Tag Archives: diversity

Lessons from the Collection V: Teaching While Black (Part II)

It’s evaluation time and students have the chance to offer anonymous feedback about their experience in the classroom. As a tenured faculty member, I’m not required to undergo this process, but from time to time I do so anyway. Even when I don’t arrange for university evaluations, I ask my students for feedback about the semester. It’s always a bit unnerving, and I can never quite shake the feeling that it feeds into the consumerism mode of higher education, but I believe it can be a useful process. This year, as I’ve been thinking of what it means to be a professor of color in the academy for a solid decade, I’m thinking of the daily informal assessments that happen all the time, and I’m remembering the time I told a graduate student to take a seat.

Literally.

I’ll never know exactly what pushed this particular graduate student to stand up in the middle of my Research Methods course and shout, “You can’t lecture me!” He’d been terse and combative from the first day of the term, but it’s been so many years (easily seven or eight) that I’ve even forgotten what we were talking about when he forgot himself. It’s possible that he was angry that I hadn’t paid enough attention to Byron’s use of ottava rima in Don Juan (no, I’m not kidding). I remember being amused when he wanted to know if I knew this pertinent fact about the poem (of course, I did). And when he wanted to explain to me that feminism was a crock because men were responsible for good things like the Sistine Chapel, I remember trying to gently but firmly move the conversation towards more productive ground. I also remember feeling some genuine sympathy for him. Here he was, forced to take a course that was not of his choosing with an instructor he might not ever have chosen to study with. All graduate students in our program must take Research Methods, it’s only offered once a year, and, at the time, I was the only instructor teaching it. He was white and his privilege expressed itself with a stridency I could tell made his classmates uncomfortable. He wasn’t the first student with this habit, but he was the most aggressive.

I don’t remember why this student stood up in a room of about twenty students and yelled “you can’t lecture me!” but I do remember that, in the moment, my gallows humor crowded everything else out; in reply I said, dryly, “well, actually, that’s my job. Literally. I mean it’s in my contract and everything.” I then told him he could either sit down or leave the class. He chose the latter. I don’t remember the rest of the class discussion, but I remember being surprised by how unfazed we all were by the moment. It wasn’t until after class, when two other male students (both of whom were white) offered to walk me to my car in case he was still hanging around that I started sorting through the implications of the moment. I was very new to my department, I was untenured, and I had been asked to restructure the Methods course and made some fairly radical changes to it. I knew I was going to have to explain what happened to both the Graduate Director and the Department Chair, both of whom were white and male.

For those who pay attention to what it means to be a person of color in today’s university system, the common narrative is that we face more service pressures than our white colleagues. We’re called on more often to work with student groups, to diversify committees with our very presence, to do the administrative work of turning ethnic studies classes into programs and programs into departments. These are duties many choose to take on and the savviest parlay that into currency to count towards tenure and promotion. But the disrespect, disdain, and rage we regularly deflect in the classroom bring on a different kind of pressure entirely. If we are the marginalized “other” in departments, balancing research and teaching agendas with internal and external service pressures, in the classroom we occupy two subject positions at once: Authority and Other. It’s a tricky thing to be on the margins and in the center in the exact same moment. The need to protect one’s authority and humanity while preserving the classroom space as a workshop of ideas where students can stumble, experiment, and question is a balancing act that requires more than good intentions on the part of faculty of color. It requires personal and institutional support. In this situation, I was lucky enough to have both.

This moment, this shout is at the most extreme end of the continuum of students behaving badly, but I’ve seen some version of it over my ten years as a university professor. And I know my experience is not singular. In fact, as someone who specializes in the very safe field of nineteenth-century British literature, I suspect I’m having a much easier time of it. Even this semester’s Austen lecture titled “Post-Colonial Theory and Mansfield Park; or is Fanny Price Actually a Sister?” sparked more interest than anger in my Austen seminar, and my students were totally up for the metaphors of race in the novel. They were intellectually skeptical to be sure (that’s what they’re supposed to be) but certainly engaged in the debate. If I taught race in a more modern context as I did in my intro to theory class this year, I’m sure there would be more shouting. I’m sure I’d face more moments like Professor Shannon Gibney is currently facing.

