Loyola Professors Hold Teach-In Strike on Racism

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola faculty are changing the way they teach UNIV 101, a required first-year course, given the COVID-19 circumstances.

Some Loyola professors held virtual teach-ins Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 to discuss racism, systemic inequality and police brutality as part of a national Scholar Strike in solidarity with protests across the country. 

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Anthea Butler and Kevin Gannon — the director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and professor of history at Grand View University — founded the Scholar Strike.

The strike was inspired by the NBA, WNBA, Colin Kaepernick and other athletes and was designed to “raise awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of racism’s toll in America,” according to Butler and Gannon’s website

For two days, Loyola professors who participated didn’t teach their usual lesson and instead took class time to discuss racism, mass incarceration and police brutality. 

Loyola’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) tweeted support for the strike and academic freedom for professors, while the Loyola Graduate Workers’ Union spread the word about the strike and suggested resources to help teach about racial justice, Co-Chair Alec Stubbs said in an email to The Phoenix. 

For adjunct instructors including English instructor Alyson Paige Warren, the teach-in was an opportunity to take action without breaking the no-strike contract for non-tenured faculty.

“For me [the strike] was multifaceted,” Warren said. “I’ve long been a fighter for faculty rights and I’ve been active in the protests around the city… so bringing anti-racism into my teaching is crucial.”

Even though he already discusses systemic inequality in his classes, professor and chair of the Loyola Sociology Department Rhys Williams said he felt it was especially important to call attention to these issues now. 

“Situations in American society and American politics are crucial right now, so business as usual can’t just continue,” he said. “Scholars of any discipline have some obligations not just to teach their class, but to respond to this particular moment.”

Professor of Philosophy David Ingram said he took class time to foster student discussions on racial injustice and encouraged students to reflect on how their own experiences have shaped their perspective on these issues. 

“Before we even started, I told the students I understand it’s a difficult conversation to have and it would be natural to feel discomfort, but that they should allow themselves to experience that discomfort and vulnerability and open themselves up to what other students of color are saying,” he said.  

Ingram said he was surprised but happy to hear students share their own experiences both on and off campus. 

Warren and other professors said they are hopeful that Loyola will continue to respond to the strikes and work toward increased diversity among faculty and students. 

“I’ve been heartened by what I’ve seen Loyola do, like offering pedagogical training over the summer and actively seeking to address the absence of faculty of color on campus,” she said. “But we can — and should — always do more.”

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