New University course based off of “Teach-Ins”

Emily Barlow, Contributing Writer

Assistant Professor of history Jennifer Thomson and Associate Professor of history Mehmet Dosemeci will be offering a “Teach-In” course titled “Campus Insurgent: the past, present, and future of campus activism.”

These Teach-In courses are 0.5 and 0.25 credit classes focused on critical and pressing political and social concerns in America, as well as international topics. Teach-Ins are generally a one-time session open to any students and community members concerning a specific relevant topic. However, through these courses there will be regularly-scheduled classes allowing students to receive credit for their attendance.

Thomson and Dosemeci are both graduates from University of California, Berkeley where they were both engaged in student activism as undergraduates. They have continued their efforts in activism post-college as faculty as well.

“While I was on campus [at UC Berkeley] there was activism around both gender issues as well as third world studies issues. I did a lot of organizing around abortion rights in California. After I graduated, I was involved in protests against the Iraq War which started in 2003,” Thomson said, concerning the events developed her experience as an activist.

Since coming to the University in 2013, both professors saw an increase in activism around Black Lives Matter following the killing of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Black man who was choked to death by an NYPD officer.

“Students organized ‘Die-Ins’ around campus and impromptu rallies on the [Malesardi] quad that were pulling hundreds of students and faculty out,” Thomson said.

“A year and a half after that, following the election of Donald Trump, was a series of boycotts which led to the formation of a faculty and student group called the Bucknell Alternative Delegation (BAD),” Dosemeci said.

In the previous year, students and faculty organized around the Muslim ban, climate change, and other concerns with walk-outs and teach-ins. This activism helped inspire Thomson and Dosemeci to create a Teach-In course concerning activism.

Thomson and Dosemeci received a faculty-student research grant in which they looked into student activism on campus in the University archives.

The poster advertising their Teach-In features a photo taken in May 1970 of the University’s quad. The photo shows students and faculty engaging in a walk-out and occupation in protest of the Kent State and Jackson State killings, as well as Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia.

“There was both a student strike committee that decided to skip classes and a faculty senate that voted to cancel classes. There were burning of draft cards against the Vietnam War and an occupation of the [the University] president’s office,” Dosemeci said.

The University’s activism focused on concerns that occurred on campus as well. Decades ago, when the University did not use a private contractor for dining services, students and faculty worked together to establish a living wage for dining staff employees.

“I think that’s an aspect that surprises a lot of people when they come here,” Dosemeci said. “This campus has had a storied past in activism, especially in the past four or five years.”

The course material is a combination of historical primary and secondary sources, both past and present. The course also offers the opportunity for students to talk via Skype to past University students who participated in activism while studying on campus.

Both professors agree that a major goal of their Teach-In course is to pull people from all majors, disciplines, and interests together to look at activism at the University and beyond, considering different methods in organization and effective activist tactics.

The course will begin meeting Oct. 23 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and every consecutive Tuesday this semester.

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