The professor received a formal reprimand:

The reprimand was due to the discomfort of two white male students who said they were being personally attacked while Professor Gibney led a discussion about structural racism in her political science and communications course. These very students interrupted Professor Gibney during the discussion, expressing that it was upsetting to them that it was being discussed at all. MCTC went so far as to identify Professor Gibney’s conduct in the class as a violation of the Non-Discrimination Policy and she was directed to meet twice with the Chief Diversity Officer to learn how to be more welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

Deborah J. Merritt’s “Bias, the Brain, and Student Evaluations of Teaching” begins with this from When Sapphire Meets Socrates at the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Authority:

The complaints are never-ending, voluminous, and contradictory. I talk too loud or not loud enough. I walk too close to people and make them nervous. If I look at students, they are nervous. If I do not look at them, I am picking on them. If I do not call on them, I have a personal vendetta against them…

The black female professor continues:

When I talk to students in an attempt to ascertain what I do that is so different from the other professors teaching the same section of first-year students, they admit that I do no more in class than their white male professors—my class is no more rigorous, no more intimidating, no more work. In fact, they seem to like my class.

Merritt’s essay (which you should read in its entirety) shows that:

The nonverbal mannerisms that drive teaching evaluations bear little relation to learning. Many of the nonverbal behaviors that influence teaching evaluations are related to race, gender, and other immutable characteristics; they stem from physiology, culture and habit. Social stereotypes filter perceptions of these behaviors so that even when faculty engage in identical classroom behaviors, students may perceive those behaviors differently depending on the professor’s race, gender, and other characteristics.

On a larger scale, this seems key to understanding the limits of teaching evaluations in general and specifically how they are used when faculty of color are evaluated. Put simply, student evaluations can be just another form of shouting at professors of color, particularly women of color.

Consider these findings compiled by Therese Huston in her research report “Race and Gender Bias in Student Evaluations of Teaching”:

• Researchers found lower final course evaluation ratings for female minority faculty members, but not for male minority instructors

• Hispanic faculty received the lowest course evaluation ratings. Asian-American faculty receive slight (sic) better course evaluations than their Hispanic colleagues, but their scores were, on average, still worse than the scores of White Faculty.

• Students rate Asian-Americans instructors as less credible and intelligible than white instructors.

• Male non-native speakers received lower evaluations than female non-native speakers.

• Women received lower evaluations than men and faculty of color were judged more harshly than their white counterparts

• When Whites rate the performance of a person of color with the understanding that their judgments would be communicated to a third party for the purposes of evaluation, Whites consistently rate performance negatively

There’s more that I’m sorting through here, especially how students evaluate faculty teaching ethnic studies vs. those teaching in other fields. If others have more recent studies or narratives, I’m happy to read them, but the larger question perhaps is not just that this is happening but what we can all do about it.

In my first post, I offered advice (a script almost) of how white colleagues can support faculty of color in this particular area. My advice was rooted in my own experiences in my current department.

Generally speaking, my colleagues, whether I am with friends with them or not, belong to the “If You See Something Say Something” school of witnessing microaggression. If a colleague in my department witnesses someone treating me poorly because I’m a person of color, they say something and then follow-up with an e-mail or stop by my office to make sure I’m okay. If I share something that happens to me (the shout, pissing someone off because I’ve had to point out, yet again, that I’m not a secretary, hearing that vocal students think I’m a bitch, being told I’m hostile and so on), I’m met with compassion and a genuine attempt to understand what I’m processing. Ten years out, I’ve come to appreciate this and count on it, but when I was new I had no idea what kind of environment I was in and felt I had to defend myself to the Director of Graduate Studies and my Department Chair. I was not looking forward to talking to anyone about what had happened, never mind two white men—no matter how congenial they’d been.

The Director of Graduate Studies called me at home, and his first question was about whether or not I was okay. He then asked what I wanted to do about the student. It was such a simple, collegial gesture. This student had challenged my authority, and, though I had handled it well, I was shaken and worried about how I would save the rest of the term and my reputation with my students and colleagues. His first question about my well-being calmed me immediately, and his second questioned helped me get back on my pedagogical feet (I had no interest in “punishing” the student but didn’t want him disrupting my class). The conversation had gone so well that I was beginning to relax. Then my Chair sent an email that same evening asking me to drop by his office in the morning.

He’s not a loquacious man, and I was a bit intimidated by him. I would come to see him as Lou Grant to my Mary Richards, but after that shout we weren’t there yet. I believed we would come to some understanding about the situation (he struck me as fair), but I was not looking forward to the process. I went in ready to explain myself, to give him “my side” of the story.

He didn’t need it.

