Studies from the Bottom Up
Tolstoy College was an anarchist educational community active at the University at Buffalo between 1969 and 1985. The school was part of a larger project by president Martin Meyerson to transform University at Buffalo into a “Berkeley of the East,” with hopes of aligning the university with increasing student activism across the country. By the mid-1970s, Tolstoy College’s anarchist teachings were viewed as a threat to the university administration. In a 1976 letter to the university chartering committee defending their own anarchist politics, Charles Haynie asked the administration: “What place does the expression of emotion and feeling have on the university campus?” The college insisted that such expressions not only deserved a place: they needed to be central in any reimagining of education. Faculty members, including Haynie and Charles “Chip” Planck, supported a pacifist-anarchist position best expressed by Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s essays on education and his questions on “How to live?” and “What to live for?” Based on these Tolstoyan questions, the anarchist teachings of Tolstoy College consistently put forward the personal and subjective experience of faculty and students in their studies.
Studies from the Bottom Up is a publication and exhibition exploring the contexts of education, curriculum, and communal life emerging from Tolstoy College. The publication, designed by João Doria, features contributions by Martin Beck, Adelita Husni-Bey, Nadja Millner-Larsen, and Jennifer Wilson. The exhibition builds on this collective research and includes additional materials sourced from the University Archives at the University at Buffalo, examining this anarchist space nested within a state-funded institution.
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