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Collaboration during COVID-19: OISE Prof. Marcelo Vieta and his students search for solutions to social inequality with their new website

September 11, 2020

By Vesna Bajic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers at all levels to re-evaluate not only how to deliver their courses safely, but also how the course content can best reflect or engage with the still-emergent pandemic and its life-changing presence in students’ lives.

While university professors across Ontario continue to pivot their courses to address the pandemic for the new fall term, Leadership, Higher and Adult Education Associate Professor Marcelo Vieta designed a graduate seminar responding to COVID-19 even earlier, in May-June 2020.

Professor Vieta’s course examined how proposals for economic democracy can respond to and offer solutions to the socio-economic ills caused by the pandemic. The goal of this seminar was to face head-on, via the multi-dimensional and critical lenses of economic democracy, the unfolding situation of COVID-19.

The final outcome of LHA1148: Introduction to Workplace, Organizational, and Economic Democracy, subtitled “the COVID-19 edition,” had the graduate seminar’s students and Prof. Vieta collaboratively produce a community education and social action legacy website, The website was launched September 1, 2020.

“Engaging with my peers and readings in the course helped clarify economic democracy as a sustainable means to securing the futures of our communities and regenerating the commons lost to unbridled greed,” said Ashish Pillal, a student in the course.

“The course website is a compendium of ideas to achieve that. The website serves to highlight issues that affect us all and act as a forum for exchange of ideas to address those issues.”

Throughout the term the seminar asked: How do we overcome the social and economic ills of COVID-19 and systemic inequalities, and rebuild a more equitable and fair society now and after the pandemic?

In creating content for the website, students collectively prepared – through online in-class learning, weekly discussions, and their final essays or podcasts – a repository of resources and analyses aimed at addressing, better understanding, or proposing solutions to the socio-economic effects of the pandemic and the related racialized expressions of capitalism brought to light in explicit ways by COVID-19.

The course also addressed the Black Lives Matter responses to systemic racism that quickly emerged following the killing of George Floyd.

“In the context of the pandemic, discovering alternative economic practices meant realizing how the economy can be a powerful tool for the development of a more fair society. This course gave me a practical tool to analyze the social structure I’m immersed in and opened strategies to reshape it,” said Sofia Lydiatt, another student in the course.

The students of LHA1148 were all OISE masters or doctoral students. Many of them are professionals doing their graduate work part time, and some of them took the course with full family responsibilities.

“All of the students have told me since that they found the course transformative and even therapeutic as the pandemic, and then in June the Black Lives Matter uprisings, unfolded around us in real time,” said Vieta.

Dahlia Al-Mouaswas, a student in the course, added “[the course] honestly helped me heal and look beyond the injustices and inequities of the world. Knowing there’s a whole community of people and advocates out there who are working towards economic democracy gives me hope for the future.”  

Learn more at Economic Democracy

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