Students, faculty hold post-election teach-in

Students listen to talks at a teach-in by the Department of Education on Dec. 11. (Courtesy Sabina Vaught)

Students, faculty and community members held panel discussions and workshops focused on activism, particularly in the wake of the election of President-elect Donald Trump, as part of a teach-in in Paige Hall over the weekend.

The teach-in, which was sponsored by the Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, Department of Education and Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, featured more than 20 individual events over the course of two days, according to the event schedule.

On Saturday, the focus of the teach-in was “Building Solidarity,” and many of the speakers discussed histories of racism, Islamophobia and discrimination, according to the schedule. Several student groups, including Tufts Labor Coalition, Tufts Climate Action and Tufts United for Immigrant Justice, participated.

The teach-in’s theme on Sunday was “Building Knowledge, Skills and Resources,” and it featured events focused on strategies for activism, protest and resistance, according to the schedule.

One panel discussion, called “What does it mean to be a Student of Color in Trump’s America,” included a group of eighth grade students from KIPP Academy in Boston, who reflected on Trump’s electoral victory and how they plan to respond to it.

The discussion was moderated by Bryce Turner (LA ’15), the students’ history teacher. Turner drew parallels between the walk-out held by Boston high school students on Dec. 5 and the #TheThreePercent protests at Tufts last November, which Turner had helped organize.

“It’s really been important to me to not only be a student, not only be a teacher, but to also practice what you preach [and] to be committed to a lifelong journey of activism both in and out of the classroom,” Turner said.

After Turner’s opening remarks, his students discussed their outlooks following Election Day. Several of them explained that, after Trump’s victory, many students at their school worried that life could become more difficult. However, they said they hope to resist, in part through education.

In particular, a student named Aaliyah said she drew inspiration from Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks’ protest. Aaliyah explained that Colvin’s activism was notable because she was only 15 years old at the time.

“No matter what age you are, you can take a stand,” Aaliyah said.

Some of the students disagreed about whether they should feel hopeful about Trump’s presidency. A student named Camrine said that he is optimistic about the future and that people should give Trump a chance because, in the aftermath of the election, they have few other choices. However, Shelby, another student, argued that much of Trump’s rhetoric is unforgivable and worried that the progress marked by President Barack Obama‘s tenure will be reversed.

“On the day when [Trump] won the election, there was kind of a still silence … like a wave got flushed over you,” Shelby said.

Later, another group of students said that their view of the United States changed somewhat after Trump’s electoral victory because it revealed deeply-held prejudices that were previously not as visible.

Finally, the students said that they are determined to resist oppression in the future, particularly through education. One of the students emphasized that, in spite of the election, she will not allow Trump to dictate the course of her life.

At the end of the panel, the students took questions from the audience.