By Don McHoull
Well-known activist and social commentator Judy Rebick will be Ryerson’s first CAW Sam-Gindin Chair in Social Justice.
Rebick is the former president of the National Action Committee on the status of Women and the author of the book Imagine Democracy.
Traditionally, university chairs focus on conducting research, but Ryerson has other plans for Rebick.
“What we are asking Judy to do is something different,” said Colin Mooers, who was part of the search committee that chose Rebick.
“[We want her to] draw on the activist background that she comes from and bring as much as possible the energy and people involved in those movements into the university, and take what the university can offer back out into those communities.”
The Sam Gindin Chair is the first union endowed chair in Canadian history, funded by a $1 million donation from the Canadian Auto Workers union and a matching amount from Ryerson.
Holding Canada’s first union-endowed chair will be an exciting opportunity, Rebick said.
“The trend with universities is the opposite, to move in the direction of closer relations with the corporate world, not close relations with the unions and social justice world,” she said.
“To create a hub that provides an alternative to the corporate model of the university is a very exciting task. I think Ryerson is the perfect place to do that.”
Rebick plans to teach some classes next semester in the communications and culture joint graduate program.
This fall she wants to hold some on-campus debates, using resources from rabble.ca, the online magazine she helped found. She will also work towards organizing a Canada-wide forum of anti-globalization and social justice activists.
Rebick says many activists are eager to get more involved with Ryerson. “People are very keen about it. There is a lot of excitement in the community,” she said.
Rebick also plans to write a book. She is considering three projects including a follow up to Imagine Democracy, a memoir of 20th century feminism, or a book discussing the impact of the Internet on media.
Rebick’s three-year appointment to the chair was announced in May.
Rebick says that Ryerson’s non-traditional proposal was why the CAW chose it over the other universities that wanted the Gindin Chair.
“Competition was fierce,” she said.
“The reason that Ryerson got it, was because of this idea that they had, that rather doing this as a traditional chair they would reach out to the outside world.”