Bonnie Halloran

Adjunct anthropology professor
Lecturers Employee Organization
University of Michigan-Dearborn

Sharing a passion for justice

Bonnie HalloranBonnie Halloran’s class, “Power and Privilege in Southeast Michigan,” doesn’t just teach the theory of economic inequality and social structure. It plunges students right into experiences that make these concepts come alive. At the same time, it contributes to social justice in Detroit.

Halloran, a nontenured, part-time anthropology professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, wants to teach students that, working together, they can make a difference.

It’s a natural approach for her: She is a longtime union activist and the founding (and current) president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization at the University of Michigan.

Halloran’s union work is not just about promoting good working conditions and equitable compensation for part-time faculty; it is built on a foundational sense of justice she conveys through her work and to her students. “I belong to the union because I believe in fair treatment of working people, including faculty. But it goes beyond that: the union champions so many important causes. It values the public good.”

It’s a lesson she likes to impart in a very granular way to her students. Her assignments go far beyond book learning: In addition to reading texts on civil rights and racial inequality, her students make phone calls and attend court sessions on behalf of disenfranchised people threatened with eviction. Working with members of Detroit Eviction Defense, a coalition of homeowners, union members, faith-based activists and community advocates, they participate in demonstrations and learn firsthand about discrimination and injustice.

“Students are transformed by the experience,” says Halloran. Most of them are suburban, middle-class kids, she says, and showing them how other people live “was really powerful for them. It made them aware—without me preaching—of their unspoken prejudices, prejudices that they didn’t even know they had.

“That, to me, is education.”