Emergency Meeting: Pedagogy in the shadow of the Election

Opening Statement

Corinne:  Thank you all for coming.  As you know  the Critical Pedagogy Initiative was formed to be a space for grads and faculty to meet and discuss our shared project of teaching. We had originally intended to have one meeting each quarter, but it seemed like now it is imperative for us to come together and do something.

Nicole: We are sad that our co-convener Rachael King is out of town and could not be here today, so we all need to step up and facilitate ourselves, and be conscious of airtime.   We are grateful for Joyce King, who volunteered to take notes.

Corinne: The events of the past week have made apparent things that we wished weren’t true. Our country for the first time in a long time has elected someone who ran on a platform of explicit racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. Before the election, we didn’t want to believe that someone with that kind of rhetoric and those beliefs could be elected. We thought and hoped for better from our country. But instead, we elected someone who will not only compromise our rights but also threaten the lives of people more vulnerable than us.  Even if he turns out to be a different president than candidate, more of our countrymen than I thought possible voted for him as he is.  And even if they didn’t endorse his hatred toward Mexican people or Muslims and degrading and proprietary attitude towards women, they were able to set those beliefs aside when they voted.

Nicole:  On the other side, we have already seen that his election has made possible a wave of hate crimes not only in our country but our own campus; the Daily Nexus reported on incidents of men yelling “we’re going to rape you” to female protesters on election night.  Our department understands the importance of language and should be able to help others understand how quickly the verbal abuse we witnessed during the campaign can change into physical abuse in our community.  Our department does the kind of work that represents everything this election cycle has tried to undermine. I know that the work each of us does is about real life, and that we are in a position to influence the discourse in our college community, as we do every day and as we must continue to do with a renewed sense of purpose. I want to believe that nobody who takes Felice’s US Minority Literature class is going to defend the xenophobic narrative we see on the news . Nobody who takes Rebecca’s class on trauma and war narratives is going to support a continued war, or endorse the claim that PTSD is not real. Nobody who takes Ken and Chris’s class on climate change is going to fall for the idea that climate change is a hoax. The classroom environment was, in fact, one of the first things graduate students thought about after hearing the results of the election. What were we going to say to our students, who look to us for leadership? What were we going to talk about on that first day back, when both we and our students, many of whom represent the groups that are explicitly targeted by the president elect, felt too afraid, tired, or saddened to come to campus? I know that graduate students have been talking all week, and I along with other grads have met with faculty individually, and in classroom settings. Now we have the opportunity to meet as a community.

Corinne:  Our first goal in calling this meeting is to create a space for graduate students to share their concerns, questions, and fears.  Our second goal is to come up with something concrete that the English Department can do.  Before this election, we pretended that the university was a safe space for students.  We pretended this even though statistics show women are raped here in astonishing numbers, even though students have reported being stalked on their way to class.  We pretended this even though students have already weathered hateful remarks from their peers and we pretended this even when our building was vandalized with hate speech. But now we can’t even pretend.  We must say or do something to make the spaces that we facilitate become protected spaces for all people, especially those targeted by the president elect.  Silence now is complicity, and we cannot be complicit.  So let us, together, come up with a plan, a statement, or strategy that not only empowers us in the classroom but also serves to inspire other departments on our campus and in our country.

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