Helping our students see democracy in action : a letter from Jessica Greenberg

Dear Readers,

Working together for shared goals is part of the democratic process. It’s especially important when times are tough. Participating in efforts to create a faculty union helps build our campus community–and helps our students see and experience what participatory democracy is all about.  Have a look at this inspiring letter from Jessica Greenberg, Assistant Professor of Anthropology.
Harriet  Murav
President, CFA
Jessica Greenberg, Anthropology

There has been a lot of talk in the past few months about how important it is to model good citizenship for our students. By respecting each other and working together democratically here at the university, we also help our students to learn how to participate as responsible members of our community. For me, a faculty union isn’t about “choosing sides.” It’s about creating spaces in which we as educators—from the most junior to the most senior, from untenured to nontenure track-can truly feel free to participate in the life of our community.

Why is this important, now? Over the past few years, I’ve noticed an uptick in despair in the classroom. Students are worried: about the economy, about the environment, about their futures. Because I teach classes on youth activism and social movements, I can offer them some examples of democratic change and political alternatives. But more often than not these examples are far flung and remote. If students can’t learn that change is possible here at the university, where else will they learn it? If they can’t see democracy in action–with all its setbacks and its victories—where will they see it? And if modeling critical, democratic thinking and action for our students isn’t part of our mission as educators, whose mission could it possibly be? For me, joining a faculty union is about solidarity and equity. But it is also about bringing hope back to the classroom for ourselves and our students.

Jessica Greenberg

Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Published by Susan Davis

I teach in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois.

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