He wanted to know if I was okay. More than that, he wanted me to know that he’d had an experience similar to mine with another student and that he could imagine how awful it felt. His point wasn’t to diminish what had happened to me but to let me know I wasn’t alone, that even old pros, with all of the privileges of masculinity and whiteness got kicked around by students from time to time. And that it felt like shit when it happened. That last part was most the most important part. Too often, when marginalized people talk about their struggles, members from dominant communities rush in to point out that the experience is not unique so marginalized people (women, people of color, GLBT citizens, and so on) should just shut up and deal. The better approach, the one rooted in empathy, is the one from my Chair—it made us both human without diminishing my particular challenges as a woman of color. It also taught me to share my troubling or confusing interactions with students with colleagues I trust. They helped me understand the culture of my institution so that I could better respond to what happened in my classroom, to know what was just “normal” and what was deeply problematic.

My students in that Research Methods course were equally generous. I explained that the student wouldn’t be returning to class not because he had questions about feminism (or Byron) but because the classroom space needed to be as free from distracting chaos as possible. They were happy with my explanation and then went out of their way to tell me that he was aggressive in every single class. I was surprised by this fact, but ten years out I wouldn’t be. It’s been my experience that students who struggle with having a black, female professor struggle in other ways. Race in the classroom, whether it’s embodied in the instructor or represented on the syllabus, simply amplifies bad behavior. This is cold comfort (I’ll never get used to what my presence as a woman of color in the classroom can trigger in students…never), but the context helps me keep an important balance so that I can manage the many forms that shouts can take without disrupting my classroom.

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Georgetown

This tenure case is a mess. There’s a lot to sort through—what areas of specialization are recognized by review committees, the weight given to media appearances when it comes to judging a scholar’s success, how tenure candidates read (and maybe misread) personnel recommendations.

Worth taking careful note of:

According to the grievance the candidate filed, each review leading up to his tenure denial had been “stellar,” and “There was no previous indication that my record was deficient in any way…”

If this is true (and I have no reason to believe it’s not), this is a case where a tenure failure is owned by the department and the institution. Depending on the length of time between reviews, it is essential that review committees make as clear as possible a candidate’s progress towards tenure. Even if a tenure review brings in a university committee that may not have seen a candidate’s pre-tenure reviews, it is unethical to drop a tenure denial in this final hour.

And unlike some other tenure applicants in 2012 and in previous years, he said, he was never advised to take an additional, seventh year before applying to strengthen his portfolio. “In fact, my performance in terms of peer-reviewed scholarly publications, teaching and service objectively exceeds that of other faculty members who were recently tenured in my unit and other departments at Georgetown University.”

It is also the job of the candidate to read review letters carefully. I’m convinced that one of the more difficult academic documents to read is the personnel review. It goes too far to call them CYA documents, but they are written in such a way as to protect the institution from future lawsuits. They are meant to send signals without committing to anything that can be pointed to in an appeal, grievance, or lawsuit. Unlike other arenas in the academy where the assessment is clear (particularly in publishing and teaching evaluations), personnel rhetoric wallows in ambivalence.

If you want to see how difficult it is to get consensus about what makes someone a good candidate for tenure, read some of the comments

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1 job search, 1 tenure-track offer…10 years later

I was recently chatting with a favorite former student about graduate school job searches and sent her an essay I wrote for the ADE Bulletin in 2007 about my approach to my 2003 job search. It’s funny to read about the process this many years out, as I start thinking about an essay I’ve been invited to write for PMLA.

It has me thinking of how lucky I was.

I decided on the career I wanted, and then I went out and got it. Just like that. Easy Peasy. Seriously. One job search, one tenure-track job. And I’m still incredibly happy to be just where I am. Now one could argue that the job I wanted was a fairly easy one to want. In other words, I wasn’t interested in a job at a selective liberal arts college (SLAC) or at a Research I institution.

BUT, what I did want was a job that would allow me to think, write and teach about canonical literature at the same time that I could think, write, and teach about marginalized texts no one had heard of.

AND, I wanted to live somewhere interesting–probably in New York.

PLUS, as I wrote in the essay, at some point during my graduate career my vision for my professional future changed.

Make of that what you will.

One thing I’m struck by is how willing I was to walk away from this position if it meant I had to be a traditional Romanticist (someone who specializes in one of the six major poets of the period). I think one thing I’ve always held close is that while I very much wanted to be an English professor I was also genuinely curious about what else I could do. I figured that having a PhD would give me a lot of different options and that I would figure something out. I really believed that. In fact, I remember leaving one MLA interview and walking around Manhattan daydreaming about what I else I could do with my shiny, new PhD.

