Category Archives: Diversity Reporting

Protecting Academic Freedom: Resources and Readings

I’ve been working with a small group to come up with strategies that will help faculty and their institutions respond to challenges to academic freedom.  These challenges aren’t particularly new, but things move at the speed of Twitter, and so these challenges have increased and seem to follow a pattern, a professor (often but not always a member of an underrepresented minority) offers a comment on some controversial issue using unflinching rhetoric, and the rhetoric is used by different groups to pressure university administrators to discipline or fire the faculty member.  The Steve Salita case is the one many of us know about.  The reaction to these challenges tend to be performative–strongly worded letters of support, petitions, and, sometimes hashtags.  Those are all well and good, but, as Tressie McMillan Cottom sighed on a Twitter, we need to do more than this.  I wrote about social media in Written/Unwritten and in a special journal issue of the CLAJ, but I’ve felt helpless as I’ve seen the uptick in attacks.  So I asked a group of people I trust and admire to help me think about what the academy and academics can do, particularly in this current moment when the stakes are so high.  I’ve been working with Jessie Daniels, Kim F. Hall, Laura Jones, and McMillan Cottom to work out what those institutions and their faculty need. I’ve been happy to find that groups of people across multiple disciplines are doing similar work.

Here is the first part of our work–a list I’m sure will need revision as we learn more.
Next up: advice for, well, everyone.

General Information and Resoruces

AAUP Academic Freedom Tool Kit
MLA Academic Freedom Tool Kit

“1940 Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure.” American Association
of University Professors. AAUP, 1970.

“MLA Statement on Academic Freedom (2009).” Modern Language Association. MLA,

Blog Posts

McMillan Cottom, Tressie. Everything But The Burden: Publics, Public Scholarship, And Institutions.
Academic Outrage: When The Culture Wars Go Digital.

Zevallos, Zuleyka. Protecting Activist Academics Against Public Harassment.
Sociology of Public Harassment Prevention Policies.

Op-Eds and Reporting

Allred, Kevin. “Trump’s Weaponized Base Is Going After Academics–I Know Because I Was Targeted.The Establishment.

Daniels, Jessie and Arlene Stein. “Protect Scholars Against Attacks From the Right.” Inside Higher Ed.

Kamola, Isaac A. “Crashing the Academic Conversation.The Chronicle of Higher Education (paywalled).

Morris, Catherine. “Professor Durden’s Firing Highlights Adjuncts’ Shaky Footing.Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Strauss, Valerie. “New Conservative ‘Watch List’ Targets Professors for Advancing ‘Leftist Propaganda’.” Washington Post.

West Savali, Kirsten. “For Black Scholars at PWIs, Speaking Truth to Power on Social Media Can Be ‘Professional Suicide.’The Root.

Zeiser, John W.W. “Don’t Expect Liberalism to Come to the Defense of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.” Los Angeles Review of Books.


Bilgrami, Akeel, and Jonathan R. Cole, eds. Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom? New York: Columbia UP, 2015. Print.

Carvalho, Edward J., and David B. Downing, eds. Academic Freedom in the Post-9/11 Era. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2010. Print.

Cloud, Robert C. “Keyishian v. Board of Regents.Education Law. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

“Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances.” 1964. Rev. 1989. AAUP Policy Documents and Reports. 10th ed. Washington: AAUP, 2006. 32. Print.

Daniels, Jessie, and Joe R. Feagin. “The (coming) social media revolution in the academy.” Fast Capitalism 8, no. 2 (2011).

Ellison, Julie, and Timothy K. Eatman. “Scholarship in public: Knowledge creation and tenure policy in the engaged university.

Finkin, Matthew W., and Robert C. Post. For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. Print

Grundy, Saida. “A History of White Violence Tells Us Attacks on Black Academics are Not Ending (I Know Because it Happened to Me).” Ethnic and Racial Studies. 40.11 (2017)

Hofstadter, Richard, and Walter P. Metzger. The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States. New York: Columbia UP, 1955. Print.

McMillan Cottom, Tressie.  “Who Do You Think You Are?”: When Marginality Meets Academic Microcelebrity. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.7.

Marwick, Alice E. “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience.” New Media & Society 13, no. 1 (2011): 114-133.

Menand, Louis, ed. The Future of Academic Freedom. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996. Print.

Matthew, Patricia A. “Tweeting Diversity: Race and Tenure in the Age of Social Media” in Written/Unwritten: Diversity and the Hidden Truths of Tenure. Patricia A. Matthew ed, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2016. Print.

