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Sparked by a summer of racial reckoning and the recent police officer shooting of Jacob Blake, educators all over the country plan on participating in a National Scholar Strike on Sept. 8 and 9. Started by University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler on Twitter, the hashtag #ScholarStrike was created to protest police brutality after National Basketball Association players and members of other sports organizations refused to continue their seasons in response to the shooting of Blake.
According to strike organizers Butler and Kevin Gannon, a Grand View University professor, scholars can participate by boycotting work altogether, attending virtual teach-ins or participating in local initiatives.
In an email to The Daily, Butler said she is pleased with the attention the movement is receiving as the first national initiative towards racial justice in academia.
“We are very pleased with the response to Scholar Strike,” Butler said. “While there have been lots of actions across the country at colleges and universities about racial justice, black lives matter and police reform and abolition, this is the first time we’ve all come together for two days to focus on this together as professors, students, staff and administrators.”
LSA professor Mariah Zeisberg plans on participating in the two-day strike by incorporating racial justice into her political science curriculum through utilizing resources like the 1619 Project and analyzing the role of slavery in the Constitution. Zeisberg said her participation in the strike will show others why police brutality is unacceptable.
“I’m participating because I think now is just a time to make it very clear that our situation is totally unacceptable,” Zeisberg said. “I’m participating because I want my Black friends and neighbors and loved ones to know that I’m using the power I have to support their lives. This violence against Black people is unacceptable.”
Ashley Lucas, an LSA Residential College and SMTD professor, will participate in the strike by collaborating on a teach-in with other faculty members and incorporating lessons about police brutality and racism into her classes. While Lucas is still teaching her classes, she said she hopes the University of Michigan will see the impact of the strike through students and faculty.
“We’re hoping that by disrupting regular University activities for this short period of two days that we can help people sort of take a moment to think about how structural violence works and how institutions that exclude a lot of people also have a role to play in helping to break down the ongoing violence that has been a part of our communities.” Lucas said.
University Public Affairs did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment at the time of publication.
SMTD professor Amy Hughes said she will also be using material in her classes to discuss racial justice and police brutality to support her students who are vulnerable to police brutality.
“I feel very strongly that I need to support my students who identify as Black, indigenous or people of color,” Hughes said. “So that they know that I see them, that I hear them, that I care about them. I see they’re hurting and I want to help them heal. I hope this is just the smallest, tiniest gesture.”
Hughes also encouraged students to participate in the strike as well by educating themselves.
“I’m encouraging students to use the time and space of the #ScholarStrike to engage (with) the online U-M teach-in on police brutality,” Hughes said. “But to students whose communities, friends and family have been disproportionately impacted by police brutality, I’ve said that I hope they can use this time to mourn and heal while the rest of us do our best to listen, learn, support and act.”
Rackham student Kristel Sanchez decided to participate in the strike after hearing about it in the Faculty Senate meeting. Sanchez also expressed support for the Graduate Employees’ Organization strike scheduled to happen this week.
“I think a visible way that I will be participating is specifically in a picket line striking for GEO and just not do work and try to (start) conversations with whomever I can,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she hopes the University will listen to the demands of graduate students in addition to faculty when considering their role in the strike.
“They know the power that we hold as graduate students and the labor that we perform,” Sanchez said. “I think we’ve gotten to this point because we need to call their attention and hopefully this time, they’ll sit down at the table and discuss with us. Hopefully we can come to an agreement so that we can have a safe semester and we protect those who are most vulnerable in this whole situation, with both COVID and police brutality.”
In an email to The Daily, the Graduate Employees’ Organization wrote they support the strike, saying the mission aligns with their current demands for the University. GEO announced a strike on Labor Day.
“GEO fully supports the demands of the National Scholar Strike against police violence and for racial justice,” the statement reads. “This call aligns with GEO's current demands of the U-M administration, which include not using police to monitor student compliance with COVID-19 policies; diverting funds from campus police; and ending ties to the Ann Arbor Police Department.”
SMTD professor Matt Albert said he is not planning on teaching for the two-day strike and will instead be educating himself on anti-racism.
“I am planning to not teach,” Albert said. “I'm actually just stopping my teaching for those two days and stopping my administrative work. Instead, I will be working –– not only studying, (but) reading and listening –– to learn more about how to be an effective antiracist, in my job here in Michigan.”
Daily Staff Reporter Jasmin Lee can be reached at email@example.com.