Tuesday news ticker header.
Portrait of Anna Liuzzo in her school classroom.

Published September 1, 2020


GSE cancels classes to host teach-in for racial equity

Mandatory for faculty, staff and students, the two-day virtual teach-in will feature 80-plus sessions and five keynotes, culminating with a town hall that explores systematic racism and violence against Black people

To start the academic year, the Graduate School of Education will temporarily cancel all classes and activities for two days this week. However, learning will continue, and in its place the school will hold mandatory instruction on an issue gripping the nation: understanding the factors that have led to the countless murders of Black people.

The virtual event on Sept. 3-4—“Make Good Trouble Now: Teach-In for Racial Equity”—will employ the "teach-in," a form of activism that began during the anti-war movement of the 1960s, to educate faculty, staff and students about the root causes and effects of racial injustice and systemic racism, particularly in education.

The discussions are part of a larger national dialogue about structural racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, and reignited by the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23.

By temporarily suspending coursework and office work, the teach-in will allow the school to promote dialogue about critical affairs outside the classroom and regular curriculum, demonstrate the academic relevance of social justice, and outline concrete actions and specific policies for working toward change within the community.

“The Graduate School of Education recognizes that it cannot make good on its mission and vision, or on its commitment to equity, diversity, justice and inclusion, without ensuring that all faculty, staff and students have a more fundamental understanding of the systematic violence against Black people and the role that education has played and continues to play in perpetuating systems of oppression,” said Dean Suzanne Rosenblith.

“Change is both an individual and collective responsibility,” she said. “As an institution of higher education, we continue this work through the radical act of teaching and learning.”

The event, which is also open to GSE alumni and invited community partners and friends, will take place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Friday. Participation is required for GSE faculty, staff and students.

More than 80 sessions led by faculty, scholars and community partners are themed around racial injustice and systemic racism. The teach-in aims to utilize collective knowledge to begin dismantling institutionalized racism in education and society.

The teach-in will leverage the expertise of scholars and staff from schools and units across the entire university to conduct programming. The event will also highlight several keynote speeches from award-winning authors and renowned activists and educators.

“This is not the intervention. It is a first step of many things to come in the months ahead,” said event chair Raechele Pope, associate dean of faculty and student affairs, and chief diversity officer in the GSE.

“The teach-in is an opportunity for us to learn, reflect and strategize on ways we—individually and collectively—can take action. Our goal is that it will help to provide us all with the awareness, knowledge, tools and resources we need to advance, address, confront and begin to dismantle systemic and institutional racism and other forms of oppression,” Pope said.

“In the midst of two global pandemics—COVID-19 and racism—along with a global fiscal crisis, we are witnessing community activism and calls for systemic and structural change that are not going to go away. The teaching and learning that will take place in this teach-in are more important than ever,” she said. “We are literally shutting down normal operations to focus on these important issues. This just isn’t done. Some may think we are lucky that we can afford to shut down normal operations. The fact of the matter is, we can’t afford not to. It’s simply that critical.”

Featured sessions and speakers include:

  • “We Gon’ Be Alright, But That Ain’t Alright: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom,” by Bettina L. Love, award-winning author, Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia, and pioneer in establishing abolitionist teaching in schools. This lecture is open to GSE faculty, staff and students only.
  • “Racial Trauma & Truth-telling: Canceling the Culture of Nice in Education,” by Carlton Green, a licensed psychologist and consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion with more than 25 years of experience in higher education.
  • “Infusing Diversity and Inclusion into the Classroom,” by Gloria D. Campbell-Whatley, professor at the Cato College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Whatley’s research focuses on infusing diversity into higher education and K–12 curriculums.
  • “What White People Need to Know About Race,” by Ali Michael, co-founder and director of the Race Institute for K-12 Educators and author of “Raising Race Questions: Whiteness, Inquiry and Education.”
  • “Now Let’s Get to Work! Eradicating Systemic Oppression,” by Rev. Jamie Washington, president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Lancaster Theological Seminary, and president and co-founder of the Social Justice Training Institute. Washington was named by The Economist as one of the Top 10 global diversity consultants in the world. He led a virtual conversation, “Real Talk about Race,” earlier this summer at UB.

Tuesday News Briefs feature the stories of the Graduate School of Education faculty, students and alumni who are engaged in their communities and making an impact through their hard work, dedication and research initiatives. If you have a story to share, please email us with the details for consideration as a future news feature.