Teach-in Mission Statement:

Susquehanna University’s MLK Teach-in is an effort to model civil discourse and to promote the work of justice, affirming the rights of all to dignity, equity, and inclusion. The Teach-in is also meant to cultivate brave spaces: spaces in which conflict or disagreement can emerge but these moments are treated as opportunities to share authentically, listen actively, and engage respectfully without putting up harmful defenses, issuing dangerous generalizations, or creating us/them barriers that prevent learning. In accordance with the university’s statement on Diversity and Inclusiveness, we will include sessions that represent the breadth of human experiences and that demonstrate the critical awareness “of the ways power and privilege influence practices, processes, and relationships.” Each Teach-in session is intended to be participatory, committed to fostering engagement and open dialogue. 

January 28, 2021

Will the Real MLK Please Stand Up? Misappropriations of Dr. King by the Right and the Left

Jeffrey Mann, professor and chair of religious studies; respondent, Nick Clark, associate professor and chair of political science

In this presentation, I will examine what I believe to be misappropriations of the teachings of MLK by the right and the left. As a cultural paragon of virtue in our society, Martin Luther King Jr. functions as a tremendous legitimizing authority on all things related to race. Interestingly, both the left and the right draw upon his words to support their beliefs regarding how America should move forward with regard to race. While their respective citations are legitimate and do reflect the politics and ethics of the civil rights icon, they are often incomplete. The right often repeats that most famous phrase from his I Have a Dream speech regarding the content of our character. However, this is often used to justify slow-moving gradualism, which King so clearly rejected. On the left, the favorite quotations are often drawn from the end of his career, when frustration led him to a bolder rhetoric. However, these must still be balanced by the theology and ethics he expressed throughout his life, as found in works like Strength to Love. We can all do better than cherry-picking MLK quotes to support our own views.

 

Science and Ethics: A Discussion of the Development and Equitable Distribution of COVID Vaccines

Peggy Peeler, professor of biology; Tammy Tobin, professor and chair of biology; Carlos Iudica, associate professor of biology; and Antonio Rockwell, assistant professor of biology

The Department of Biology will lead a session on the science and ethics underlying the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. We will present some of the basic science about the types of vaccines that have been approved and are under development, discuss the testing and approval process, and then consider how the vaccines are being distributed both internationally and domestically, and how that distribution process affects vulnerable populations. We will also consider why certain populations, such as communities of color in the U.S., may harbor concerns about taking the vaccine.

 

Practical Conversation Skills for Talking Politics with Family, Friends and Strangers

Betsy Verhoeven, associate professor of English and creative writing and assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; and Malcolm Derk, director of grants and foundation relations and interim chief of staff

The polarization of American politics gets a lot of news time these days. Studies show that there is a growing divide between the values of America’s two major parties, and that there is growing animosity on both sides toward members of the other side. We believe that this polarization keeps us from having productive discussion on public policies promoting social and racial justice. We also know from experience that this political polarization keeps us from having productive interpersonal conversations with our friends and family members, conversations that would otherwise help us increase our commitment “to affirming the rights of all to dignity, equity and respect” (to borrow a phrase from the teach-in mission statement). Our workshop will borrow from the depolarization organization Braver Angels to teach some communication strategies shown to reduce divisiveness; help people on both sides find ways to better understand each other so they can work together; and address when to employ these skills and when other forms of communication would be better.

  

Give Us the Ballot: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Importance of Voting

Shari Jacobson, associate professor of anthropology; Emma Fleck, associate professor of management and marketing; and Miranda Carrasquillo, coordinator of the Johnson Center for Civic Engagement 

Give Us the Ballot is part of a 1957 speech by Martin Luther King Jr. advocating voting rights for African Americans in the United States. At Susquehanna University, many faculty and staff have been raising awareness of the importance of voting for many years. SU’s Achieve, Lead, Vote initiative was launched in 2019 as a way to support students through educating, encouraging and supporting the need to vote as young Americans.

