develop a world sense…

The Free University of Ann Arbor was part of a revolutionary movement in education happening across the country. In 1966, the Detroit Artists Workshop would also begin a Free University of Detroit. The Ann Arbor Free University was a loose coalition of 30 teachers begun by University of Michigan Professors.Classes included New Jazz with listening classes on Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and others.Workshops on Art and Values, Marxism & Art and a Contemporary Music course that focused on John Cage, Stockhausen, and Morton Feldman. Writing studies included classes on William S. Burroughs, Jackson MacLow, Robert Kelly and Jack Spicer. Other courses  included; Underground Cinema, Modern Political Economy, Power, Policy, Elites and the Structure of American Society and “Poetry Now?”  Classes were discussion oriented rather than lectured and limited to 15 students; “A teacher does not presume to be wiser than the students…” Below the Ann Arbor catalog is an article from the “Collegiate Press service.” from February, 1966, on the phenomenon of Free Universities.


Cover of the catalog for The Free University of Ann Arbor, 1966


Introduction page to the Free University of Ann Arbor, 1966

Free universities on the increase
Across the country . . .
When philosopher Paul Goodman suggested in 1962 that students and teachers secede from their universities and form independent communities of scholars , there was not exactly a rush to begin education’s civil war . Yet three years later, gaining its impetus from the student uprising at the University of California’s Berkeley campus, the free university has become part of the scene near several campuses . In Palo Alto , Gainsville, Ann Arbor and Austin, and perhaps a dozen other centers of higher education , free universities are in swing this year .
During the Berkeley demonstrations of the 1964-65 school year, leaders of the Free Speech Movement called a student strike and invited faculty members to join a free university and lecture on subjects such as civil disobedience. There comes a point when you cant go on acting alone, Carolyn Crave, an organizer of San Francisco’s New School ,- said at the time, “We feel that we must provide some intellectual basis for what we are doing.”
Free University
Since then, free universities have taken roots in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boulder Colorado. Others are in operation or being planned near many of the nations major universities , including Stanford , Florida , Texas and Michigan. At strife-torn St. John’s University in New York , striking faculty members have started a university in exile to keep students in touch with their regular teachers. Some of the free universities, like San Francisco’s New School, are operated by New Left groups, such as Students for a Democratic Society. Others, like the Free University of New York and the New School of Los Angeles , try to encourage a broad spectrum of radical thought while remaining independent of any specific organization .. The Los Angeles school has accepted $ 1,100 from the Communist Party but claims to be free of all groups .
Free university classes usually consist of evening lectures held in college facilities, churches , apartments , coffee shops , or any other facility with four walls and a roof . None of the universities are accredited, none of them grant degrees, and that s the way most of them want it.
The three largest at Boulder, Chicago and New York each have about 300 students . Though all the schools plan expansion, total national enrollment at present is about 3,000. Typical is the Free University of New York, whose shabby headquarters are above a Manhattan coffee shop . Policy is set by the students and the faculty. In spite of its name, FUNY charges $ 24 for one course and $ 8 for each additional course so it will not have to rely on any private benefactor.
Marxist Courses
Most of the 46 courses offered are Marxist-oriented . They include Marxist economics, the theory and practice of radical social movements, experimental cinema, and the search for – authentic sexual experience.
Other course titles include community organization , literature versus LBJ, 20 th Century theology, the literature of the Vietnam liberation fronts : since 1936 , hallucinogenic drugs, and black ghetto radicalism. Many of the 54 faculty members – like most of the student body – are either full time teachers or students at various colleges and universities in the New York area. The catalog lists only half of the faculty members as having any college degree themselves. FUNY is headed by Dr , Allen Krebs , an Adelphi University sociology professor who was fired for traveling to Cuba in 1964. Other faculty members include James Mellen , a Drew University political science instructor who was fired because of his statements on Vietnam ; Milton Rosen , the chairman of the Progressive Labor Party ; and Levi Laub , a member of the PLP who is under indictment for leading an illegal student trip to Cuba .
Staughton Lynd , the Yale assist : ant professor who recently returned from a trip to North Vietnam , and Russell D . Stetler Jr ., an organizer of the May Second Movement who made headlines by showing a Vietcong film at FUNY last spring , are also listed as faculty members.
Liberal Periodicals The faculty also includes members of the editorial board of such periodicals as Liberation , International Socialist Review , Studies on the Left , Viet-Report , Minority of One , Free Student , and Spartacist . hTe catalog says that FUNY was organized in response to the intellectual bankruptcy and spiritual emptiness of the American education establishment . Students have been systematically dehumanized , deemed in competent to regulate their own lives , sexually , politically , and academically . They are treated like raw material to be processed for the university s clients — business , government , and the . military bureaucracies . College faculties , the catalog claims , are underpaid and constantly subject to investigation and purge. They have been relegated to this position of servant intellectuals, required, for regular promotion, to propagate points of view in harmony with the military and industrial leadership.
FUNY aims to develop the concepts necessary to comprehend the events of this century and the meaning of ones life within it. It seeks , the catalog continues , to examine artistic expression; beyond the scope of the usual academy and promote the social integrity and commitment from which scholars usually stand aloof. Less-Esoteric Courses in the curriculum of the Free University at Ann Arbor, which was formed by University of Michigan faculty members students and non-students on January 20 , 1966, takes inspiration from established centers such as FUNY , but offers a less esoteric choice of subject matter. How do orthodox schools view the free universities? Dr. John R. Everett, president of the New School for Social Research in New York, says , “I doubt the free universities serve any academic purpose. It is a protest without a clear understanding of what they ( the students ) are protesting against.” Clear understanding – or not , the free university movement continues to grow around the country .  Source: The Daily Illini, Feb, 6, 1966  (collegiate press services) 

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