Lessons in Liberation: Contemporary Abolition & Knox College in the Twenty-First Century

A faculty development workshop

December 6th and 7th 2023

Last year, we explored the relationship of Knox’s founders to abolition from a historical perspective. This year, we explore the legacy of abolitionism. Over two days, faculty at this workshop will learn more about the contemporary abolitionist movement and how we might reckon with abolitionism within our professional work and teaching.

Pre-workshop readings:

For everyone:

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2020. 25-74, 221-274.

American Association of Colleges and Universities, “High Impact Practices” https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact 

Critical Resistance, “What is Abolition?”

Erica R. Meiners, “Abolition: One Genealogy” in  Lessons in Liberation: An Abolitionist Toolkit for Educators by The Education for Liberation Network & Critical Resistance Editorial Collective (Chico, CA: AK Press, 2021). 43-46.

Track 1: Police & Prison Abolition

Bring: 1) a laptop on Day 2; and 2) a course or course unit that you’d like to work on

Paul Perry, “Death of a Street-Gang Warrior

Erica R. Meiners “Fierce Urgency of Now” (4 pgs)

ATOM Fire & Project Nia on How to Share Space (63-73), in Lessons in Liberation

Nyki KishPreconceived Notions” (269-270) in Turning Teaching Outside: A Pedagogy of Transformation for Community-based Education. Barbara Roswell and Simone Weil Davis, editors

Maldonado and Meiners “Due Time” (69 – 92).

Track 2: Making Civic Engagement

Bring a laptop on Day 2!

Lewis, Tammy L. “Service Learning for Social Change? Lessons from a Liberal Arts College.” Teaching Sociology 32, no. 1 (2004): 94–108. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3211350

Kelley, Jacob, and Ashley N. Watson. “Shaping a Path Forward: Critical Approaches to Civic Education in Tumultuous Times.” In Transformative Civic Education in Democratic Societies, edited by Tetyana Hoggan-Kloubert, Paul E. Mabrey, and Chad Hoggan, 43–52. Michigan State University Press, 2023. https://doi.org/10.14321/jj.4303808.10.

Track 3: Abolition Thinking and Curricular Principles

Bring: a laptop on Day 2; and 2) a syllabus that you would like to review with an eye towards building an inclusive classroom.

McNair, T.B., Bensimon, E.M. and Malcom-Piqueux, L. (2020). “Building Capacity for Equity-Mindedness among First-Generation Equity Practitioners.” In From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, edited by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsay Malcom-Piqueux, 101-117. Wiley & Sons, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119428725.ch5 


Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

8:30 – Breakfast (Evelyn Handler Forum, Alumni Hall)

9:00-10:30 – An Introduction to Contemporary Abolition (Trustees’ Room)

  • Welcome
  • Historicizing Contemporary Abolition (led by Jen Andrella)
  • Key Terms in Contemporary Abolition (led by Leanne Trapedo Sims)
  • Reflecting on pre-workshop readings (led by Danielle Steen Fatkin)

10:30-10:45 – Coffee Break

10:45-12:15 – Higher Education and the Carceral State (Trustees’ Room)

  • A Brief History of Prisons, Surveillance, and the Panopticon (led by Greg Gilbert)
  • Complicating the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” (led by Mary Lyons)
  • College and the Carceral State (led by Jonah Rubin)

12:15-1:30 – Lunch (Evelyn Handler Forum)

1:30-3:00 – The Honor Code: Liberatory? Punitive? A conversation (Trustees’ Room)

3:00-3:15 – Break

3:15-3:45 – High Impact Practices at Knox (Trustees’ Room)

3:45-4:45 – Meet your Breakout Group

  • Track 1: Police / Prison abolition (ALUM 117)
  • Track 2: Making Civic Engagement (Trustees’ Room)
  • Track 3: Abolition Thinking and Curricular Principles (ALUM 115)

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

8:30 – Breakfast (Evelyn Handler Forum, Alumni Hall)

9:00-10:30 – Part I

  • Track 1: Police / prison abolition – Centering the Experiences of Returning Citizens (ALUM 117)
  • Track 2: Making Civic Engagement – Imagining Civic Engagement (Trustees’ Room)
  • Track 3: Curricular Engagement – Preparing for DEI Assessment (Abolition Lab, Library)

10:30-10:45 – Coffee Break

10:45-12:15 – Part II

  • Track 1: Police / prison abolition – Abolition in our Classrooms (ALUM 117)
  • Track 2: Making Civic Engagement – Designing Your Idea for Civic Engagement (Trustees’ Room)
  • Track 3: Curricular Engagement – What Is a Syllabus Audit for Inclusivity? (Abolition Lab, Library)

12:15-1:30 – Lunch (Evelyn Handler Forum)

1:30-2:45 – Part III

  • Track 1: Police / prison abolition – Implementing Change (ALUM 117)
  • Tracks 2: Making Civic Engagement – Implementation (Trustees’ Room)
  • Track 3: Articulating Knox’s Guiding Educational Principles in Light of Abolitionist Reflection (ALUM 115)

2:45-3:00 – Break

3:00-4:00 – Keynote: Erica R. Meiners, Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor, Northeastern Illinois University (Trustees’ Room)

Writer, educator and organizer, Erica R. Meiners’ current books include: For the Children? Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State (University of Minnesota 2016); a co-edited anthology The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Towards Freedom (Haymarket Press 2018); the co-authored Feminist and the Sex Offender: Confronting Sexual Harm, Ending State Violence (Verso 2020); and the co-authored Abolition. Feminism. Now.(Haymarket Press 2022). A Distinguished Visiting Scholar at a range of universities and centers – including Humbolt University (Germany), Trent University (Canada), CUNY Graduate Center, the Simone de Beauvoir Institute (Canada), and Chicago’s Leather Archives and Museum – Erica has published articles in a wide range of publications including In These Times, Social Text, Radical Teacher, Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Advocate, Harvard Educational Review, Boston Review. Their work has been recognized by awards including the 2015 Henry Trueba Award from the American Education Research Association, a 2016 Soros Justice Fellowship, the 2020 Noam Chomsky Award from the Justice Studies Association and other support from the Illinois Humanities Council, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and US Department of Education. The Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, Erica is a member of her labor union, University Professionals of Illinois, and they teach classes in education, gender and sexuality studies, and justice studies. Most importantly, Erica has collaboratively started and works alongside others in a range of ongoing mobilizations for liberation, particularly movements that involve access to free public education for all, including people during and after incarceration, and other queer abolitionist struggles. A member of Critical Resistance, the Illinois Death in Custody Project, the Prison+Neighborhood Arts / Education Project, and the Education for Liberation Network, Erica is a sci-fi fan, an avid runner, and a lover of bees and cats.