When I began my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the Advocate, I, along with then Managing Editor Cristina Pérez Díaz and Associate Editor Francisco Fortuño Bernier, drafted an open letter to the Graduate Center Community. In the letter we articulated our desire to maintain, and indeed strengthen, the political trajectory of the paper. In addition, we set out to diversify the paper “in a way congruent with the experiences of the most marginalized in New York City and the United States as a whole.” I trust that our readership has found that we (including longtime layout editor Mark Wilson and newly appointed Managing Editor Bhargav Rani) have lived up to these ambitious tasks, and that we have improved upon the foundations of our predecessors. Hopefully the incoming Editor-in-Chief will enhance this legacy.
Yes, I am vacating my position as Editor-in-Chief and this is my final issue in charge. I have been asked by friends and colleagues why I have decided to step down. Rest assured that my decision to leave has nothing to do with the vitriolic attacks initiated by the NY Post and sustained by other far-right wing news outlets as some have surmised. Neither does this decision come as a result of the workings of CUNY administrators (two of whom were gracious enough to implicitly side with the Post, which is not all that surprising), my decision is in fact purely based on my need to focus more deeply upon my own research. At once, my decision is both selfish as well as generous. A new Editor-in-Chief will take over my role come July and they will have the quite wonderful task of providing a political continuity for what I think the Advocate has become. But what exactly has the Advocate become? It has always been a voice for the Graduate Center community, specifically the student body, a space for critical inquiry and expression, but I think it has metamorphosed into something greater. It is now a space for increased political activity, sharp debate, and an outlet for those pushing against dominant discourses, both in the academic world and the world at large.
Since the new editorial committee took over in March 2014, there have been some subtle, but important changes in the Advocate. The most obvious change is the aesthetic appeal we have been trying to convey through reformatting the look of the paper, I hope that you have enjoyed the new look and trust the incoming editor to continually revamp and reexamine the paper on this front. The most important feature we have set up is the Edifying Debate column, which since the beginning of our tenure has hosted polemical articles ranging from the role of CUNY hiring David Petraeus to the struggle in the Doctoral Students’ Council to pass a resolution endorsing the academic boycott of Israeli educational intuitions, from the complicity of the police and the state against the activist efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement to one of the articles selected for this issue, a direct and critical response to my previous editorial. These sorts of writings are what should sustain us, make us think, push against the boundaries of our beliefs, and most importantly, motivate us to want to change the status quo. Additionally, we have expanded to an internationalist purview by bringing together articles that are of importance to a wide range of audiences. The political and social insularity of the academy must be ruptured if, in fact, we are to transform the world, for what precisely is the point to the production of knowledge if not to foster change in our societies? I see the current manifestation of the Advocate as contributing to such a transformative project, both in New York City and more specifically at CUNY.
We, as a community of scholars, activists, and students, have a special responsibility at one of the largest public institutions in the United States – to break through the malaise that the increasingly neoliberal university, in conjunction with the capitalist state, foists upon us, upon our students, and upon our friends, colleagues, and families. We must continue to write, and write critically about the issues that motivate and affect us at CUNY and beyond. The Advocate has and will continue to provide the space for such transformative musings to come to life. It should also continue to be a space in which criticism is not only accepted but welcomed, even biting criticisms at that. This is our mandate as graduate students. To not only contribute to knowledge production, but also to reimagine the world, and change it for the better. The Advocate is one of many vessels we have at our disposal to agitate for such transformative processes, but it is an important one because it is ours, and it is imperative that we avail ourselves of the space (both physical and metaphorical) that it affords us in our processes of thinking, writing, and criticizing.
