Professors join nationwide #ScholarStrike for racial justice

Friday, September 25, 2020

Graphic: Raven Yamamoto

Professors join nationwide #ScholarStrike for racial justice

By Isa Coty

In solidarity with college professors nationwide, LMU professors canceled classes and hosted teach-ins on racism and police violence in support of the nationwide #ScholarStrike last week.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) strikes, to protest the continued police violence against the Black community, inspired the University of Pennsylvania religious and Africana studies professor Anthea Butler to send the tweet that started the movement.

“I would be down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America,” she tweeted.

After Butler’s tweet gained traction, the co-organizer of #ScholarStrike, Grand View University history professor Kevin Gannon got involved. Together, the two coined the hashtag, “ScholarStrike,” which led to thousands of other professors sharing resources and thoughts in support of the movement in bursts of 280 characters. 

The #ScholarStrike also comes after the recent move by the Office of Management and Budget to identify University programs that address white privilege and critical race theory, so President Trump would know which programs to federally defund. 

LMU professors participated in the strike in different ways. Sociology professor Nadia Kim canceled class and did not check her lion email for the strike. 

“Because under capitalism, one of the best ways to achieve racial and other forms of social justice is to withhold your labor, the labor that keeps the economy, the nation-state, and its dominant racial groups in power,” professor Kim wrote in an email.

Modern British and Irish history professor Amy Woodson-Boulton tweeted in support of the strike, canceled her classes and assigned her students pre-planned readings on environmental racism. 

“I hope the students see the strike as part of an ongoing conversation about history, resources, and power. Today's work hopefully is just more clearly connecting the history we are working on in class to contemporary US issues,” she Tweeted, quoted on LMU History’s Twitter.

Political science and international relations professor Chaya Crowder chose to hold class because she heard about the planned strike only a few days in advance and didn’t know how widespread it was. 

"Teach-ins, as well as strikes, have a long legacy within the Civil Rights and Labor Movements,” said professor Crowder. “In my Empirical Approaches class, The #ScholarStrike provided an opportunity to open a discussion on [the] history of racialized dog-whistle politics and the ways in which racially coded language can influence the interpretation of data analysis."

While Women’s and gender studies Dr. Mairead Sullivan did not cancel their classes for the #ScholarStrike, they did program an automatic “away message” email response for the duration of the strike and used class time to teach students about the history of striking and labor organizing.

“Striking is a vital and necessary form of labor protest and I think we are likely—indeed almost guaranteed—to see strikes used across education [in] both K-12 and higher education as the pandemic continues and as hallmarks of faculty governance are subverted and denied by those at the top,” Dr. Sullivan wrote in an email. “I took the ethos of the #ScholarStrike to be a call to use our labor as educators to educate and engage on issues of racial justice.”

While they understood the intention behind stopping business as usual, Dr. Sullivan also explained that they decided to hold class and continue working with their co-workers in mind.

If I emailed my fellow committee members and said I would be participating in the strike and thus not at meetings, this may result in simply rescheduling our meeting time—not necessarily a disruption of business as usual, just a delay,” said Dr. Sullivan. “I would not be disrupting the working of the larger institution, I would only be hurting my peer-level colleagues.”

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