Dr. Shari Jacobson, Dr. Emma Fleck and Miranda Carrasquillo will present the relationship between voting and justice, and how Susquehanna University supports students to best exercise their right to vote. They will also address how Martin Luther King Jr.’s work on voting influenced social justice movements outside the United States. They will show some of MLK’s speeches and host a discussion for the participants.

 

The Economic Impact of COVID-19: An International Perspective

Katarina Keller, associate professor of economics; and Lyudmyla Ardan, assistant professor of economics

In this session, we explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countries around the world. More specifically, we examine the economic damage of the pandemic by focusing on changes in economic growth, poverty rates, and disruptions in trade patterns. We also discuss various fiscal and monetary policies implemented across the world aimed at mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic.

Fracking and Eco-Racism

Drew Hubbell, associate professor of English; and Amanda Maull, visiting assistant professor of sociology

We will propose that environmental racism is central to understanding racial and social inequality and discuss the environmental racism of the fossil fuel industry as a foundational example. Dr. Hubbell will use Rob Nixon's Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor to explain environmental racism. Dr. Maull will illustrate this concept using her research on fracking in Pennsylvania. This session uses a case study in our backyard–one in which the SU community is implicated since we use fracked gas for our heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). We hope to lead participants to consider using environmental justice as a rhetorical strategy for dismantling systemic racism that would garner the greatest consensus and least division.

 

The Economic Impact of COVID-19: An International Perspective

Katarina Keller, associate professor of economics; and Lyudmyla Ardan, assistant professor of economics

In this session, we explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countries around the world. More specifically, we examine the economic damage of the pandemic by focusing on changes in economic growth, poverty rates and disruptions in trade patterns. We also discuss various fiscal and monetary policies implemented across the world aimed at mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic.

 

At the Intersection of Identity and Shared Humanity

Michael Dixon, chief inclusion and diversity officer 

Often when individuals get together for the first time, they employ factors some call “first date syndrome,” centering the discussion around topics deemed “safe.” It is usually only after a period of time does comfort settle in and individuals are able to be real with each other. This initial session will allow people to share various aspects of their identity to show how much we really have in common instead of focusing on our differences.

 

Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy Theories and History: A "New" Kind of Anti-Semitism?

Maria Carson, interim director of Jewish life; and Rev. Scott Kershner, university chaplain

This session will address contemporary forms of anti-Semitism as they have been manifesting in online and IRL spaces connected with conspiracy theories. Outright anti-Semitism and less overt anti-Semitism in the QAnon movement and the antivaxx movement will be discussed. The talk will include information about the historical roots of anti-Semitic tropes in these movements, with an emphasis on blood libel and extreme Christian supersessionist theology.

An Interactive Workshop to Explore our Interconnected World

Derek Martin, sustainability coordinator

Our world is connected in obvious and subtle ways, but we tend to view events, issues and movements as singular phenomenon. This tendency clouds our ability to fully understand and meaningfully address our largest contemporary challenges. This interactive workshop will engage participants by providing them with sets of three disparate words they will be tasked to connect. An example would be pollution, police and health. Small groups will receive 3-4 sets of words to work on and will then share insights with the entire group. This workshop can be done either in person, via Zoom or a hybrid model.

  

Voices of African Americans: The One Thing White People Can Do To Be More Inclusive

Stacey Pearson-Wharton, dean of health and wellness and director of the Counseling Center 

After the George Floyd murder and the subsequent civil unrest, there was significant awakening about white privilege and allyship. Serious consideration was given to how to be anti-racist, including the appropriate actions, processes and thoughts. After interviewing more than 55 people for the podcast Being the Dot, Stacey Pearson-Wharton will report on what African Americans believe is the one thing that white people can do to be more anti-racist and make their environments more inclusive.

