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Creating Counter-Spaces of Resistance and Sanctuaries of Learning and Teaching: An Analysis of Freedom University


by Susana Muñoz, Michelle M. Espino & René Antrop-González — 2014

Background/Context: In 2011, the Georgia Board of Regents passed an educational policy that denies qualified students without documentation access to five selective institutions of higher education in the state. As a form of civil disobedience, Freedom University in Athens, Georgia, was founded to cultivate a space where students without documentation can continue their postsecondary educational pursuits.

Research Questions: The research questions that guided this study are: (a) In what ways does Freedom University serve as a sanctuary of teaching and learning from the perspectives of faculty members? and (b) What challenges and successes have been and continue to be experienced by the faculty of Freedom University in developing sanctuaries of teaching and learning for students without documentation?

Research Design: This qualitative case study included in-depth interviews with three founding faculty members. It also included document analysis that was based on historical aspects associated with the formation of Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights era and the concept of school as sanctuary to understand the pedagogical and philosophical underpinnings associated with the establishment of Freedom University. Through constant comparative data analysis, the authors uncover how Freedom University operates as a sanctuary for students without documentation.

Findings: The findings demonstrate that Freedom University is a postsecondary sanctuary school because it centers students’ experiences within the curriculum and embodies transformational resistance by both students and faculty.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors suggest that, by creating sanctuaries at a postsecondary level, students without documentation are afforded a space to continue their education not for a college degree but for the sake of learning.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 7, 2014, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17493, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 4:18:29 AM

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About the Author
  • Susana Muñoz
    University of Wisconsin
    E-mail Author
    SUSANA MUÑOZ, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Administrative Leadership department. Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of underrepresented populations in higher education. Specifically, she focuses her research on issues of access, identity, and college persistence for undocumented Latina/o students, while employing perspectives such as Latino critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemology, and college persistence theory to identify and deconstruct issues of power and inequities as experienced by these populations.
  • Michelle Espino
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE M. ESPINO, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Student Affairs, and International Education Policy program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research centers on understanding community contexts and institutional responses associated with educational achievement and outcomes along the academic life course for racial/ethnic minorities, with particular focus on the experiences of Latina/o students, college administrators, and faculty.
  • René Antrop-González
    Dalton State College
    E-mail Author
    RENÉ ANTROP-GONZÁLEZ, PhD, is Professor and Goizueta Foundation Chair in Education in the School of Education at Dalton State College in Dalton, Georgia. His scholarly interests revolve around the schooling experiences of rural and urban students of color, particularly Latin@ students at the secondary level. Specifically, he focuses on high achieving Latin@ students and the factors they attribute to their academic success in an attempt to turn the page on deficit-centered discourses on Latin@ pushouts.
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