This article was written by Sorcha DeHeer
During the first week of school, post-secondary students across the country are being asked to skip classes in favor of public, online teach-ins. The call is being made by Canadian and American “labour action/teach-in/social justice advocacy” group Scholar Strike in an attempt to help end racial injustice and anti-black police justice. The organization will also focus on anti-Indigenous, colonial violence across Turtle Island. The movement began as a Tweet from Dr. Anthea Butler, a Professor of Religious Studies and African Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. This years events are being organized by Beverly Bain (Women and Gender studies/Department of History at University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus) and Min Sook Lee (Associate Professor at OCAD University and creator of the documentary Migrant Dreams). In addition to showing support, Scholar Strike asks participants to actively help end “all forms of racist, carceral, institutional and systemic forms of violence.” To do this, the website makes a list of demands:
- We must support the demands for defunding the police and redistributing those resources to Black, Indigenous, racialized, queer and trans communities for the creation of sustainable and healthy communities.
- We must support demands to remove campus police. All agreements between policing institutions and universities must be rescinded.
- We must address the historic and current under representation of Black and Indigenous faculty (full and part-time) in all Canadian institutions and press University Administrations to prioritize the urgency of these faculty hires.
- We commit to supporting meaningful efforts to recruit, admit, retain and mentor Black, Indigenous and racialized undergraduate and graduate students.
- We must support the campaign by CUPE 3261 to stop the University of Toronto from contracting out caretaking services thereby relinquishing its responsibility to safeguard secure and suitable paying jobs and health and safety of workers
- We must advocate for the creation, expansion, and maintenance of mental health and health care resources for students at our universities.
- We must support the demand for affordable education, sustainable jobs and housing for students and cultural professionals across all the universities.
The action is supported by a host of academics, professors and instructors from universities across the country, including the University of Lethbridge. Several U of L faculty are listed signers of Scholar Strikes’ statement of solidarity and calls to action, including:
- Athena Elafrose, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
- Christopher Churchill, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History
- Paul McKenzie-Jones, Associate Professor, Department of Indigenous Studies
- Suzanne Lenon, Associate Professor, Department of Women and Gender Studies, and
- Gulden Ozcan, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
These and likely other professors who are not listed on Scholar Strike’s website will not be teaching their regular classes, answering emails as a part of the strike. As an alternative to classes, some professors will be hosting discussions on racial injustice and police violence. Among these are Dr. Glenda Bonifacio (Department Chair of Women and Gender Studies) and Dr. Caroline Hodes (Department of Women and Gender Studies).
Teach-ins will be live streamed from September 9-10 on the organizations YouTube Channel and website. Topics include but are not limited to, “Artists for the Revolution: Creative Activisms in the Movement for Black Lives” and “Race to Incarcerate in the University.” In addition to the two day strike, Scholar Strike suggests attending similar digital teach-ins hosted by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University on September 18th.
A letter has also been drafted by CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers) for students and faculty who face disciplinary action for participating int he strike. You can access the letter here. For those wanting to take action outside of the strike, a list of resources can be found on Scholar Strike’s website as well as a link to the 1492 Land Back Lane legal fund.