Adult education in its purest form
At the Free University, in a Store Basement, the Tuition Price Is Right
In an age of escalating college costs, however, the Free University of San Francisco — which resides in the basement of Viracocha, a store in the Mission District — has one very large thing going for it: no tuition fees.
Conceived by Alan Kaufman, 59, a poet and former instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, the Free University is an oh-so-San Francisco experiment in divorcing education from commerce.
“We don’t need walls, we don’t need desks to impart knowledge,” Mr. Kaufman said. “The idea of a free university is that it’s monetarily free, free of constraints, free of any kind of administration.”
The Free University kicked off Feb. 5 with a weekend of lectures. It was billed as a teach-in, where local luminaries like Diane di Prima, the Beat poet, and Matt Gonzalez, the former San Francisco mayoral candidate, held forth on a number of subjects. Class titles like “Abolishing Corporate Personhood to Create Authentic Democracy” and “Restoring San Francisco’s Urban Wildlands” drew hundreds of students.
On March 6, the university will begin a cycle of seven five-week classes. After that, Mr. Kaufman said, students can expect both 5- and 10-week courses. Another teach-in is scheduled for June.