I was at one point castigated by a DSC representative for “leading a coup of elite students in an effort to hijack the paper in an effort to push a certain agenda.” I never addressed the criticism here in the paper, though I did so during the DSC Plenary when the allegation was made. The editorial committee never, during either of its formations since the beginning of my tenure, attempted to coopt the paper for a specific political goal, and this can be seen from the variety of articles that we published from myriad political positions. The second clause in the accusation is, however, true. We as a collective, and as individuals have political agendas, ideas, outlooks and so on. Consequently, we take positions collectively as well as individually when organizing issues of the Advocate, and it is indeed propaganda that we produce. I use propaganda in the actual sense of the word, not the contrived understanding of the word as an anathema. If propaganda is invoked to mean an effort to sway a reader’s position, then isn’t all writing propagandistic? Another DSC representative euphemistically mentioned to me that I was the “propagandist-in-chief.” I very much like this title, though the best propagandists in CUNY are the Board of Trustees and the sections of the administration that are acquiescent to, or outright in favor of, the increasingly neoliberal path our university is traversing. I hope that the incoming Editor-in-Chief will be as adept a propagandist as the aforementioned DSC representative thinks that I am. Without propaganda, the Advocate will not be able to function as a source of advocacy and agitation – the principal purpose, in my eyes at least, for this paper.
As with any sort of propagandistic endeavor, the attendant concern of politics and political orientation are not far removed. I hope that through my editorials and from some of our newer contributors, our readership has been able to glean the project that I, alongside various other members of the editorial committee at different times, have been embarking on. If it hasn’t been abundantly clear thus far, it is one of challenging the straight-laced liberalism of New York and of the Graduate Center specifically. This political project is a rejection of this current of liberalism that has influenced people in this building to such an extent that the recent (well, it’s a sort of continuity too) police murders of Blacks in this country failed to be condemned. It is an outright denunciation of this liberalism which informs those DSC representatives who fail to see the linkages between the murdered college students in Ayotzinapa and the United States’ historic role in the economic subjugation of Mexico. It is a call to arms against this same liberalism that has allowed for some to so vehemently and acerbically condemn pro-Palestinian BDS activists (my own criticisms of BDS as a tactic notwithstanding). Again, it is people imbued with this strain of liberalism who have told us (both the Advocate and the broader CUNY community) that we are “too political,” that politics should be shunned in the academy, it is better to focus on (innocuous) “internal issues.” It is the same liberalism that criticized our publication of the racist letters we received (I imagine the critics thought I was White, but I may be mistaken) yet was eerily silent on, or at times opposed to, the right to self-defense against the violence of police forces in this country. It is this liberalism that I, the editorial committee, and a significant number of our contributors over this past volume, have tried to combat and critique as being fundamentally frail as a political position. I hope the next editor continues to push up against the status quo in this building as the last three editors have done to varying degrees.
Our political aspirations go beyond the scope of “CUNY specific” issues, and the subsequent editor should continue this tradition. This, for instance, is reflected in the current issue by the statement from the CUNY Internationalist Clubs on the historic decision for organized labor, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union specifically, to collectively engage in the struggle for Black liberation. Our international(ist) optic is further demonstrated in earlier issues from the current volume. I ask that our readership and contributors continue to engage the Advocate from a non-provincial, non-insular perspective, and that the next editor build upon the work we have done this year, as we have built off of those before us.
I have learned a great deal during my stint as Editor-in-Chief, and it is with a heavy heart that I resign from this position. I will, no doubt, miss the work that goes into producing this paper for you (and by you). So thank you for your camaraderie, for your suggestions, your criticisms, for your praise and support. Thank you for writing critically, for bringing the world to CUNY and in some cases CUNY to the rest of the world. Thank you for acknowledging the new trajectory of the Advocate and helping it to thrive, to advance. I wish the next Editor-in-Chief the utmost success for the forthcoming volume, and I thank the readership for reading, responding, and consuming what we have worked hard to produce. Continue to criticize, to debate, to write, to think, to push, to transform, to radicalize, continue to be revolutionary, it is all part and parcel in the process of bringing into fruition something greater than ourselves – something superior to the current socio-political reality which we inhabit.
Gordon R. Barnes Jr.