Cal State Long Beach professors will be hosting a series of “teach-ins” this semester in response to concerns surrounding the rhetoric and actions of the country’s new president, Donald J. Trump.
Titled Reclaiming Democracy, the four part series will be spaced out over a span of three months and touch on topics including immigration, religious beliefs, fascism, the first amendment and civil rights movements.
The series was conceived after multiple discussions among faculty members in the school’s Liberal Arts college, all of whom felt the need to take these lessons outside of the classroom setting and into the public sphere.
Starting Tuesday January 31, alternating departments will provide guest speakers from within the CSULB faculty that will lead the “teach-ins. The programs will be held outside the student bookstore at the university’s speaker platform and will generally consist of about 30 minutes of instruction from a faculty member before participants break off into splinter-groups to have more intimate conversations.
The first installment will focus on race, gender, immigration and religious beliefs—all issues that have been inflamed by the president during the campaign leading up to his November victory, and in his first week as President of the United States.
The university, like multiple other entities in California, including the State legislature, have taken stances to counter Trump’s immigration reforms, vowing to protect their students from deportation, specifically those granted temporary immunity from former-President Barack Obama under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.
A teach-in scheduled for Wednesday, February 22 will focus on fascism and its historical rise, its policy components and its recent rise both domestically and in Europe. The April 19 teach-in will center on the efforts of activist organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and local groups like the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and Black Lives Matter.
The third installment scheduled for March 21 will speak to journalism’s role in democracy, the use of social media and the freedom of speech. Journalism Department professor Chris Burnett said the series is a logical extension of what these professors are already teaching in the classroom, but now they’ll be projected to the campus at large as these departments try to inform the student body about the impact of the 2016 election.
“It’s not just the predictable places like journalism or political science, but Asian-American studies, international studies, philosophy, sociology, gender studies,” Burnett said of the participating faculty members. “I think there’s a lot of grave concern and even fear of what is going to happen.”
While extra instructional time is probably not something that will entice students to turn out for the series, free pizza is. That is something that will be provided at Tuesday’s teach-in, which starts at noon. Burnett recalled his college days in the 1970s when student activism and political engagement was much more prevalent than with contemporary college students.
However, he pointed to the women’s marches across the country as a sign that maybe the tide has shifted with this generation’s willingness to be involved with politics. Burnett cautioned though, that this series is not meant to be an indoctrination by any means, merely an opportunity to provide facts to students to better equip them to have informed opinions.
“Somebody else asked me what if you’re a conservative student should you come? I say, ‘Hell yes, come,’” Burnett said. “Because when you’re 18, 19, 20 years old you want to have your mind open and know all the different points of view and I think this will be an opportunity. You can agree with the president on some issues and disagree with the president on some issues, but the key is information so people can make up their mind.”
Note: a previous version of this article inaccurately stated Chris Burnett is the chair of the Journalism Department. He is a professor.