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H & A Expressions Blog: Upcoming Conference Addresses Student Debt


Students, educators, artists, activists, community members, public officials and policy advisors from across California are invited to San Jose State University for a series of events culminating in a two conference of talks, workshops, and organizing activities centered on opening critical dialogue on how debt shapes everyday student life and drastically influences future life options for graduates. During these free and public events we will explore the realities of student debt, think together about the meaning and consequences of living an indebted life, and identify potential pathways for change.


Tuition v Student Debt: The Search for a New Financial Model for Public Higher Education in California - John Aubrey Douglass

March 9, 2017, 4:30-6:00pm   MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

John Aubrey Douglass, from the Center on Higher Education at UC Berkeley, presents on the tensions in funding higher education.

Towards the Promised Land: Literature, Immigration and Debt - Alexandra Perisic.

March 23, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm   MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

In this talk Alexandra Perisic, from the University of Miami, focuses on the literary representations of debt as related to the question of immigration. Through a reading of The Belly of the Atlantic (2003), a novel by Senegalese author Fatou Diome,  Dr. Perisic analyzes the creation of indebted immigrants in the global economy, concentrating specifically on the connection between debt and precarity, a condition characterized by a lack of economic and social stability and protection.  It is followed by a writing workshop open to all participants.

Student Debt in the Age of Trumpism: The Need for Utopian Debt Demands - Jason Wozniak

April 4, 2017, 4:30-6:00pm.    MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center.

Jason Wozniak, professor in Humanities at SJSU, explores how the student debt crisis in the United States will intensify under the presidency of Donald Trump. Early indications point to an approach by the Trump administration towards student debt that places the interests of private corporations above public interests. Past, present, and future university students can expect to carry more difficult debt burdens. This is especially true for traditionally marginalized student populations and graduates. The danger, however, is that we slip into nostalgia for Obama or Clinton eras past. What is needed instead, he will argue, is that in this time of debt crisis we should be discussing the need for, and efficacy of, radical debt demands. I will make a case for utopian debt demands like debt abolition, and free public higher education for all.

Critical Financial Literacy - Coleeta McEleroy

April 6, 2017, 11:30-1pm    Student Services

Coleeta Mceleroy, Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships and President of the Alumni Association at SJSU, offers a workshop to help participants understand from a critical perspective the funding of their own educations.

MOSAIC Open Mic on Student Debt

Thursday April 6, 2017, 6-8pm    MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center.

MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center will sponsor an open mic session on student debt for students, faculty, staff and community members.

The Aesthetics of Debt: Not a Pretty Picture - Cynthia Rostankowski

April 11, 2017, 11-12:30pm     MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center.

Debt is presented as appealing - credit card ads show delights they make possible; mortgages realize dreams of home ownership and its comforts.  Student access to debt is seen as a means to careers and success.  Debt in the 21st century is advertised as wealth but all too often it makes thriving inaccessible. As the study of valued perception, this lecture explores the aesthetics of debt in 21st century America.

Declare Your Debt! Teach In and Art Activity

Tuesday April 18, 2017, 11-1pm     7th Street Corridor

Stop by to learn about the student debt in the US, make art to declare your debt and to find out what you can do to organize and advocate to alleviate the student debt crisis.  


April 20, 2017 2-7pm at the Martin Luther King Library

April 21, 2017, 10-4pm at Student Union Theater

The first day of the conference features experts in the field of student debt, including David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford University), Kate Padgett Walsh (Iowa State University), Bob Samuels (San Diego State University) and Jason Wozniak (San Jose State University). There will also be workshops by The Debt Collective and California Faculty Association members, art installations and performances by Bay Area slam poet Brandon Santiago, SJSU students, The Illuminator, and a panel discussion between experts and conference participants.

The second day of the conference features a series of workshops by students and social justice groups that address the question: “What is to be done about our current student debt crisis?”


The Debt Collective is a membership organization that leverages collective power by offering debtors a shared platform for organizing, advocacy, and direct action. They will provide a workshop on both days of the conference.

California Faculty Association will provide a workshop on faculty student debt.

The Illuminator is an arts activist collective that stages interactive projection-interventions in public spaces will transform the streets of campus into sites of engagement and dialogue on public issues.  They will project messages on buildings that passersby can interact with through their cell phones.  See below for additional workshop.  

Brandon Santiago, Slam Poet, Bay Area radio host, and Program Director at San Francisco “Youth Speaks” will perform his poem “Grad Poem for a Dropout.”


Angad Bhalla: Making College Free...Again

Filmmaker and activist, Angad Bhalla is organizing for a 2018 Ballot Initiative to Eliminate Tuition in California Higher Education. During this workshop, participants will discuss the justification for, and organizing tactics of, a campaign for free tuition in California.

The Illuminator: Hacking the Urban Environment

Urban space is fraught with thousands of advertisements intended to provoke a consumer response. This inundation is the result of an undemocratic process which determines who gets to occupy visual space. Advertisers pay top dollar for this privilege, while everyday citizens and grassroots activist groups are mostly barred from participation. The Illuminator is an art collective which monkey wrenches that dynamic by intervening on public space via large scale video projections. Learn how you might leverage open source tools and everyday items to fight for public visual space.

Cosecha: Building an Immigration Movement, Resisting Debt

Our shield: nonviolence. Our weapon: mass economic non-cooperation. Cosecha is a social movement seeking to win permanent protection, dignity and respect for all 11 million undocumented people in this country. Immigrant and ally communities are working together to demonstrate how much this country depends on immigrant labor and dollars. In the process of escalating our movement toward winning our objective, we are also resisting other oppressive realities. Find out how Cosecha is undermining the isolating, burdensome and individualized experience of being indebted, both through intentional community building and a debt support program. Hasta la huelga!

The Debt Collective: How To Build Power. Resistance and the Fight For Public Provision.

The Debt Collective, a membership based organization that aims to fight for universal rights and public goods, will talk about strategies and tactics for building counter-power in the age of economic inequality and austerity. Debt is a symptom and tool used to continue to prop-up an inherently unjust system. While we experience debt as an individual burden, it's also someone else's profit.  If debtors join together, we can leverage our debt and make demands upon creditors and government.

Registration Links:

Conference Day 1: April 20, 2017


Conference Day 2: April 21, 2017


Facebook page:

Twitter: Twitter:@SJSUStudentDebtConference2017

Sponsors: The Humanities Department and MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center, Student Services, College of Humanities and the Arts, California Faculty Association, College of Education, and the College of Social Sciences.

Information: For question, concerns, information and/or interviews regarding these events, please contact the planning committee via Susan Verducci ( and Jason Wozniak ( For information and accessibility needs, contact MOSAIC @ 408.924.6255.

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