Story at a glance
- Inspired by athletes who have spoken out about social justice issues, a group of academics have launched a scholar strike.
- While some are participating by refusing to work for the two days of the strike, others are holding teach-ins and other awareness campaigns.
- In Canada, a group of academics have organized their own Scholar Strike in solidarity with American protestors.
It all started with a tweet — as do many campaigns these days.
Inspired by the NBA, WNBA, Colin Kapernick and other athletes who boycotted games over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Anthea Butler called on her peers to launch a scholar strike.
I would be down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America.— ProfB (@AntheaButler) August 26, 2020
Within a few hours, #ScholarStrike was a movement with 600 scholars committed to participating in what would be a two-day strike to raise awareness of "the racial climate in America, and the rash of police shootings and racialized violence,” according to the official website.
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The strike began the day after Labor Day and ended Sept. 9, but participation took a range of forms: some refusing to teach or carry out any administrative duties while others held teach-ins.
"It is a misconception to think that Universities are not engaged in the world around them. Much of the time, they are shaping the cities and towns that they are in, for good and for ill. The truth of the matter is, our colleges and universities also suffer from the problems of racism, policing and violence. We are not immune from the issues that are going on in the nation. Many of our students were engaged in protests this summer or have experienced racism on and off campus," said Anthea Butler and Kevin Gannon in an opinion article for CNN.
Faculty, staff, grad students and administrators from colleges and universities across the United States submitted their own events and programming, including videos and readings featured on the Scholar Strike website. With many schools operating virtually and the physical distancing restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, much of the conversation took place online.
“What we are doing at CSULA with the black recusal is groundbreaking and impactful ... the college of ethnic studies without a black person at the center of it isn’t ethnic studies.” -Melina Abdullah #scholarsstrike pic.twitter.com/ORNpruuNXw— Tahiti Salinas (@SalinasTahiti) September 9, 2020
My main form of participation in the strike is to not teach or do administrative work for the two days. I’ve canceled synchronous class meetings and am refusing to do most admin work, with the exceptions of situations where it would negatively impact vulnerable people. 2/— Jolyon Thomas (@jolyonbt) September 9, 2020
On the second day of the #ScholarStrike, we are excited to release the #BlackLanguageSyllabus. The BL Syllabus was created by Dr. April Baker-Bell and Dr. Carmen Kynard--two sista-friend-teachers who are here to lift one another up and push toward new Black ways of love and life. pic.twitter.com/QULCuA5OsW— Ebonically Speaking (@aprilbakerbell) September 9, 2020
The strike was a risk, especially in the world of academia, Butler and Gannon acknowledged, where many positions are covered under collective bargaining agreements and others lack job security.
"It might seem odd to think of college faculty as ‘workers,’ but the stereotype of the fat-cat tenured professor is not an accurate one," they wrote in a post on Academe Blog. “Even those of us in more secure positions still work on campuses where fiscal crises and a pandemic have combined to make everyone’s employment status precarious. We are indeed labor, as are the professional athletes who went on strike last week. And, as US history shows us, there are times when the most powerful way that workers can force an issue or work for change is to withhold what others see as their most important feature: their labor.”
The call was heard across the border in Canada as well, where scholars will hold a strike on Sept. 9 and 10, when the academic year begins for many colleges and universities in the country. In addition to public digital teach-ins and statements of solidarity, the movement called for defunding the police, including campus police, and addressing the representation of Black, Indigenous and others of color in academia.
"I think this is the best thing that's crossed the border in a long time," Butler said in a Periscope video on Wednesday. "I hope that these two actions, Scholar Strike and Scholar Strike Canada, can empower all of us to think more about the racial injustices that we face, the kind of world we want to teach in and what we want to see and also ways in which we can partner together."
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