Laurier Diversity and Equity Office and Faculty host Teach-In for community

Photo by Luke Sarazin

On Sept. 25, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office, in partnership with other faculty members, held a Teach-In for the Laurier community in the Senate and Board Chamber on the Waterloo campus.

The Teach-In provided a chance for anyone in the Laurier community to come together to learn, listen and talk about many relevant and important issues of social justice currently taking place.

Some of the topics brought forth as possible topics of conversation by the three teach-in leaders were Charlottesville, anti-black racism and the activism of Black Lives Matter, The Truth and Reconciliation Report and Indigenous Activism, the re-emergence of overt anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiments, amongst other topics.

The three teach-in leaders sitting on the panel for the event were Dana Elizabeth Weiner, associate professor for department of history, Laura Mae Lindo, director of Laurier’s Diversity and Equity Office and Barry Kay, associate professor for department of political science.

“There is never a time when anti-Indigenous sentiments are okay. Connecting ourselves as individuals and groups to larger networks that carry with them the potential of harming our Indigenous colleagues and friends is truly troubling.”

The teach-in began with an address from Lindo who proceeded with a land acknowledgement.

“The work that we do on campus effects the world off campus,” Lindo said to those in attendance.

Kay, who teaches and studies the government, politics and electoral behaviour of the United States, brought forth a breakdown of Donald Trump to the Teach-In.

Lindo explained to those at the Teach-In that, although President Trump may be a source of some prevalent issues taking place, he merely represents one dark spot in American history.

“In my opinion, Donald Trump might be the focus of a lot of our discussions, but he is not the sole problem. He is not the be-all or end-all, he is not the beginning of anti-black racism, or anti-Semitism or any of that negativity,” Lindo said at the Teach-In.

As a result, Lindo described that many people have come forth to the Diversity and Equity Office iterating that Trump has triggered something for them.

Lindo explained that, as a result of such triggering events, providing positive, safe environments such as healing spaces are essential in order to have dialogues and opportunities for people to voice their thoughts and opinions.

“Silence is a choice, and silence can be harmful, and sometimes the extent of that harm is such that it’s better for us to choose to speak and let people be uncomfortable for five minutes,” Lindo said at the Teach-In.

Lindo reiterated that having proper discussions when individuals are voicing their thoughts and concerns in constructive and positive environments are what will be the most helpful and will open up avenues to reaching common goals amongst everyone.

Weiner, who teaches and researches about race, slavery, rights and citizenship in the early history of the United States, spoke about the rise of white supremacy in the 19th century until present day, bringing forth points regarding confederacy, KKK, Confederate battle flag and then spoke to the events which recently took place in Charlottesville.

For the remainder of the time, the three Teach-In leaders turned the discussion to the audience and encouraged questions, comments and thoughts from those in attendance.

Individuals brought forth various topics of interest or concern, the teach-in leaders would then respond to the questions or thoughts.

Later in the event, the subject of the Proud Boys and its connection to the Laurier Brantford campus was brought forth.

The Proud Boys is an alt-right group. The group became more publicly known when five members of the military, who happen to identify as Proud Boys, recently interrupted an Indigenous ceremony in Halifax.

Weiner and Lindo want to encourage students to bring ideas forward to the Diversity and Equity Office so that future Teach-Ins and similar events can reflect the concerns or topics about which students want to have a dialogue.

“We have had students, faculty and staff members share their concerns and fears that a Proud Boys Fraternity is recruiting members on Laurier’s Brantford Campus despite members of the Proud Boys in Nova Scotia interrupting a Mi’kmaw ceremony on July 1st, 2017 with pro-West and anti-Indigenous rhetoric,” Lindo wrote in a statement posted to the Diversity and Equity Office Facebook page.

“All this while the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Indigenous Student Services strives to guide us all across Laurier in Indigenizing our campuses and sites in authentic ways,” the statement continued.

“There is never a time when anti-Indigenous sentiments are okay. Connecting ourselves as individuals and groups to larger networks that carry with them the potential of harming our Indigenous colleagues and friends is truly troubling.”

For Lindo and Weiner, they were both impressed and encouraged by the turnout of the event as well as the interest and curiosity that individuals brought to the conversation.

“I think that the Teach-In was absolutely fabulous. I would say it made more of an impact than had anticipated, the idea behind it was to get a dialogue going and I would say that we did not think that that many people would necessarily show up,” Lindo said.

“For me it meant that there was a need for a space like this. And there was a need to open that space, not only to our own internal community at Laurier, but to that broader public because we’re impacted on both sides.”

Due to the high volume of interest and success of the Teach-In, Lindo and Weiner said they are interested and keen on holding more similar events to continue to dialogue and possibly bring forth new topics of discussion as well as different Teach-In leaders who may have different perspectives.

“It certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of how comfortable people were bringing up a ride variety of concerns which was great,” Weiner said.

Weiner and Lindo want to encourage students to bring ideas forward to the Diversity and Equity Office so that future Teach-Ins and similar events can reflect the concerns or topics about which students want to have a dialogue.

“There’s clearly a need to talk, if people want to tell us what the next Teach-In should focus on, I think we would be more than open to that,” Lindo said.

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