Stanford University reported this week that it has made progress in diversifying its faculty. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of underrepresented minority faculty members (black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native) increased by 43 percent, to 146. During the same period, the overall growth in the Stanford faculty was only 9 percent. At the same time, the university said that a study based on interviews with 52 of the minority faculty members found areas that need improvement. Many minority faculty members, the university found, report feelings of research isolation, diminished peer recognition and "lesser collegiality."
Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, has apologized for comments he made about the University of Notre Dame and about Roman Catholics, the Associated Press reported. In a meeting of Ohio State's athletics council, a recording of which was obtained by AP, Gee said that Notre Dame wasn't invited to join the Big 10 because priests are not good partners, and "those damned Catholics" can't be trusted. He also said that "the fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week." Ohio State issued a statement indicating that Gee had agreed to a "remediation plan" because of the remarks. Gee has personally apologized to officials at Notre Dame, who accepted the apology. Last year, Gee apologized to Polish-American groups after he compared the difficulty of managing the university to leading the Polish army.
In what is believed to be a first, a man playing college basketball has identified himself as gay during his college years. Jallen Messersmith told his story to the website Outsports, which reported on his experiences coming out at Benedictine College, a liberal arts college in Kansas that plays in the NAIA. Messersmith described coaches and fellow athletes who have been totally supportive, as "100 percent for me." Other men who played college basketball have come out after the end of their college careers, but Messersmith is a junior. There are many out women in college basketball, although many report facing homophobia.
The group Friends of Roxbury Community College is opposing the selection of a new board chair because he is white, The Boston Business Journal reported. The group sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, saying that it was "insulting for Governor Patrick to appoint a white person to head up the body that is the primary decision maker for the college. He is sending a message that although we are a predominantly black institution, it will take a white person to give you the vision and leadership to take the college to the 'promised land' of education. That is the 'plantation' type mentality." The governor's appointee is Gerald Chertavian, who is the CEO of Year Up, a nonprofit that helps urban youth advance educationally. In an interview, Sadiki Kambon, the head of the Friends of Roxbury Community College, said that the organization had no objection to Chertavian personally and would welcome him on the board, just not as chair. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment. Chertavian said he was focused on "serving the college and the students as best I can and making sure they achieve their potential."
As the nation awaits a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on affirmative action in higher education, an analysis in The New York Times finds signs of lagging diversity in elite professions. The issue is important because one argument offered to defend the consideration of race and ethnicity by elite colleges and universities is that these institutions provide a pathway to prestigious careers. The Times analysis found that while about 12 percent of the population of working Americans is black, only 3.2 percent of senior executive positions at top companies are held by black people. Further, only about 5 percent of physicians are black and 3 percent of architects are black -- figures that have not changed in at least two decades. The article also noted that the share of lawyers who are women or from minority groups fell in 2010, the first decline since data collection started in 1993.
The University of Minnesota at Duluth has fired Rod Raymond as wellness director over numerous charges that he denies, The Duluth News Tribune reported. During the last four years, two students filed sexual harassment complaints against Raymond and he was facing other, unspecified charges. A university statement said that he was dismissed for, among other things, “violation of the Regent’s Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships;" “inappropriate sexual conduct with a UMD student on university premises and during work hours,” and "untruthfulness during an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation." Raymond has denied all charges, and vowed to challenge his dismissal.
Students, joined by civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, on Wednesday filed complaints against Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California over their handling of complaints of sexual assaults, The Los Angeles Times reported. The complaints -- filed with the U.S. Department of Education -- charge that the institutions have failed to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault or to accurate report such incidents as required by federal law. The charges are similar to those made recently with the Education Department about Occidental College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. College officials, while acknowledging periodic missteps, have generally said that they make every effort to comply with the relevant laws.
As you know, on April 20, on the last day of its annual meeting, the Association for Asian American Studies, passed a resolution to “honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions” and to encourage “research and public speaking... in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.”
While I disagree with the resolution, what struck me most at the time was that the vote, conducted by secret ballot, was unanimous, without so much as an abstention. I know that scholars like Sunaina Maira and Magid Shihadehave argued for exploring “points of convergence and divergence” between Asian-American studies and Arab-American studies, which share the “project of resisting Orientalism and imperialism within and beyond the United States.”
But Maira and Shihade, writing in 2006, concede that their proposal faces resistance from some Asian-Americanists “sympathetic to Israel,” and from others unhappy with the “expansion of the intellectual terrain and crossing of borders” involved in reaching out to Arab-American studies. Seven years later not one dissenting voice could be heard when the AAAS planted its flag in the Middle East.
Even more striking, not one of you has voiced dissent since. Early this month, I wrote this post, whose premise was that no one in your field — and there are thousands of you — had publicly criticized the resolution. I must admit I was in a sweat to get the piece out because I imagined it was only a matter of time before one of you broke the silence.
I need not have worried. Nearly a month has passed since the resolution, and your silence continues. The American Association of University Professors, in rejecting the AAAS’s call for a boycott, noted that the AAUP “neither supports nor opposes Israeli government or Palestinian policies, although many... members certainly have strong beliefs on one side or the other.” Apart from reminding us of another ground, namely opposition to academic boycotts, on which one might have expected at least one Asian-Americanist to vote against the resolution, the AAUP reminds us of a feature of every academic association I know: they include people who have strong beliefs on both sides of controversial issues.