Nelson, Cary. No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom. New York: New York UP, 2010. Print.

“Ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos.” Modern Language Association. MLA, Feb. 2010. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Schrecker, Ellen. The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University. New York: New, 2010. Print.

___, Ellen. 2010. “The Roots of Right-Wing Attacks on Higher Education.” The NEA Higher Education Journal: 71–82.

Shavisi, Arianne. 2015. “Epistemic Injustice in the Academy: An Analysis of the Saida Grundy Witch Hunt.” Academe Blog, May 20.

Tufecki, Zeynep ““Not This One” Social Movements, the Attention Economy, and Microcelebrity Networked Activism.” American Behavioral Scientist 57.7 (2013): 848-870.





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Written/Unwritten is out!…..STILL!!

I mean it is out and about where people can just walk into places and events and buy it

book pics
I had this cute idea that I would write a monthly update about how things are going with Written/Unwritten—as if the rest of the world would stop just because this book is out in the world.
That’s not the way it works. Papers must be graded, forms must be filled out, walking pneumonia must be had, and, it turns out, if I’m going to a conference I still actually have to get myself there, with something useful to say.

But it’s all the good kind of busy, and I’m thankful to be busy.

I wasn’t sure what would happen when the book was published. I certainly had fantasies about what would happen (still waiting for the Brooklyn Public Library to add it to its shelves and for that one line from that one critic), but I didn’t know what people would do it with. It also wasn’t clear to me how people would read it after the election, or, to be honest, whether they would read it at all or not. I’m happy to report that they have read it. They are reading it! REALLY reading it! They’re reading it on their own, in groups at colleges and corporations, and giving it to their deans and provosts. I heard a rumor that one dean bought copies for the 2017 incoming faculty at his college (BTW & FYI: for group discounts contact Dino Batista at UNC Press)

As I mentioned at the end of the first month, it was great to see The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed feature articles and reviews about it. Colin Dicky makes the case that in this particular political moment the narratives in Written/Unwritten or more necessary than ever in this interview we did for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Diverse Issues in Higher Ed’s thoughtful review highlights an important, prescient point in the essay by Lisa Sánchez González: “Academic freedom has been and continues to be an endangered species in our post-9/11 era, which only compounds the risks that have always existed for the most vulnerable intellectuals in academe.”
diverse review pic
Monica Mercado hosted a live TwitterChat that left us both breathless. I paid her in books, but really her work for this could never be adequately compensated.

A wise friend has forbidden me from reading the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but if you look, you’ll see that we have some stars, and I’m happy about that…thrilled. My dad and I went through the WorldCatalog together to see which libraries carry the book. You’d think I’d be happy to see how many libraries have it on their shelves, but I’m giving side-eye to the holdouts. #neversatisfied.

After Barnard hosted the book’s first official event, I was asked to be this year’s keynote speaker for Indiana State’s annual recruitment webinar. I’m figuring this out as I go, but I’ve learned that the best talks and webinars are a result of a collaboration, and so I’m thankful to Josh Powers at Indiana State and my colleague Milton Fuentes at Montclair for brainstorming with me ahead of my talk. There’s a lot packed in Written/Unwritten, so it’s helpful in these talks to know what people find helpful.

Next up for Written/Unwritten is a June talk with the NEH’s Next Gen Humanities PhD Consortium about doctoral education, diversity, and life outside/beyond the tenure-track, and in September I’ll be at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, hosted by the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

As for me:

I’m on to my next book (more about that soon). In June I’ll be doing some work with the National Humanities Center and am on a panel talking Mary Shelley and Felicia Hemans at the British Women Writers Conference.

If all goes well, in July I’m planning to disappear with friends to work on the next books. Then in August, the week before my birthday (August 14th…and it’s never too early to start shopping) I’ll be one of the 2017 Fellows at the Digital Pedagogy Lab. I’m excited and nervous, but I’m also hopeful that my workshop will be a collaborative one with ideas and strategies and hope the participants can take with them.

These first months have been busy and more than a little dizzying, but the circle of people who care for me is strong and solid, showing up just when I need them. I’m so thankful to all of them, so grateful to have folks who celebrate with me, celebrate me, shake some sense into me when I need it, and travel with me as I go about this work.

More….when I next take a breath.

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Diversity Among the Elites

It’s the time of year when I’m grading finals and wondering if I’ll be teaching my summer course (this year on British Romanticism and the abolitionist movement).

