The most progressive among the students have never gone further than endless aestheticizing talk of camaraderie with women students. They did not shrink from hoping for a “healthy” neutralization of the erotic in both men and women. And in fact, with the aid of prostitutes the erotic has been neutralized in the universities. And where it wasn’t, it was replaced by an unrestrained harmlessness, a heady atmosphere of high spirits, and the unladylike young coed has been boisterously welcomed as the successor to the ugly old spinster teacher…
But because students have sold their souls to the bourgeoisie, along with marriage and profession, they insist on those few years of bourgeois freedom. This exchange is effected in the name of youth. Openly or in secret – in a bar or amid deafening speeches at student meetings, a dearly purchased state of intoxication is created, the right to which is not to be denied. This experience arises between a squandered youth and a bought-out old age that longs for peace and quiet, and it is here that every attempt to inspire students with higher ideals has come to grief. Yet just as this way of life makes a mockery of every reality, as revenge it finds itself punished by every natural and spiritual power, by science through the agency of the state, by eros through the agency of prostitutes, and thus, as decimation, by nature. For students are not the younger generation; they are the aging generation.
– Walter Benjamin, ‘The Life of Students’ (1915), Walter Benjamin: Early Writings
A couple of interesting looking symposiums are happening in London in February: ‘Laddism and Higher Education‘, organized by the Student Experience Network of the Society for Research in Higher Education, and ‘The state, the university and liberal education: a complex relationship between piper and tune‘ at Middlesex University.
The first is one-day symposium on Friday 7th February “discussing masculine behaviours and student culture” in light of the NUS’ 2013 important report on “lad culture” in HE, That’s What She Said. The symposium is free to Society for Research in Higher Education members or £45 for non-members (including lunch).
The second takes place on Thursday 13th February and speakers will “debate whether, and if so in what ways, current changes to the longstanding nexus between state and higher education may threaten university autonomy and liberal education values. At a time when the financial arrangement between student ‘consumers’ and universities is primarily a contractual one, and higher education is increasingly judged on the basis of a calculated economic contribution to individual and national prosperity, the event offers an opportunity to reassess what is the content of “the common good” in higher education.” The conference is free but registration is necessary.