  

Science and Ethics: A Discussion of the Development and Equitable Distribution of COVID Vaccines

Peggy Peeler, professor of biology; Tammy Tobin, professor and chair of biology; Carlos Iudica, associate professor of biology; and Antonio Rockwell, assistant professor of biology 

The Department of Biology will be leading a session on the science and ethics underlying the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. We will present some of the basic science about the types of vaccines that have been approved and are under development, discuss the testing and approval process, and then consider how the vaccines are being distributed both internationally and domestically, and how that distribution process affects vulnerable populations. We will also consider why certain populations, such as communities of color in the U.S., may harbor concerns about taking the vaccine. 

 

Stalled on a Higher Plateau

Ed Slavishak, professor of history; and Anna Andes, associate professor of theatre and women's studies coordinator

This session will cover voting rights, voter suppression, and the story of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as the historical background of the VRA, and how it functioned for four decades before its dismantling in 2013 by the Supreme Court. Participants will also learn about Ruth Anna Buffalo and the suppression of Native American voters in the Dakotas, and why it’s not just the African American community suffering the fallout after 2013.

Imagining the “Other” Representation — Politics and Poetics

Matt Duperon, associate professor of religious studies; and John Bodinger de Uriarte, associate professor of anthropology

We will discuss how visual representations of marginalized groups shape cultural understandings of those groups. Dr. Duperon will focus on what Jane Iwamura has called “virtual Orientalism,” and how representations of “Eastern spirituality” in TV and film use seemingly positive depictions to domesticate the exotic and render it subordinate to mainstream Western culture. Dr. Bodinger will focus on visual anthropology and how images and image-making (both of and by marginalized people) contribute to public understandings of race and difference.

 

Moving Towards Justice and Reconciliation

Amy Davis, student diversity and inclusion program coordinator; and Hilario Lomelí, visiting assistant professor of education

2020 has undone us all, intensifying already-existing violent and hierarchical processes and policies. Yet, the brunt of these forces, like in every other era in U.S. history, has been unevenly experienced by the most vulnerable and precarious among us. The pervasive neoliberal model that undergirds much of the country continues to insist upon production, labor and profit despite mass dispossession, exploitation and even death. Within this scalding and uncaring cauldron of U.S. society, how can institutions of higher education like SU better build a more equitable, diverse and nourishing campus and community? Many corporations and government institutions have made public overtures to do diversity and equity differently, but most continue down the tired path of representation and identity, rather than the more difficult work of (un)learning, redistribution and institutional and structural change. Moving toward justice and reconciliation and away from the chaos of 2020 will only be possible by confronting difficult truths with intentional conversation and change.

 

Ethiopia’s Shadow: Towards a New American Canon

Jordan Randall Smith, visiting assistant professor of music; and Jennifer Sacher Wiley, associate professor of music

The music of composers such as Duke Ellington, Florence Price and Margaret Bonds reflects successful conscious integrations of Black and European musical traditions. Each composer found a path to reflect their unique voices, tastes and perspectives. Yet, the American classical stage has not been a historically welcoming place for BIPOC composers. Existing problems of canon formation, entrenchment, and the so-called great man theory of history are rendered tenfold more powerful by institutional inertia and institutionalized racism, leaving some of our nation’s best composers on the sidelines to this day. Prof. Smith will offer programming tools and techniques which radio stations, concert halls and classrooms can use to build equity for some of the neglected composers of the past, as well as make space for the bounty of living composers still yearning to be heard.

 

Using Your Influence to Change the Culture

Christiana Paradis, coordinator of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center

If we want to establish a more just society, we need to challenge the social systems we are a part of on a daily basis, that includes the ones we live and work in. Whether it is higher education, a corporation or a nonprofit organization, the ability to work within and change social systems is a skill that will be applicable to all. This presentation will give students the opportunity to practice organizational skills while clarifying common pitfalls within social justice movements. It will contribute to the leadership field by engaging students to think critically about what intersectional leadership looks like and how to most effectively organize and contribute to movements focused on reducing oppression. This dialogue is particularly necessary because we are living in the midst of simultaneous movements including but not limited to racial justice (#BlackLivesMatter), sexual violence (#MeToo), women’s rights and climate justice.