Aug 052020
 
 August 5, 2020

The membership education sub-group of the Anti-Discrimination Working Group works to empower every steward and organizer in our union to facilitate anti-racism and prison abolition conversations and generate racial justice demands in their department. Our desired outcome is to have a membership that is well-educated about how to overcome racism within and across departments by the time contract negotiations take place.

Third Thursdays Workshops

The Membership Education group develops ongoing anti-racist workshops that run on the third Thursday of every month, beginning October 15. These are open to all Academic Student Employees, Postdocs, and other UW students. Find more information about upcoming sessions and RSVP here!

Our current and future actions include:

  • Gathering information from stewards and organizers about what their departments are doing around anti-racism
  • Developing materials for workshops for stewards and organizers, to give practical skills/materials on how to facilitate anti-racism and organizing conversations in their departments
  • Hosting workshops for stewards and organizers
  • Supporting stewards and organizers in hosting their own workshops in their departments

Informational interviews conducted in July with a small sample of stewards and organizers across the university were synthesized and summarized, with the following main takeaways and recommendations:

Initial Takeaways

  • It is not accurate to assume the current status of anti-racist efforts or climate depending on departmental stereotypes (i.e., certain STEM fields might be “doing better” than certain social science fields that one might assume are more attuned to these issues)
  • The presence of a diversity (or similar) committee is not necessarily indicative of actionable efforts in the department (e.g., trainings, accountability, anti-racist curriculum) that are perceivable to doctoral students. In fact, half of the diversity committees respondents were aware of (from the personal conversations held) were noted to be actually harmful/problematic. 
  • While individuals across departments may have the desire or mindset to contribute to anti-racist efforts, a common theme is a focus on conversations and performative showings of support without substantive shifts, actionable follow-up, or accountability. It is not clear if this is due to institutional barriers, a lack of individual capacity, or a lack of knowledge of specific tools, strategies, and necessary next steps to support this work.
  • Some respondents indicated not being comfortable bringing up racist microaggressions with their PIs/supervisors and others indicated the presence of faculty explicitly hostile to anti-racism or equity focused efforts. 
  • No respondent was aware of a reporting/accountability mechanism to address micro/macro-aggressions when escalation is necessary. (Please note — we have strong protections and a robust grievance procedure under our union contract for dealing with these issues!)
  • Recruitment of BIPOC faculty and students was mentioned by many as a priority at the University and departmental level, but this was coupled with prioritizing the need to support BIPOC faculty/students (through funding, mentorship, training) once they are here.
  • Priorities for students included cross-departmental coalition building, trainings on disrupting racism as a TA/instructor, providing support both within and outside of departments, and establishing transition plans so organizing efforts are not lost as cohorts graduate.