I wonder if even those of you who consider the resolution a victory think, as I do, that the complete lack of opposition to it is eerie. But I also have questions for those of you — I hope there are some — who have not publicly disagreed with the resolution but are not ardent supporters of it either.
Do you know about the BDS movement? Are you aware that the movement stands not only for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza but also for “respecting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands from which they were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba”? As Eric Alterman, who decries the “brutal treatment of the Palestinian people,” argues, the demand for the reintegration of “six or seven million Palestinians” amounts to the “demand that Israel, as currently constituted, commit suicide.”
Norman Finklestein, one of Israel’s best known and harshest critics, has said that the BDS movement is dishonest on this score: "They think they're being very clever. They call it their three tiers.... We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel.... [T]hey know the result.... You know and I know what's the result: there's no Israel."
Finally, Noam Chomsky, a supporter of BDS tactics properly applied, nonetheless thinks the “call of Palestinian society” to which the AAAS refers is “a gift to Israeli and U.S. hardliners” not only because it implicitly calls for the “destruction of Israel” but also because it targets only Israel and lets the United States, England, and other countries “where it is a hundred times worse,” off the hook.
Why not, he suggests, boycott universities in the United States, which have been at least as complicit in imperial crimes as Israeli universities? No doubt that would be bad for AAAS business, but the call as it stands, like a 2002 call to divest from Israel in which Chomsky participated “out of solidarity,” “could be attacked... as pure anti-Semitism.”
If “you hate the Palestinians,” Chomsky snarks, "it’s a good step.” I don’t bring Chomsky up with you because I, like him, hope for the success of a properly targeted BDS movement. Rather, I want to point out that if you think the AAAS, in unanimously supporting the BDS call, was merely expressing criticism of Israel or concern about the Palestinians, you’ve been had.
The AAAS, which claims to “act as an advocate for the interests and welfare of Asian-American studies” and consequently to act as an advocate for your interests and welfare, has hitched your wagon to a single deeply controversial strand of Israel criticism. Even if you do not agree with Alterman, Finkelstein, or Chomsky, don’t you think that unanimous agreement on a matter about which even Israel critics disagree vociferously is a sign of your field’s ill health?
The president and executive board of AAAS in a recent official statement about the resolution, seeks to shield itself from the charge of selectively targeting Israel. “Many other countries,” they concede, "are, of course, human rights abusers and violators of international law.”
However, “there is active debate on and criticism of their actions at the levels of government and civil society,” whereas Israel enjoys “special status” in the United States and is “immune from government criticism.” This argument puts you in a bad position because to accept it without comment is to suggest that you do not know that Israel comes in for harsh criticism in The New York Times and in Israel’s own newspapers.
It also suggests you are unaware that President Obama, like President Bush before him, has explicitly criticized Israel’s settlement policy. You are also put in a bad position by the argument that “U.S. academics who speak out against the Israeli government’s policies are subject to intimidation and retribution.” To accept that claim, one has to pretend not to know that such speaking out is mainstream, so much so that John Mearsheimer, co-author of the Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, got to suffer his intimidation and retribution on "The Colbert Report."
Perhaps more tellingly, one has to ignore the fact that not one person in your field has thought the resolution controversial enough to question. Do you want to associate yourself with the argument that human rights abuses in the West Bank are more worthy of comment than human rights abuses in Sri Lanka because the latter are more often discussed?
There is one more reason the AAAS’s support for the BDS call puts Asian-American studies in a bad position. Read this post by Byron Wong, a blogger whose subject is “Asian American intellectualism, activism, and literature.” Wong, explaining to me why Asian-American intellectuals are not more disturbed by the BDS resolution, proposes that many of them think the AAAS irrelevant: “Asian Americans outside of academia don’t care what the AAAS does, since most of us are hardly affected by them at all (since they’re often deadlocked on issues that matter).”
While Wong thinks that Asian-American studies professors are silent on the resolution because they are “just ecstatic that the AAAS finally can agree on something,” it is hard to see how taking a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to interest people like Wong, who support Asian American activism but do not think that taking such a position does anything to help Asian-Americans.
In closing, I cannot resist asking: Are you at all embarrassed?
I grant that Eric Alterman, Norman Finklestein, and Noam Chomsky, not to speak of BDS’s critics outside of the left, may be wrong about the BDS movement. I also grant that bloggers like Byron Wong may be wrong about the AAAS. Reasonable people disagree about the Middle East, about the advisability of academic boycotts, and about how the AAAS can best serve Asian Americans.
But that is precisely what makes the complete absence of a public conversation about these matters among Asian Americanists, a conversation with at least two sides, so peculiar. How can a group purporting to stand for the “highest professional standard of excellence in teaching and research” permit itself to appear so close-minded?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Associate Professor of Politics
Jonathan Marks, author of Perfection and Disharmony in the Thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Cambridge University Press, 2005), is associate professor of politics at Ursinus College. He tweets at twitter.com/marksjo1.