Humanizing Institutional Relationships

“All of our work is about humanizing the workers, educators, culture workers,” says Carrie Neal. Neal is a faculty member at Parsons, administrator, artist, and member of the Faculty and Staff Learning Community (FSLC) Organizing Group.

Scholars and practitioners from Imaging America (IA) and the Staff Learning Community (FLSC) at The New School joined together to share experiences and learn from each other’s approaches to learning communities. The discussion merged roundtable sessions “Imagining America (IA): Cultural Organizing & Scholar Activism across Boundaries and the Faculty” and “Staff Learning Community (FLSC): Anti-Oppression Pedagogies in Action”.

Imagining America is a consortium founded 20 years ago that seeks to foster collaborative knowledge-making in public spaces. The consortium aims to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to push the boundaries of civic engagement in higher education. Kal Alston, Chair of Imaging America at Syracuse University, and Erica Kohl-Arenas, Faculty Director, Imagining America, University of California, Davis, were joined as co-facilitators by Carrie Neal, faculty at Parsons and a member of Faculty and Staff Learning Community Organizing Group. 

The objective of the FSLC Organizing Group at The New School is to bring together peer groups of faculty and administrative staff in dialogue about what it means to help faculty in anti-oppressive teaching. The initial discussion centered around familiarizing the participants with the work of these respective groups. The commonalities in the goals of Imagining America and the Faculty and Staff Learning Community soon became clear: both groups seek to form inclusive learning communities. 

Imagining America recently facilitated a nationwide webinar that brought together faculty and students to discuss violence in the classroom. This one-time session created a space as free of institutional power dynamics as possible to enable participants to share experiences through live readings, poetry, and more. The bravery of individuals sharing their stories has the ability to inspire others with similar experiences to tell their own. Through this approach, Imagining America seeks to create an architecture of social justice embedded within educational institutions. 

The Faculty and Staff Learning Community, in another manner, creates learning groups that similarly seek to promote institutional change from within. While Imagining America’s project was a one-off experience – a two-hour webinar – the FSLC hosts regular meetings to facilitate continuous dialogue. Both seek to challenge a system from within and to have a larger institutional impact beyond the groups.

The exchange that came out of the roundtable proved the importance of making communities that are built for inviting conversation, proving how such conversations can assist in humanizing relationships between teachers and students to challenge and resist systemic oppression from within institutions.

This article was written by Julie Juel Andersen. Julie is a student in the MA International Affairs program at The New School. Her concentration is conflict and security, and her research focuses on climate change security and cybersecurity.

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