By now, all of us have heard about the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA, which erupted from a confrontation between white nationalists and a group of counter-protestors. The disturbing events started when alt-right protesters marched through the University of Virginia campus Friday night, carrying torches and, according to UVA’s president, Teresa Sullivan, “attempting to intimidate bystanders and spread their message of intolerance and hate.” The UVA community is working hard to support its members, as well as to strike a balance between supporting free speech while condemning hateful speech, bigotry, and attempts at intimidation. I am sure my colleagues at UVA’s teaching center are working hard to support faculty members who wonder how this will impact the start of their fall semester.
What might these events mean for us at IU Bloomington? I think the answers to that question can fall into two categories. First, while I hope that such a blatant example of racism and division doesn’t happen on our campus–even on a lesser scale–it’s important for us all to be ready to support our students and reinforce the values of Indiana University. You might consider reading two of our previous blog posts: Teaching through Disruptions and Teaching the Election and Other Hot Topics. Both posts suggest ways of addressing challenging classroom situations in ways that can be educationally relevant and beneficial.
Second, I encourage all IUB instructors to consider how the issues surrounding the Charlottesville incident can matter in your classes–whether your course content deals directly with issues of diversity, social justice, or freedom of speech; whether these issues are meaningful to the professions within your discipline; or whether you want to establish a learning environment that is supportive of all students, no matter their race, religion, or political views. Not all of our classes are good disciplinary fits for discussing what has happened in Charlottesville, but all of them are appropriate spaces for reinforcing–and modeling–the values upon which or university is based.
As we welcome students back to our campus and our classrooms, let’s do what we can to actively make IUB an environment that is safe and welcoming for all its members, so that they can rise to the educational challenges we put to them in our classes.
Lux et Veritas,