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Innovating to Dismantle Systems of Oppression
Innovating to Dismantle Systems of Oppression

For the past several months, a group of PSU academic professionals, part of a cohort with the Office of Academic Innovation, has been gathering to discuss and enact change regarding on one of PSU’s most critical mandates, community-based learning. The group represents a cross-section of PSU departments, including Applied Linguistics, Environmental Science and Management, Social Work, Public Health, and University Studies.

They’ve been engaged in vital work, in particular, and in keeping with calls for the deeper implementation of an equity lens at PSU, to look at ways that they could support and expand service learning opportunities and scholarship that pivot from charity-based work to focusing on actively dismantling systems of oppression.

In guiding their work, they developed a series of goals for this anti-oppression service learning, specifically that students:

  • Develop analytical tools for transformation that are critical of the status quo and ultimately challenge unjust structures and oppressive institutions.
  • Engage in a curriculum that incorporates history, data and personal stories that not only highlight diversity, but challenge power relationships and systemic injustice;
  • Are involved in the development of both skills and their own identity, as agents of change; and,
  • Continue activism after their graduation.

As educators, we have goals, too, as we:

  • Actively interrogate, challenge and transform systems of inequity.
  • Question the power of the University and its educators.
  • Welcome community partners into the classroom as equals and experts of their own experience.
  • Engage the students in a reflective practice that encourages them to interrogate their own place within systems of oppression, their identity and sense of empowerment in changing systems of oppression.

Each participant in the OAI cohort has been examining their own work to determine how best to integrate these goals. For some, they’ve transformed a class they’re teaching. Others have worked to expand the work of equity within their relationships with their community partners. Still others are working to develop research scholarship that will expand upon these goals and their own anti-oppression work. Coming in the fall of 2017, the group will share all of this work with the university community. Stay tuned!

By Kristin Teigen