April 18, 2013

‘People’s School’ Takes Arts Quad at Cornell

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The People’s School, an open, student-organized forum, returned to the Arts Quad Thursday as a spring installment of the same-titled event held in October.

The People’s School invited people to start discussions about community concerns, according to event organizers, and held events over the course of the day, including discussions in the form of circles of people sitting on the Quad.

Topics discussed during the course of the day-long forum ranged from ideas like collective liberation to current issues such as divestment, white privilege and police brutality.

At noon, “the stump,” a wooden pedestal meant to commemorate the 1960’s “stump” that was a center of student activism, was also brought out of winter storage for the event.

A poetry slam took place atop the stump, which was then moved to Ho Plaza, where it will remain until further notice, possibly through the summer, according to Marshall.

“The People’s School is a group of students, faculty and staff seeking to engage in genuine learning,” said Christian Turner ’13, who led discussions during the forum on the topic of community.

Daniel Marshall ’15, a People’s School organizer and member of the Barton Hall Community, a group of students that aim to “build community through discussion and action.”

“The hope is that some people want to do something with [the People’s School],” Marshall said. “It’s sort of an assumption, too. If you get people in a public space together to talk about their experiences in any way that they want to, you’ll get some sort of collective effervescence, and you’ll get some sort of organization out of that.”

Even though there have only been two People’s Schools this academic year, Marshall said he thinks that this kind of discussion may be more prevalent in the future, especially since topics like sexual assault, focused on in October’s forum, are still relevant to students.

“The issues that brought us here before have not been really dealt with,” Marshall said. “I think one of the insights of the last People’s School is that these are issues of community and issues of culture. When you think about ‘how do you build culture,’ ‘how do you build community,’ it’s with conversations and people meeting each other in public spaces and talking about it. It’s the beginnings of a slow process that might turn into people expecting to see things like this on campus, and then wondering why it doesn’t exist.”

Other organizers of the event also praised the mission of the People’s School.

“I think the People’s School is about building a legacy of public discourse at Cornell, in Ithaca and our communities back home,” Michael Ferrer ’16 said.

Aubree Keurajin ’15 said that the People’s School forum offers an experience not available in everyday student life.

“I think it’s really important that there’s a space that people are able to come to and have the conversations that need to happen, and there isn’t a space for that in other places,” said Keurajin, who led a discussion about divestment.

Ihsan Kabir ’13 said that the forum was incredibly easy to participate in and learn from, even if one didn’t necessarily have a lot of background understanding of the topic.

“I think a big part of environmental justice and social justice is education,” Kabir said. “I think [the People’s School] is a fantastic means to do that. For someone who had only a one or two article background in learning about collective liberation, I thought they were very receptive [to me].”

Original Author: Noah Rankin