By Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer
Last week, UMass Dartmouth hosted Teach-In 2017, two days of lectures, discussions, and activities that created a space for the community to learn about and discuss the social issues of our time. The event was held on March 1 and 2.
“UMass Dartmouth’s Teach-In 2017 is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to come together as a community to learn from each other’s perspectives about important current issues,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeannette Riley. “We hope to help our students learn the value of dialogue to bridge differences and create positive social change.”
A diverse group of speakers included New Bedford’s YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) Executive Director Gail Fortes, anthropology professor Lisa Maya Knauer, and labor educator Camilo Viveiros.
Fortes talked about racism and help participants discover how it affects their lives, both consciously and unconsciously.
Knauer and Viveiros discussed key moments and issues in the history of organizing for social change, from the beginnings of the Massachusetts labor movement to recent protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.
“This event is designed to reaffirm the university’s strong support and deep commitment to the continued development and maintenance of an academic community in which the individual dignity and potential of each of its members are given full respect, recognition, and encouragement,” university officials said in a press release.
“The university strives to be an institution in which all may study, live, and work securely and productively in an atmosphere characterized by civility and openness.”
The main attractions were the Climbing PoeTree performance of spoken-word poetry on March 1 at 7 p.m. in the Main Auditorium and a closing event on March 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the Library Grand Reading Room.
Several all-day activities were held in the Campus Center, including an Instagram essay table. Visiting students were encouraged to take a photo of themselves or their surroundings, explain how diversity, privilege, or oppression has impacted their lives, and post it to Instagram using the hashtags #UmassDiversity and #InstagramEssay. The activity was organized by Prof. Lucas Mann of the English department.
“I’m so glad to have been a part of the Teach-In, and it was inspiring to see so many of my colleagues use their expertise to run panels on really important subjects,” said Mann.
“But we also wanted to make sure that student voices were a part of the conversation, as well. A platform like Instagram encourages self-expression, blending text and images, letting anyone frame and present something that they think is important in the world.”
Mann suggests that the project will continue even after the end of Teach-In.
“I’ve taught so many amazing writers here, and I thought it would be inspiring and informative to get their perspectives on diversity, oppression and privilege from their daily lives,” said Mann.
“The posts that we’ve gotten so far have been beautiful and thoughtful, but we’d love to see more. The nice thing about a hashtag is that it’s ongoing, so I don’t see this project ending this week. Hopefully it can keep building, and we can have new stories added indefinitely to the #InstagramEssay and #UmassDiversity hashtags.”