U of Pitt asks professors to 'symbolically cancel classes' to attend a Black Study Initiative

  • The University of Pittsburgh is asking professors to "symbolically 'cancel' classes," in order for students to attend a Black Study Initiative event.
  • The event will feature performances, poetry readings, and movie screenings designed to produce “spaces of empathy."

The University of Pittsburgh is inviting professors to cancel classes to engage in “Collective Action and Rebellion” and attend a week-long Black Study Initiative.

The Center of African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) will host a week-long conference featuring performances, poetry readings, and movie screenings designed to produce “spaces of empathy" and is asking faculty at the university to "symbolically 'cancel' classes" for the week-long event, according to the university website.

"During the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, faculty from across Pitt are invited to symbolically 'cancel' classes for a Black Study Intensive—a week in which the Center of African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) will hold virtual performances and creative sessions open to any discipline and the general public," the university website states.

"During the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, faculty from across Pitt are invited to symbolically 'cancel' classes..."   

According to the event's description, the CAAPP will "will hold virtual performances and creative sessions open to any discipline and the general public."

“We want to do something for faculty to help them anchor their thinking around what it might mean to ‘do’ Black study. It’s not just sitting around reading a book,” said Dawn Lundy Martin, director and co-founder of the CAAPP. “This gives us an opportunity to be in conversation about this particular moment through the arts. And it gives us a way to come together in some way that we wouldn’t have been able to do before.”

[Related: Students earn credit for 'organizing' for 'social justice']

“Empathy is one thing that makes society great and it’s a challenge for us right now,” said Martin. “Creativity helps one to step into those spaces of empathy. And as a poet—you have to do that in order to step outside yourself. It has to feel real.”

“Especially lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that we as Black people engage with poetry and poetics as a space of imagination, rebellion and resistance,” featured performer Jerome Ellis said. “I was really drawn to the interdisciplinary spirit of the Black Study Intensive. Knowing that it was being hosted and envisioned by CAAPP, that made me really excited. These are ‘my people.’”

The National Association of Scholars' Chance Layton told Campus Reform that the event is an "effective" supplement to social justice programs on campus.

“[T]his is a very effective academic supplement to social justice initiatives on campus,” Layton said. “Especially if the university's intended goal is to produce activists.”

[Related: Cornell students compile massive list of courses on race and racism]

“I want to know [if professors] are encouraged to 'cancel' classes, or actually cancel classes? It is not right for professors to feel pressured to actually cancel their classes for these events. Students are paying for an education, these events supplement that at best, but they shouldn't replace that education.”

Campus Reform reached out to Martin and the University of Pittsburgh for comment but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Arik_Schneider



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Arik Schneider
Arik Schneider | California Senior Campus Correspondent

Arik Schneider is a California Senior Campus Correspondent and reports liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. He attends University of California, Los Angeles.

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