I received word on Valentine’s Day that an offer was forthcoming. Seriously. Valentine’s Day, 2003.

The thing that seems crazy now is that I wrote this essay as I was coming up for tenure, with no idea about whether or not I would get it. It started out as a talk I gave at MLA, and the ADE editor asked me to revise it for the Bulletin. I’m also amused by how flat my writing is–not exactly tentative but definitely the writing of a kid trying to figure out what the hell she was doing.

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University of Texas-Austin

Faculty at University of Texas-Austin are alarmed by the number of faculty of color denied tenure this year

Key points from the article (all quoted from the original):

Thirty-two professors in the College of Liberal Arts expressed alarm regarding the large number of professors of color denied tenure across multiple departments this year.

The tenure committee denied six of 14 assistant liberal arts professors who applied for tenure awards in 2012, said Gail A. Davis, the College of Liberal Arts’ director of human resources. Because of privacy concerns, the racial background of assistant professors who are denied tenure cannot be disclosed, Davis said.

In the Center for Asian American Studies, 23 of 36 teaching faculty are not tenure-track.

This last point is particularly alarming. Without tenured faculty, this program could disappear in just a few years.

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Macalester College

Wang Ping is suing Macalester College for claiming that they discriminated against her when she applied for promotion.

Court documents note that a white, male colleague in the same department also applied for promotion around both times Wang applied, and was granted the promotions on both occasions, despite the fact he had fewer published works and less service to the community. There were also documented procedural violations in the promotion process.

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Diversity from the Margins

I’ll be writing more about this gem from bell hooks’ Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics for a brick and mortar publication. She offers a mindset worth holding tight to, regardless of where you are in your academic career. We get tugged in so many directions, by advice that, in myriad ways, tells us to somehow be different than who and what we are, just so we can become part of institutions that were designed to exclude us.

Don’t do too much service. Publish here not there. Specialize in this but also do this other new thing over here so you can get a job. Blend in but don’t sell out. Fit in but don’t compromise. Always professionalize. Be a role model but transcend whatever subject position makes those around you the most uneasy.  And that’s nothing compared to the demands we place on one another. Be Colored like this. Feminist like that. GLBandT in this particular space. Sign up; don’t sell out.

No wonder so many of us are making ourselves sick.

And maybe this advice comes from a good place, but mostly I think it comes from well-meaning folks trying to replicate themselves or validate their own experiences. Worse, it seems to want to make the people change instead of their institutions. It seems to start from the premise that being on the outside, on the margins is always bad.

bell hooks begs to differ:

Marginality [is] much more than a site of deprivation; in fact…it is also the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance. It was this marginality that I was naming as a central location for the production of counter-hegemonic discourse that is not just found in words but in habits of being and the way one lives. As such, I was not speaking of marginality one wishes to lose—to give up or surrender as part of moving into the center—but rather of a site one stays in, clings to even, because it nourishes one’s capacity to resist. It offers to one the possibility of radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds.

Put more lyrically, Lucille Clifton asks in her poem “won’t you celebrate with me”

“what did i see to be except myself?”

The work, of course, is to know who that “self” actually is absent the destructive anxieties that plague all ambitious academics, but particularly academics of color.  What I see in hooks’ argument is a call for those of us on the margins to be funambulists, to be tightrope walkers who stay above the trials of marginalization, to work and write from that place and to embrace it.

*hooks is quoted in “Balancing the Passion for Activism with the Demands of Tenure: One Professional’s Story from Three Perspectives.” Few, et al. Feminist Formations 19 (3: 2007) 47-66.

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Lessons from the Collection; or, My 2013 Diversity To Do List

I don’t go in much for New Year’s resolutions (who does anymore?), but I do love making “To Do” lists. I read once that we are more likely to finish tasks if we write them down, and so here is my 2013 Diversity To Do List.

I’ve culled it from the conversations I had in 2012 with faculty and administrators from different parts of the country about diversity and tenure.   These discussions move beyond the challenges (and successes) in the personal narratives collected in the anthology and towards possible strategies and solutions.  They usually started with an invitation to give a talk about diversity and higher education and then meandered a bit as we discussed what such a talk might offer in practical terms (I want do more than preach to the choir or offer trite platitudes).

