Faculty Participate in Scholar Strike for Racial Justice

By Samira Kassem Sep 11, 2020

University archivist Meg Miner sitting outside of Ames Library participating in the scholar strike for racial justice. 

Photo courtesy of Samira Kassem

Multiple faculty members at Illinois Wesleyan participated in the nation-wide Scholar Strike for Racial Justice on Wednesday, September 9. 

The strike grew from a hashtag on Twitter. Organizers urged university faculty and professors across the country to take time out of their everyday work to talk to students about racial justice. 

University archivist Meg Miner decided to participate by spending two entire work days sitting outside of Ames and talking to students, faculty and staff about racial justice. 

“Several students who stopped by the front of the library where I was set up mentioned that they had heard about it from their faculty. One whole class came on one day and several staff, students, faculty, two administrators and one emerita faculty member came to share thoughts and readings on the topic of racial justice,” Miner said. 

Miner says that she heard about the strike online and was moved to use her expertise to participate. 

“I brought two aspects of my expertise together: my ability to point people to readings on anti-blackness & racism that are available through The Ames Library, and a few of the examples of activism that I know exist in IWU’s history” Miner said. 

During her time in front of the library, Miner was far from alone.

 “During the two day strike, I heard from several faculty that they were bringing this action into their classrooms,” Miner said. 

Miner said she was encouraged by the amount of students and faculty that stopped to talk with her outside the library. 

“We had some wide ranging conversations about actions we could take on campus and in our larger communities” Miner said. 

The strike comes at a time when University administration is under fire for their response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests continue across the country. 

Another faculty member that participated in the strike was Dr. Irv Epstein, who is the Ben and Susan Rhodes Endowed Professor in Peace and Justice, Chair of Ed. Studies and Director of the Center for Human Rights. 

Epstein expressed to his students that he thought the best way to participate is by using class time for discussion of racial justice. 

“It’s a more effective way to get more students to discuss these issues because they’re required to be in class. Usually similar events that are held outside of class are voluntary, and the students who aren’t engaged in social and political issues typically don’t attend these voluntary events” senior Dareana Roy said. 

Epstein used class time to open the floor to any student that wanted to express their feelings or experiences surrounding racial justice, and especially racial justice here at IWU. 

Another student of Epstein’s, Shakira Cruz-Gonzalez praised the mission of the scholar strike. 

“A lot of students at IWU claim they are unaware of these topics and as future leaders: lawyers, doctors and nurses I feel like they need to be exposed to these conversations because they are obviously not exposing themselves,” Cruz-Gonzalez said. 

According to her, it is clear where the administration’s values lie and faculty need to show that they do not agree with what the university is doing and where they stand on the issue.

“To me this is a problem that has been going on for a long time and these conversations cannot be stopped just because you are not in that field or have not personally seen it. These are the conversations we have to be having,” Cruz-Gonzalez said. 

More information on the scholar strike can be found under the hashtag #scholarstrike on social media.

Miner documented her time on strike and connected with other participants through social media.

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