Experimental College History

What is the Experimental College Pilot Program of Fall 2017?

Four SF State students are teaching courses this fall for one unit each under the 699-designation. These course meet once a week for two hours.

  • PLSI 699.15 – Limiting Democracy, a study of Noam Chomsky
  • PLSI 699.17 – Syrian Refugees – Analysis of Global Issues
  • PLSI 699.18 – Community Organizing in the Digital Era
  • PLSI 699.19 – Cybersecurity, World Affairs & Social Implications in the Digital World


What is the purpose of the Pilot Program?

The four Exco courses during the fall of 2017 were evaluated at the end of the semester by the Division of Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning with the intention of developing a structure to support the expansion of such courses.


How did the Exco Pilot Program come into being?

Since 2012, SF State students have been interested in reviving the ‘65-69 SF State Experimental College. In 2015, Kathy Emery started teaching a political science course partly based upon the Experimental College archives in our library (PLSI 395). The students in the Spring 2017 semester of PLSI 395 opened up student class presentations to the public and an SF State professor, Chris Bettinger, attended some of the presentations. Chris was inspired to convene four faculty – Kathy Emery, Trevor Getz, Chris Bettinger and Phil Klasky – for the purposes of discussing the possibility of reviving SF State’s Experimental College. These four faculty worked on a proposal for a pilot program for the Fall 2017 semester that was approved by the Division of Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning.


What was the 2017 mission of Exco?

SF State Experimental College fosters self-empowerment by promoting student-run, co-learning environments driven by critical, non-authoritarian, intersectional pedagogy; resistance to white supremacy; and, caring for the community.


A Brief History of the 1960’s Experimental College

In Fall 1965, Experimental College was born with 3 student-led courses about educational innovations and “Education and Personal Values.” Next semester, Spring 1966, students organized 23 courses and over 300 students enrolled. The following academic year:

  • Fall 1966: Experimental College (EC) secured $24,000 in funding from Associated Students through major involvement in student government (Jim Nixon was co-founder of EC and President of AS).
  • EC decentralized their leadership and split into seven curricular areas with an “area coordinator” for each area
  • 70 courses with 1200 students enrolled in Fall 1966
  • Spring 1967: the “Black Arts and Culture Area” split off EC after conflicts over philosophy and resource distribution from mostly white male leadership of EC. EC recentralized and enrollment dropped to 650 students.
  • Fall 1967: a Black Studies Curriculum was enacted independently of EC, through BSU, with 11 classes, increasing to 17 classes the following semester, Spring 1968.
  • Then came the SFSU Strike, in Fall 68-Spring 69. BSU and TWLF lead students, faculty, and community in 5-month shut down of campus.
  • Fall 1969, Strike Demands settled, including the Department of Black Studies created within the School of Ethnic Studies.
    EC no longer operates after 1969, until being revived in 2017 (see recent history above).


How can I access the archives of the original Exco?

The archives are open from 1-5 pm — if you want to look for more pictures (you can take them of the original documents with your phone) email Meredith Eliassen -eliassen@sfsu.edu (link sends e-mail) -(the exco archivist) to make an appointment (she can then pull the archives out for you ahead of time.)



Garces, Audrey. “Pilot Program Revives 1960’s Experimental College at SF State.” KQED News Fix. https://www.kqed.org/news/11635657/pilot-program-revives-1960s- experimental-college-at-s-f-state. Web.

Meyerhoff, Eli. “‘This Quiet Revolution.’” Cultural Politics 15.3 (2019): 315–330. Web.

SFSU Library Archives, Accessed 4/20/22. http://digital-collections.library.sfsu.edu/digital/collection