Harper Teach-In and Social Justice Days of ActionSubmitted by Stephanie Horton, English and John Garcia, Philosophy

On August 28, 2020, Inside Higher Ed featured an article that recounted how one professor, Anthea Butler (Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania) initiated a racial justice solidarity movement on Twitter. In the tweet, she stated that she would be willing to follow the lead of NBA players and strike to protest police violence. Within hours, more than 600 scholars from around the country had committed to participate in a #ScholarStrike work stoppage and virtual teach-in on September 8 and 9, 2020. Instead of “business as usual” on these days, professors would provide opportunities for students to engage in discussion, reflection, assignments and/or review resources focused on social justice, white supremacy, racism, etc. Scholars joining this rallied behind the #ScholarStrike official statement that “We can no longer sit quietly amidst state violence against communities of color… [It is of] crucial importance for those of us in higher education to take a stand in solidarity with our students and the communities we serve.”

In response, the Harper Faculty Senate Exec called a special meeting of the Faculty Senate, in order to discuss how Harper might engage with the Scholar Strike. The Senate passed a resolution at that meeting to designate Tuesday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 9 Social Justice Days of Action, encouraging faculty to provide resources related to racial justice to their students and, when possible and appropriate, to incorporate materials related to racial justice into their curriculum for that week.

Several Harper faculty who had been present at the Senate meeting also decided to try to provide a forum for students, faculty, and other members of the Harper community to come together in a larger, campus-wide setting, to discuss issues of racial justice. They quickly designed a website for the event, which they called the “Harper Teach-In”, and began to plan a series of discussions that included faculty presentations, faculty panel discussions, and open forums, to hear voices from the whole Harper Community.

Here are some of the details of the two day event:

In addition to the opening and closing discussions each day, both Tuesday and Wednesday featured Town Hall Forums, designed as an opportunity to simply listen to voices from the Harper community, especially students. These forums were hosted by Professors Monica Edwards and Margaret King.

Wednesday was highlighted by two faculty panel discussions:

  • “Being a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) Faculty Member in a Predominantly White Institution” with Professors Shante Holley, Stephanie Horton, and Monica Shirley.
  • “Antiracism @ Harper College: Action or Acting?” with Professors Michael Bentley, Adam Efren Lopez, Karega Cooper, and DuBoi McCarty.

In addition, over the two days, there were four faculty presentations:

  • “A Brief History of Race and Slavery in Early America” by Professors Jim Gramlich and Dave Richmond
  • “Problems with Performative Allyship: Becoming Authentic Allies” by Professor Shante Holley
  • “Environmental Issues and Equity” by Professors Julie Ellefson, Joe Wachter, and Nellie Khalil
  • “Racial Justice and the Arts: Music and Literature as Pedagogy and Intervention” by Professors Ana Contreras and Tiffany Jones, and moderated by Professor Magdalen McKinley

Beyond all of these sessions, Harper faculty also contributed a variety of resources to the Harper Teach-In website.

Below, you will find links to the Inside Higher Ed article on the planned Scholar Strike, as well as a follow-up article on the actual strike. In addition, you will find the website for the Scholar Strike and a link to the Harper Teach-In website.