Roland Chrisjohn is fasting to protest the teaching of a social work class.
The confirmation came after about a month of speculation. On Feb.1 Chrisjohn’s colleague released a social media post saying the Native Studies professor was going on a hunger strike. This week the professor confirmed the strike.
“I had to suspend it temporarily, to participate in a ceremony in remembrance of my mother (who died about a year ago) and my younger brother (who died on Jan. 5). I’m back on it now, however,” said Chrisjohn in an email.
The professor refused an interview with The Aquinian, saying there are more important issues he hopes the public focuses on.
“I’ve decided that in the “big” picture, the issues I’m having with STU are comparatively trivial. Real stories about indigenous people have to do with murdered and missing indigenous women, pipelines across Native lands, and the continued ideological assault on indigenous forms of life,” wrote Chrisjohn in an email. “I’m continuing my protest, but it’s just that– my protest. I’m not convinced anyone else should give two hoots about it.”
Chrisjohn is upset that another professor is teaching the course, and a grievance process was filed through the faculty association. The university said they did not speak to Chrisjohn directly about the issue, but the grievance process filed by the faculty association has been resolved.
“Dr. Chrisjohn has not communicated directly with us on this issue. To our knowledge he’s been teaching his classes. Fulfilling his responsibilities. A grievous filed by the faculty association has been settled,” said director of communications, Jeffrey Carleton. “However he has not communicated with us directly or through the faculty association. That requires any accommodation, or sick leave or anything of that nature.”
Carleton said the professor currently teaching the course had previously taught the social work course. He said the course and content were reviewed and approved by senate.
A petition was also circulated on Chrisjohn’s behalf but supporters stopped circulation before the March break. Organizers said they had over 250 signatures.
“We received the petition and we’ve seen the comments and things online. And while we respect the prerogative of the students to sign the petition,” said Carleton, “it’s a little bit frustrating to us because this was a course that was, the content was, approved by Senate. The highest academic body at the university which includes all representatives from all departments.”