Faculty, Students, Staff, Community Members to Speak at Local Event in Conjunction with National Scholar Strike for Racial Justice
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University faculty members will join students, staff, and members of the community in a speakout on Black Lives sponsored by Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate workers. The speakout, which will be broadcast live on the union’s Facebook page, is a contribution to the nationwide #ScholarStrike, a call to action for academic workers to stand for racial justice on September 8–9.
“Like 1963 or 1968, we are at a pivot point in the history of this country,” said Donna Murch, a renowned historian, Rutgers associate professor, and chair of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT People of Color Caucus. “The depth and breadth of grassroots uprisings against white supremacy is exponentially larger than in the late 1960s, yet the scale of racial violence and the threats to the rights and safety of the most vulnerable populations in this country is also devastating.
“It’s crucial that we get involved in this national reckoning about structural racism and violence, past and present. Universities have long been major sites of struggle, and it’s crucial that we make them so once again. This week’s scholar strike is an important opportunity.”
Murch will co-host the speakout along with Peabody Award winner Chenjerai Kumanyika, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers. The event will also feature faculty members Walton Johnson of Africana Studies and Nicole Fleetwood of American Studies and Art History (the curator of an exhibit, “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” that will open at MoMA PS1 on September 17). These and other Rutgers faculty will be in dialogue with counselors from the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), graduate students, campus activists, and the president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly Nicholas LaBelle.
Murch expects the speakers to address both national issues and those closer to home. “State and vigilante violence has reached a new level in the past month with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the killing of antiracist protesters by a right-wing militia member. And the toll keeps rising by the week, with new and violent spectacles of police killings. Black women and nonbinary people have also been victims in these incidents, but this has been much less covered in the mainstream press.”
Rutgers AAUP-AFT responded to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others, Murch said, “lending its support and solidarity to the Movement for Black Lives. The union has long been committed to racial justice, including fighting to increase the number of Black and Brown faculty to match their percentage in the New Jersey population—and to oppose the layoffs of some 1,000 Rutgers employees, many of them workers of color, in recent months.”
According to Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Todd Wolfson, the union’s commitment to justice has shaped its response to the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given its past record, we expected the Rutgers administration to respond to the pandemic with measures that would inflict the worst pain on the most vulnerable populations, even when the financial gain was miniscule compared to what a thorough questioning of their own priorities would generate,” Wolfson said.
“Our union sees our participation in today’s call to action for racial justice as a part of the same struggle we are engaged in at Rutgers. A union and a university that doesn’t do all it can to stand for racial and social justice in this moment of national reckoning isn’t meeting its moral obligation to serve all the people of this state and beyond.”
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