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As part of a nationwide two-day strike for racial justice, several Harvard academics suspended their classes and withheld their labor to draw attention to the necessity of fighting racism. Other scholars, in particular those without tenure, participated in the Scholar Strike for Racial Justice by holding teach-ins and disseminating educational information on racial justice. Organizers of the national Scholar Strike were motivated by the decision of NBA players to strike following the shooting of another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wis.
We applaud scholars who have leveraged their position to disrupt academia and draw attention to racial inequality in our country however they can. In particular, untenured faculty who conducted teach-ins and provided anti-racist resources to students remind us that all of us can (and must) contribute something to the fight for racial justice.
It’s worth noting, however, that the faculty who have chosen to participate in the strike are those who’ve already demonstrated a commitment to incorporating racial justice into their curricula. Educating students about racial justice has generally only taken place in specific classes and departments, such as African and African American Studies and Ethnicity, Migration and Rights, which tend to draw students who are already interested in anti-racist activism. As a result, those getting an anti-racist education because of the strike likely would’ve received this education anyways. Students without striking teachers, in disciplines with curricula that’re generally race-free, might not have even known the strike occurred.
We are disappointed that the strike didn’t draw more participants across all disciplines, which we take as indicative of a continued reluctance to broach issues of race in large parts of academia, particularly STEM. We hope that the Scholar Strike can inspire faculty across all departments to ensure that their curriculum and environments are anti-racist.
The pervasiveness of anti-Black racism demands continued disruption, education, and discussion. Academia cannot separate itself from suffering and human rights struggles. Universities have long been powerful sites of political and economic change. The 2016 dining hall workers’ strike and the graduate students union strike this past year have shown us that change often requires disrupting the routines and function of the University. And college protests going back to the 1960s remind us that university-based protests have power far beyond these ivy-covered gates.
The future of remote organizing remains uncertain. Zoom teach-ins and breakout rooms may not sufficiently replicate the protests in front of Memorial Church and University Hall. Still, striking faculty make clear that a virtual university will not prevent critical dissent and disruption. After all, these scholars didn’t merely strike; they struck during the first week of the term, shaking up an already unorthodox return to school. We hope that organizers continue to push the virtual envelope to protect workers, fight anti-Black racism, and continue to push Harvard to do better.
If this summer was marked by enormous and vital protest, then striking faculty are doing the critical work of signaling to their peers, students, and university, that the necessity of demanding change does not end with the return of classes. On campus, virtual or otherwise, none of us are exempt from the obligation to push justice forward.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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