Sharing UofT professor’s note to student re: the YorkU/UofT strike

It’s a very busy week for me… but this came across my Facebook feed this morning & I wanted to share this (and record it for future reference):

U of T professor at the Women and Gender Studies Institute explains to her students why she has moved their class off campus in solidarity with the ongoing strike:

“I want to take a moment to explain why we are holding our class off campus this week and why it is about more than physically crossing a picket line. My area of research is how people learn about social justice, inequity, democracy, participation, how they become active in the world. And what I know is that how you experience the world matters immensely in that process. How you experience moments such as the strike really does matter.

Right now, the University, like any other employer, is producing a very important piece of ideology. By ‘ideology’ I mean the message that is being communicated to students, faculty, workers, and the broader community is that business as usual can continue at the university despite the fact that a large portion of our teaching staff has had to walk off the job to protest their working conditions. That message is also meant to communicate to us the value of their work; that their work is of so little consequence that we can continue on as if their absence means nothing and is not felt in our daily reality. I know that’s not true, and probably you know that’s not true as well.

But there is something profoundly more insidious and disturbing to me in this message. That is the message that we should not be disrupted or inconvenienced by the suffering of other people, by the inequity that others must face every day. That just because they struggle with poverty and have had to go on strike to demand recognition from their employer, it should not disrupt our business. But it is a disruption, it is a huge disruption. It is a disruption to our learning, to our lives, and, very importantly, to the covenant between a school, its students, and its teachers. It is not just a disruption, it is rupture, a tearing apart. Look at what is being torn apart. Look at who is being torn apart.

I have moved our class because I prioritize your learning. I know that how you [my students] experience this will be very important in how you learn about it, and I don’t want you to have the experience that there should be no disruption. Whatever happens around you, even if it doesn’t happen to you, we should not seek to turn away from disruption. We, as teachers in this university, should not teach you that you can look away from what is happening in this world to other people; that you can just avoid it, and it has no meaning in your life beyond a bureaucratic nuisance or that what is also at stake here is your education.

When these things happen, when your teachers go on strike, when an innocent young person is shot by the police, when a woman disappears and is found in a ditch, when we drop a bomb, we should be and feel disrupted. We should reflect on that disruption; we should learn from it. This is part of how we learn to be in the world as decent human beings who have an eye to the humanity of others. We cannot go on with business as usual. So, we are here, off campus, because I prioritize learning that takes humanity and social life seriously.”

 

Image: Juan Monroy

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