And I’m wrestling with this essay I’ve been writing since January about little kids and Citizen and Kara Walker’s “Subtlety.”

And I have book revisions due in a few months to one of those dream editors who is so supportive and smart that he makes you want to work ten times harder and twenty times faster.

Plus, this month I’m at Bryn Mawr because Michelle Moravec has lured me into another digital humanities moment.

And I need to see my New York family before they totally disown me (my goddaughter is about to finish her first year of college; attention must be paid).

All of this is to say that all I can do right here is share the storify of some thoughts I had yesterday on twitter in reaction to two stories about diversity at Brown and Columbia:  “Does Faculty Diversity Need Targets?” and Leaks in the Pipeline

Here is how the story about Brown begins:

“Brown University made a bold promise at its inaugural National Diversity Summit last month: to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025. The announcement, to which the faculty was already privy, drew praise on campus and off, but also questions about how Brown would achieve such a goal. It sparked a larger discussion about the best way for institutions to aggressively diversify faculties, too, especially at elite institutions, when candidate pools remain relatively small.”

And I’m intrigued by these compelling figures from Columbia:

 Fall 2014 numbers, which are the most recent figures available, show that out of the University’s 3,806 total faculty members, only 921 are minorities, and 1,572 are women. These numbers continue to tick downward on the tenure track. Columbia has 1,096 tenured faculty members, but only 199 are minorities, and only 282 are women.

I’ll be critical (and maybe even scathing) later, but it’s worth noting the complete candor in this Columbia piece. It depicts a university having the right kind of struggle about developing and maintaining meaningful diversity. And it’s bracing and inspiring to see a scholar like Alondra Nelson shaping this conversation.

So here’s the storify:

People rarely post comments on either of my blogs, but if you have questions, ask them, and I’ll explore them at some point when I can see the sky again.

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Bits and Pieces

If you get a chance, be sure to read Christine A. Stanley’s excellent essay “Coloring the Academic Landscape: Faculty of Color Breaking the Silence in Predominately White Colleges and Universities” (American Educational Research Journal. 43:4 (Winter 2006): 701-736). It’s an impressive, wide-ranging report based on a more comprehensive authoethnographic qualitative research project. It’s affirming for those who fear they alone might be facing hostility as faculty of color and useful for those who want concrete suggestions about how to develop and maintain diversity at their home institutions.

So read the whole thing. But click (in your own way), if you resemble these remarks:

I wonder if I were a White male tenured faculty member, would I have been approached like this? (African American associate professor, health and kinesiology)

As do all institutions of higher education, the university I joined reflects the majority culture. Historically excluded from the academy, minority faculty have been admitted as guests within the majority culture’s house…expected to honor their hosts’ customs without question…keep out of certain rooms…and…always be on their best behavior.(American Indian associate professor, educational leadership and policy analysis).

Told to a candidate during an interview:

“While we’d like to diversify the department, we will make an appointment on merit, and will look for the best candidate.” (African [South African] assistant professor, psychology)

While walking with another colleague of color to a faculty meeting, a colleague said in jest, “This side of the hallway sure is looking darker lately.” My colleague and I exchange[d] glances with each other. This same colleague observe[d] the noticeable exchange and trie[d] to make light of the comment. “You ladies know I was just kidding, don’t you?” (Black associate professor, higher education administration)

I remember when doing my psychology internship at a major New York hospital that my natural impulse was to talk about my being from India, and to refer to myself as an Indian….Instead, I was met with a wall of silence as if I had broken an unspoken taboo of never calling attention to your own or other people’s difference” (Indian associate professor, psychology)


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Faculty Diversity Fails to Match Student Stats

The homogeneity of New Hampshire and Vermont may discourage minority professors from accepting positions at the College, said Bruce Duthu ’80, chair of the Native American studies department.

“When I talk to possible Native American [faculty] recruits and I talk about moving to Hanover, I get this look of ‘Are you kidding me?’” Duthu explained. “Though people may be drawn to working at an Ivy [League school] in a top program, they don’t think the quality of life will suit them.”

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“Profs Discuss Minority Tenure

Entitled “A Closer Look at Harvard’s Hiring Practices: Women and Minority Faculty Tenure,” the discussion was organized by students in reaction to President Neil L. Rudenstine’s decision to reject the tenure bids of associate professors of government Jean C. Oi and Jennifer A. Widner.

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