#ScholarStrike

On Tuesday and Wednesday, September 8-9, I am participating in the Scholar Strike for Racial Justice, a mass action of higher education professionals protesting racist policing, state violence against communities of color, mass incarceration and other manifestations of racism.

Due to my participation, my email response may be delayed. Let me encourage you to follow #SCHOLARSTRIKE on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and to engage with the teach-in occurring on the Scholar Strike YouTube channel. I’d also encourage you to read any of the following books, which delve more deeply into the intersection of race and technology:

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Umoja Noble

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil

Scholar Strike is meant to disrupt the everyday routines of academia, and to show solidarity with other workers striking for Black lives, particularly the athletes of the WNBA and NBA. On these two days, in a variety of ways, academic professionals are disrupting the status quo and refusing to stand by while racism and violence devastate Black Americans’ lives and communities.

— my email away message

When I originally conceived my #ScholarStrike participation plans, I expected I’d write a blog post in the “teach-in” spirit of the strike, discussing some of the many ways that white supremacy and technology intersect. Instead, I found myself tweeting a bit about educational disparities (as this video highlights, the connections between racist policing and the education system are iron-clad) and amplifying some of the excellent content on the ScholarStrike YouTube channel.

Here are some other ways I’m participating in this two-day action:

  • Donating 2 days’ (gross) pay to organizations working on hunger, educational justice, and development. “Hunger” might seem out of place on this list, but I wanted to do something to address immediate and basic needs in my local community as well as address bigger, systemic changes.
  • Finishing a working draft of our department’s first broadening participation in computing plan. A colleague and I participated in a workshop this summer to help departments develop plans to broaden participation in computing in meaningful ways. As a result of some sustained efforts yesterday, we now have a concrete set of steps to move forward. Our goal is to address a particular course that sets the tone for the major and where we lose students from particular demographics disproportionately. We’ve got a ton of work to do to bring our plans to fruition, but at the same time I’m eager to put this plan into action!
  • Centering anti-racism in my STEM leadership. As STEM Director, I set the agenda and focus for our STEM Board meetings and activities for the year. I’m eager to move some great conversations we started last year into tangible actions to broaden participation in STEM at Carleton, and more importantly to ensure STEM at Carleton is a space where all can thrive. I’ll spend a good chunk of today finalizing our agenda for the year — which is really the culmination of a lot of hard work that the STEM Program Manager and I put in this summer to get to this point.

Admittedly those last two activities don’t exactly scream “strike”. But I see them as foundational to the work I want to do this year to change the systems I participate in. And as someone with some power and privilege in those spaces, I want to be clear in how my intentions manifest into actions. In that respect, the activities fit the spirit of the strike, and thus I feel comfortable spending time doing that necessary work.

If you haven’t been participating in, or paying attention to, the #ScholarStrike, I encourage you to do so today. Take advantage of the incredible educational videos made by academics. Follow along on your favorite (or most tolerated) social media platform. Follow the links, watch, listen, and learn. Educate yourself on what’s happening in your local communities around race and policing. And then, find a way to take action, to put into practice what you’ve learned, to make our systems and our spaces anti-racist.

Planning for Fall (a story in pictures)

I’m overwhelmed.

Fall term classes don’t start for another week and a half, and I’m already at the stage where I’m semi-catatonic by the end of the work day. (Yesterday I gave up and took a nap. At 4:30pm.)

This time of year is usually full to the brim anyway — the mad rush to finalize the syllabi, helping advisees navigate changes in their schedules, setting priorities for the year for STEM at Carleton, meetings meetings meetings (and, hey, more meetings!), … the list goes on. This year, it’s that … times a thousand.

Yesterday as I navigated through various windows and apps on my laptop, I marveled at the juxtaposition between my “normal” workflow of preparing for the term and the additional preparations for a pandemic term. At the end of the day, I took some screenshots of some of the apps and sites I used throughout the day, to put together a mini photo-essay highlighting a “day in the life” of a professor preparing for the upcoming COVID-influenced term.

  • Checklist containing items to complete for preparing a course for the start of the term.
  • Mind map of a computer networks course.
  • Backward design worksheet with learning outcomes and evidence.
  • Class meeting times schedule.
  • Moodle landing page with course listings
  • Screen shot of part of the faculty COVID-19 FAQs
  • Teaching toolkit, pandemic edition: iPad, pencil, headset

(I did, however, spare you the screenshots of the multiple Zoom meetings I’ve participated in over the past few days. And of the firehose of emails. And of the various ways my family interrupted me mid-meetings. You’re welcome.)

Looking at these pictures, it strikes me that even though everything seems completely out of whack, the basic things I do to prepare for a term — wrangle with Moodle, finalize my learning outcomes, assemble my teaching toolkit — remain largely unchanged. The details may look different, but the broader strokes resemble what used to pass for normal. And that provides me with a teeny bit of comfort as I head into what promises to be a strange and stressful term.

How does preparing for the upcoming term/semester look for you? What new things are juxtaposed into your normal workflow?