So, from time to time in the coming year, I’ll be taking up the issues listed below in this space.  I hope they will offer thoughts and suggestions along the lines of this post I wrote about double-diversity and Derrick Bell last year.  I certainly don’t have all of the answers (especially about geographic obstacles to diversity), but I list them now with the hopes that those with more experience and expertise will make recommendations about how to approach these topics, suggest relevant readings, or comment on my thoughts and suggestions:

• Improving the Post-Doc Diversity Fellowship

• How to prepare a search committee to (actually) hire for diversity

• What faculty of color want and need from their white colleagues

• Geographic obstacles—how to build diversity outside of cities where faculty of color tendcluster

• Most common mistakes departments make when hiring faculty of color

• What does good mentoring look like? Or, more specifically, what do junior faculty of color need?

• Diversity through curricular revision; or, the yeoman’s work of bringing in a specialist in ethnic studies (of any kind)

• How to use social media to bolster diversity (does Digital Humanities as a discipline offer a useful model to adapt?)

• How to start a conversation about diversity in your department

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Diversty Round-up: The 2012 List of Books on Diversity

I’ll confess that I always feel a little pit in my stomach when I see that a new book about diversity in higher education goes to print.  I started this project several years ago, and it was slow, difficult work getting it all together, and now it is making the slow journey to publication. It’s difficult to hurry up and wait.  I worry that the narratives I’ve compiled will seem like old news.

Then I remember that an issue as complex and deeply entrenched as this one requires multiple essays, articles, anthologies, and special journal issues.  The goal isn’t to be first but to expand and extend the discussion (it should probably be this in all areas of research but this is especially the case when it comes to diversity).   And I remind myself that more than professional advancement or ego boosts, we need as broad a community as possible to be as informed as possible about this issue.

This is not only a list books that came out this year (Presumed Incompetent) but of books that are important to this conversation that I returned to this year as I finished writing the introduction to the collection.  These are books I looked to as I planned the anthology, and they are books that I think everyone should read—especially white academics who want to do more than just say that they value diversity (or offer the earnest head nod whenever the issue comes up).    And I should say that I am very glad that colleagues in my home department are reading some of these books with me and doing the work to develop and maintain meaningful diversity.

If you know of more good books on the subject, please send the titles my way

(NB: Descriptions are from websites about the books where available).

If you’re going to start anywhere, start with: Deborah Gray White, ed. Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower.  Gender and American Culture Series. (U of North Caroline, P.,  2008).

Engagingly written, Telling Histories should appeal to multiple audiences. Taken together, these stories underscore the firm hold of racism, sexism, and classism within American society in general and the academy and history departments specifically. While presenting and often resolving theoretical and methodological questions, the book not only is valuable for graduate students but is also a significant contribution to the field and should facilitate bringing down barriers, both within and outside the academy, that constrain the professorial ranks, stifle voices, and preclude diverse academicians and scholars from writing and teaching without restraint. The contributors’ content is largely descriptive but it also provides analysis about the progression of scholarly trends and instruction in historiography to historians at all professional stages.

Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, et al, eds.
Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Utah State UP, 2012)

Presumed Incompetent is a pathbreaking account of the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women faculty of color. Through personal narratives and qualitative empirical studies, more than 40 authors expose the daunting challenges faced by academic women of color as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators. The narratives are filled with wit, wisdom, and concrete recommendations, and provide a window into the struggles of professional women in a racially stratified but increasingly multicultural America.

Evans, Stephanie.
Black Women in the Ivory Tower: 1850-1954
(UP Florida 2007).

Evans chronicles the stories of African American women who struggled for and won access to formal education, beginning in 1850, when Lucy Stanton, a student at Oberlin College, earned the first college diploma conferred on an African American woman. In the century between the Civil War and the civil rights movement, a critical increase in black women’s educational attainment mirrored unprecedented national growth in American education. Evans reveals how black women demanded space as students and asserted their voices as educators–despite such barriers as violence, discrimination, and oppressive campus policies–contributing in significant ways to higher education in the United States. She argues that their experiences, ideas, and practices can inspire contemporary educators to create an intellectual democracy in which all people have a voice.

Janis Fay, et al, eds.
Racism in the Academy: The New Millennium.  American Anthropological Association. (2012)

The starting point for this study was through the auspices of our professional scholarly society, the American Anthropological Association. In 2007, then-president Alan Goodman appointed a commission charged with two primary responsibilities:
“(1) to collect information in order to better expose how privilege has been maintained in anthropology and the AAA, including but not limited to departments and the academic pipeline and

(2) to develop a comprehensive plan for the Association and for the field of anthropology to increase the ethnic, racial, gender and class diversity of the discipline and organization.”

