July 17, 2019 | 92° F

RATERO: Critical conversations occur during collaborative teach-ins

Opinions Column: Mangoes and Revolution


The group of students, Reclaim Revolution has been organizing to put together a teach-in to talk about issues pertaining to the University. But why do we need this? What is a teach-in?

A teach-in aims to create an environment in which engaged students, faculty, staff and members of the community can come together and learn from each other. Usually people discuss topics that media, classes and administration leave unaddressed or inappropriately addressed.

Rutgers is our home, and for many of us the pride runs deep. For many of us those feelings of pride and belonging are sullied with mixed emotions of hurt, guilt, anger, disappointment and impotence. As part of the “revolutionary” Rutgers 250 anniversary celebrations, the mainstream administration is deliberately leaving out many narratives.

Chancellor Richard L. Edwards has informed the Rutgers community about the formation of The Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations, and the Task Force on Inclusion and Community Values. At the moment, four months into this “special” year it has been up to departments, different centers and organizations on campus to talk about histories that have been swept under the rug for far too long.

Rutgers University is named after Henry Rutgers. Rutgers was a slaveowner and member of the American Colonization Society. Old Queens was built on Lenni-Lenape land, currently one of three tribes in New Jersey who still cannot get federal recognition. The building that used to be Queens College was built with slave labor.

Many of the changes for the better over the past 50 years have slowly started to transform Rutgers into the inclusive institution for self-exploration, research and knowledge it should be — thanks to students. Students who have protested and made their voices heard much to the chagrin of University administrators. I think back to Dr. Felicia McGinty, followed by President Robert L. Barchi, chiding student activists during the #NoRice movement in Spring 2014.

Today, the core curriculum makes it possible for people to drift through their undergraduate experience without taking a single ethnic studies, language or gender or sexualities studies course. Yes, the budget for the cultural centers has increased. Yes, incoming first year students that attend New Student Orientation debrief about sexual violence, the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities' Language Matters Campaign, SCREAM Theater, and Health Outreach, Promotion and Education (H.O.P.E.). Unfortunately, this does not seem to have a lasting impact on much of the student body.

No Africana Studies courses fulfill the School of Arts and Sciences' core curriculum requirements. For many students this means that when it comes to choosing a major, minor or simply exploring other material, they are more likely to choose an easy elective that will allow them to graduate on time than well, not.

How can people graduate learning exclusively about white men? How can people continue to refute the solid statistics about sexual assault on campus? Why do my friends continue to explain to me that I exaggerate sexual harassment everywhere I go? How is it possible for people to get through college and continue to ignore world injustice and inequality?

Teach-ins pose the opportunity to acquire knowledge outside of the curriculum, often times knowledge that administration or powers-that-be would rather weren’t discussed. Lesley-Ann Contreras, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore from Reclaim Revolution said, “I believe that teach-ins are super important in educating people who are curious about certain movements but don't know the ins and outs about what's going on. They serve as a platform for organizations and groups to explain their point of views on issues they're fighting in a peaceful and open space to an audience that is willing to listen- which is key to educating.”

These are all conversation well worth having: Conversations we will not find in the traditional classroom.

The truth of the matter is that we will not protect what we do not care about, we will not care about what we do not understand and we will not understand what we never learn or never feel.

We are a coalition of different individuals and groups working on activism on campus because we understand that we need to have conversations about these issues. We need to strategize on ways to hold our university accountable and provide the inclusive and diverse environment they love to advertise on flyers but that we don’t see enough of. We will talk about colonialism, neoliberalism and past and present activism — these are all conversations you don’t want to miss.

Becky Ratero is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women's and gender studies and history. Her column, "Mangoes and Revolution," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Becky Ratero

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