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Eastern faculty participate in nationwide Scholar Strike

Published on September 16, 2020

Eastern faculty participate in nationwide Scholar Strike

Professor and Department Chair of Political Science Martin Mendoza-Botelho. 
Professor and Department Chair of Political Science Martin Mendoza-Botelho. 

Several Eastern Connecticut State University professors recently participated in the Scholar Strike, a national movement created to educate and encourage conversations about racism in today’s political climate. The strike took place on Sept. 8 and 9, with six Eastern professors across multiple areas of study participating.

The strike was inspired by the actions of the Women’s National Basketball Association, the National Basketball Association, Colin Kaepernick and other athletes following the growing Black Lives Matter movement. The scholar strike was created by Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Kevin Gannon, professor of history at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Unable to organize a walkout due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the strike was organized instead to encourage discussions about racial injustice. Professors refrained from a normal teaching curriculum, and instead spend class time fostering conversations about racism, mass incarceration, policing and other symptoms of racism within the subject. Classes ranging from film to education to economics at Eastern covered the racist practices within each study.

Brian Day, professor of film, discussed the film industry with his students. “What are often referred to as the top 100 films of all time are films directed by white men,” says Day. “We talked about the lack of diversity in the Oscar Awards winners and nominees and the power structure this demonstrates to the industry and society.” Day also acknowledged that black filmmakers don’t get enough recognition in the history of film. “We discussed how students could be more proactive in their future careers and work to be anti-racist.”

Professor Sudha Swaminathan, professor and chair of the Education Department, didn’t have class during the strike due to Labor Day. However, she includes anti-racist material weekly in her classes. “Our goal is to deepen self-awareness of our own biases and to become more knowledgeable about the myriad ways to strengthen children and to advocate for change,” she said. “For instance, in week one, we read a New York Times article on the impact of racism on in-utero infants.”

Professor of Social Work Catina Caban-Owen participating in the Scholar Strike. 
Professor of Social Work Catina Caban-Owen participating in the Scholar Strike 

Other professors, like Economics Professor Brendan Cunningham, shared the idea of allyship with students. “I strive to listen, learn, show up and speak up when it comes to racial justice,” says Cunningham. “I believe that allyship has a vital role to play in making progress on racist policing, state violence against communities of color, mass incarceration and other manifestations of racism.”

Professor and Department Chair of Political Science Martin Mendoza-Botelho spoke of the conversation of racism in the country. “I agreed with the strike because I believe it is our duty as a higher-education institution to foster a genuine and honest dialogue, regardless of the personal views that individuals might have on issues related to class, race, social justice, the role of the government, etc.” He also noted that discussion and education is crucial to address the complex issues that impact our country. “I think that it is utterly important that we begin a constructive and well-informed dialogue on the complex ethnic and socio-economic relationships in our society.”

To learn more about the Scholar Strike and how other colleges and universities participated, visit:

Below are links to resources Eastern professors used during the strike: 



Written by Molly Boucher