Baez, Benjamin. 
Affirmative Action, Hate Speech, and Tenure: Narratives About Race and Law in the Academy
. Benjamin Baez (Routledge Falmer 2002).

I like everything that Baez has written on race in higher education. Everything.

Geok-Lin Lim, Shirley et al, eds.
Power, Race, and Gender in  Academe: Strangers in the Tower.  New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1991)

My favorite chapter from this collection is Gunning, Sandra. “Now That They Have Us, What’s the Point?” The Challenge of Hiring to Create Diversity.”

Matthew, Patricia A., ed. 
Written/Unwritten: Tenure and Race in the Humanities (not yet, but I couldn’t resist…)

 

 

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In which I panic

I was put the finishing touches on the introduction to the collection when I saw an article in the June 1st New York Times that gave me chills.  It’s about how the already financially beleaguered university systems in California (University of California, California State University, and the community colleges) are facing even more budget cuts if the governor’s tax plan is not passed by voters.

In response to the idiotic screed the Chronicle of Higher Education let Naomi Schaefer Riley post on their website, I had written a sentence that felt a bit strident and panicked:

“I predict that the increased scrutiny on how higher education spends it resources will dovetail with the increasing backlash against ethnic studies and put such programs at risk as institutions determine that they can no longer afford diversity.”

More than being upset by her rant (she has virtually no institutional power and I figured she’d be held to sharp account for being careless and unthinking), I viewed it as an id-ridden version of more muted resistances to ethnic studies.  It seemed to me an expression of the attitudes that threaten the stability of ethnic studies and, by extension, a pretty large swath of faculty of color by people who do have institutional power: faculty who vote on what kind of specialists to hire, personnel committees, deans, provosts, etc.

I was deciding whether or not to leave the strident sentence in when I read The NYTimes piece and, in particular, this sentence:

Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which strongly opposes the proposed tax increase, said the colleges should do more to show they are cutting spending, like reducing pay for top administrators or closing programs that do not directly benefit the state.

“We’ve had the luxury in prior years of heavily subsidizing colleges,” Mr. Coupal said. “But like anything in California, the delivery of higher education is not performance based. They’ve created new campuses and programs based on politics and not need.”

Almost everything about the statement is anxiety producing.

First Jon Coupal is listed as, “the principal drafter of Proposition 218.”  Here’s a summary of its goals:

Proposition 218 is a major measure with significant implications for local governments, property owners, businesses, and California residents.

The measure would restrict local government’s ability to raise most forms of revenue. This restriction would result in lower payments by individuals and businesses to local government–and less spending for local public services.

Proposition 218’s (1) requirement that many existing fees, assessments and taxes be recalculated and submitted to a vote, (2) expansion of the initiative powers, and (3) shift of burden of proof in lawsuits challenging fee and assessment amounts all serve to increase local residents’ direct control over local government finances, but decrease the certainty in local government finance.

“Public services” include public schools and universities.  Coupal talks about the “luxury” of subsidizing higher education and then he gets to the heart of it: “They’ve created new campuses and programs based on politics and not need.”

That statement should make anyone who cares about diversity in higher education–in the composition of the faculty and in its curriculum very nervous.  “Directly benefit the state” is the kind of language that all humanities professor should be nervous about.  It’s the kind of language that led to the dismantling of several humanities departments at the State University of New York, Albany.

“Programs based on politics” is usually code for ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, and GLBT studies.

It was particularly unnerving to read the article as read Nathan I. Huggins essay in Inclusive Scholarship: Developing Black Studies in the United States (A 25th Anniversary Retrospective of Ford Foundation Grant Making 1982-2007). In it he explains how a focus on higher education primarily as training for professions threatened the stability of humanities curriculum:

Public institutions, most having land-grant origins, from the beginning had appealed to their legislatures for funds by citing their immediate contribution to agriculture, mining, and business.  They had always found it easy to design undergraduate curricula that allowed students to avoid “useless” courses in the humanities.  In the postwar period, however, even prestigious universities tolerated an erosion of the liberal arts core.” (21)

He is describing the late 60s and early 70s, a time that marks the rise of Black Studies.  This notion of utility is cropping up again, and this time the protests will happen in the voting booth, at a time when the country is particularly anxious about anything that reflects, represents, or refers to race.

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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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