By Nikayla Goddard, September 9 2020—
The Scholar Strike taking place on Sept. 9 and 10 is a Canadian movement encouraging universities to pause teaching and administrative duties to protest anti-Black, racist and colonial police brutality in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, as well as encourage universities to implement teach-ins and educational workshops.
The official Scholar Strike website cites that this day of protest originated in the U.S from a tweet by Dr. Anthea Butler who, inspired by the striking WNBA and NBA players, put out a call for a similar labour action from academics.
The website says, “As Canadian scholars we cannot ignore the anti-Black and anti-Indigenous police brutality and violence that continue to destroy the lives of Black, Indigenous and racialized peoples. Many of the Black, Indigenous and racialized academics who work in Canadian universities are precariously employed; hired on only part-time or short-term contracts. The few that have been hired into full-time faculty and staff positions have found it difficult to remain in those jobs, they have either been fired or laid off because of institutional racism and other forms of violence in the university.”
University of Calgary president Ed McCauley released a statement in response to the Scholar Strike, stating that the university “strongly condemns anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism and racism in all forms.”
“One of the key roles of a university is to have difficult conversations and fearlessly tackle big issues for the betterment of all. Research is not done in a vacuum and learning is in service of change,” reads the statement. “Teaching, learning and a commitment to act have always been tied. […] Faculty and students may choose to participate in September 9 and 10 events. In the coming weeks and months, the University will be hosting a series of conversations and workshops on this topic. These workshops underpin a stronger university action plan under development by Dr. Malinda Smith, our Vice-Provost (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), and Dr. Michael Hart, our Vice-Provost (Indigenous Engagement). We encourage active participation in these conversations.”
The invitation to participate in the Scholar Strike and the upcoming workshops speaks to the Scholar Strike’s belief that “Statements of solidarity, while important, are not enough. We must commit ourselves as scholars, artists, writers, poets, designers and researchers to actively ending all forms of racist, carceral, institutional and systemic forms of violence.”
Students’ Union president Frank Finley provided the following statement in response to the Scholar Strike:
“We strongly support those who choose to participate in the upcoming scholar strike. Teach-ins of the 1960s played an important role in igniting student activism, and we encourage students to inform themselves and actively commit to ending all forms of racism, systemic and institutional discrimination, and violence.”
The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) president Tanille Shandro provided the following written statement as well:
“The GSA stands against anti-Black racism in all forms. Through training and education, we are working to ensure that the GSA is a welcoming space for all graduate students and can be counted on to stand with our members to break down systemic oppression in our community. Anti-oppression of BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities has become a priority for the GSA and we are keeping the conversation going on a weekly basis to ensure that this value becomes ingrained in the organization. On September 9 and 10, a Scholar Strike is planned across Canada to protest anti-Black, racist and colonial police brutality in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. In their call to action, Scholar Strike Canada has presented a number of ways that academics can act in support of this initiative. The GSA team will take part in viewing the public digital teach-ins at https://scholarstrikecanada.ca/ over these two days and we encourage our members to consider how they too can engage with this protest.”
During these two days, Scholar Strike has several digital teach-ins planned that can be attended online by anyone. Some of these events include Abolition or Death: Confronting Police Forces in Canada; Gender, Colonialism and Anti-Black Police Racist Violence; Indigenous Responses to Black Resistance; Black Tax and the Invisible Labour of Black Women in the Academy; Race to Incarcerate in the University, and more. A full schedule of Scholar Strike events can be found on their website.
While there are currently no events listed by U of C’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, two relevant listed upcoming UCalgary events and workshops include the Dinos Diversity Panel: Anti-Black Racism in Sport on Sept. 15, and the panel Defunding the Police? What Next on Sept. 17, which will focus on a “reimagined police force [that] could lead to better outcomes and help to end systemic racism in the justice system.”