Dozens of B.C. academics cancel classes in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement

·2 min read

After a summer marked by thousands of people across North America marching in the streets in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Canadian academics are showing their support for the cause by refusing to teach scheduled lessons in the first week of fall classes.

The Scholar Strike for Black Lives in Canada is a two-day demonstration by a group of academics who are cancelling their regular classes on Wednesday and Thursday and instead taking part in digital teach-ins by Black academics and activists.

According to the group's website, the idea came from U.S. professor Anthea Butler, who was inspired by basketball players' boycott of WNBA and NBA games and put out a call on social media for similar action from academics.

The goals of those participating include drawing attention to systemic injustice, pushing for the redistribution of resources from police budgets to social programs, removing police at post-secondary institutions, and the greater need for on-campus mental health supports.

Sara Ghebremusse, assistant professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, also hopes her participation sheds light on the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) on campuses.

"This is something I've seen across the university, from the senior levels of the administration to even the students who are admitted," she said Wednesday on CBC's The Early Edition.

Ghebremusse, who is the only Black faculty member at the law school on track for tenure, said if they're lucky enough to be admitted into the ranks of a university, Black professors are often tokenized and can face the additional burden of mentoring BIPOC students and fighting for institutional inclusion.

"Racism is about power. There are individuals who are in positions of power and they are the ones who have the resources and ability to actually effect change," said Ghebremusse.

In an open letter published online, UBC Faculty Association president Alan Richardson encouraged members to participate in the event.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

According to Dinah Holliday, co-president of the UBC chapter of the Black Law Students' Association, there were only four Black students total enrolled in law school at UBC last year — out of approximately 600 students.

The Scholar Strike is planned for this week because that is when most universities in North America start the fall semester.

More than 50 academics from B.C. are listed as participants. They include professors, lecturers, instructors and post-graduate students at Emily Carr University, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, Vancouver Community College, Thompson Rivers University, the University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the University of British Columbia.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.