Reclaiming higher education, with Barbara Ransby

The student intifada is growing across the world, demanding that university administrations and lawmakers stop facilitating and funding the genocide in Palestine.

In the US, state violence against students and faculty has been deployed and encouraged by university officials, intent on destroying the movement.

“The violent reaction and the violent suppression of these peaceful protests have just been utterly outrageous, and it serves to bolster the determination of a lot of the organizers,” Barbara Ransby, a scholar, writer and longtime activist tells us on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

“While some of the encampments have been shut down, I don’t think that the commitment that those young people had has been shut down – and in some ways, their eyes have been opened even wider of how important this issue is and what extreme measures elites will take to enforce silence around it,” she says.

Ransby is the John D. MacArthur University chair and distinguished professor in the Departments of Black Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies and History at the University of Illinois Chicago.

She is the author of several books, including Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision and Making All Black Lives Matter: Re-imagining Freedom in the 21st Century.

She talks about the corporatization of US universities and the financial stakes educational institutions covet at the expense of their students and social justice issues.

And we discuss the role of faculty in protecting their students’ rights and against growing authoritarianism on campuses.

The crackdown on protesters has “opened the eyes of faculty on these campuses,” Ransby says.

For example, on 15 May, University of California-Irvine’s chancellor Howard Gillman called hundreds of riot police to campus to shut down the student encampment. Nearly 50 people were arrested, including Professor Tiffany Willoughby-Herard of the global studies department.

Willoughby-Herard spoke to television cameras during her arrest:

“These police officers out here today, that’s thousands of students’ scholarships. Thousands of students could have been able to go to school and have books and have housing. But instead, our chancellor, who is a very cruel man, decided to send thousands of dollars worth of state funding paid for by the taxpayers into the trash,” Willoughby-Herard said as she was being dragged away by cops.

“What job do I have if the students don’t have a future?,” Willoughby-Herard said.

Watch the entire podcast episode with Barbara Ransby at the top of this post, or listen via SoundCloud below.

Video production by Tamara Nassar

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thank you very much for the conversation with dr. ransby. i picked up her book eslanda at the uchicago encampment's refaat alareer free library. we are neighbors. you give us a message of sanity and solidarity and community.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).