Out d'Coup LIVE | Higher Ed Organizing During the Pandemic

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On tonight’s Out d’Coup LIVE, we’re talking higher education organizing during the coronavirus pandemic. As the beginning of the school year draws ever closer colleges, and universities have been struggling with how to go back-to-school and keep students, teachers, staff, and community members safe. I feel for the people who have to make these decisions at a time when the Federal government is almost completely devoid of help for colleges and universities - in terms of clear, transparent, and evidence-based guidelines on the one hand and financial assistance to enact necessary safety measures. To make matters worse, some university administrations have their heads in the sand, relying upon magical and wishful thinking. As you’ve heard me say before, my university, Kutztown University, is occupied by just such an administration.

The pandemic shutdown has also posed challenges for activists and organizers who have had to shift strategies and tactics as well. As regular listeners to Out d’Coup podcast know, last spring I began working with a group of students, faculty, staff, and community members on a project called the Healthy Campus Bill of Rights. The initial project set out to demand 1. A Healthy Working and Learning Environment; 2. Campus Investment in the Financial Health of Our Community; and, 3. Campus Infrastructure Changes to Meet the Challenges of the Climate Crisis. Now, the Healthy Campus Bill of Rights has shifted to deal with the most pressing issue before us: Kutztown University’s insistence on returning to face-to-face classes in the fall, despite rising coronavirus cases and the fact that 9 out of 14 PASSHE universities have gone to mostly online classes in the fall.

On tonight’s show, we’re talking to guests who are organizing in higher education in the middle of this pandemic. You are invited to join the conversation by calling in through the Podbean app. You can also comment through the app or on our live YouTube stream.

My guests tonight are:

Tabetha Bernstein-Danis: Tabetha is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Kutztown University. She is a delegate to APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly and the KU and state APSCUF Social Justice Committee Chair.

Dana Morrison: Dana is an Assistant Professor at the West Chester University of PA. She is the co-chair of APSCUF Social Justice committee at West Chester. And, she is a member of Public Higher Education Workers aka (PHEW). Public Higher Education Workers (PHEW) is a network of faculty, students, and staff working to organize for fully funded, free, liberatory public higher education.

Madeline Ochabilla: Madeline is a student at Villanova University and a regional organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops, USAS. She has worked on international solidarity campaigns, particularly campaigns that have aimed to hold big sports brands like Nike accountable to their factory workers who make collegiate apparel.

USAS is having a virtual summer conference on the weekend of August 22nd and August 23. It will be an opportunity for students to learn from different organizing workshops and will have the opportunity to connect with many other student organizers across the country. This conference is open to all students, not just USAS members. You can register at the USAS website: usas.org

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216 episodes