Seattle University has placed Jodi Kelly, dean of the university's humanities college, on leave, with a student sit-in that is seeking her ouster now more than three weeks old, The Seattle Times reported. The sit-in is demanding numerous changes to make the curriculum of the humanities college more multicultural. But students have also demanded Kelly's ouster, saying she has used a slur against black people. Kelly has said that she does not use that word to refer to anyone, but that she did use it to describe the book Nigger, the autobiography of Dick Gregory, the civil rights activist and biographer. Gregory, in an essay in Inside Higher Ed, has defended her.
Seattle's interim provost, Bob Dullea, said of Kelly's leave: “I have taken this action because I believe, based on information that has come forward over the past several weeks, that successful operations of the college at this time require that she step away from day-to-day management and oversight." He said this information would be investigated. Kelly could not be reached for comment.
While hundreds have signed a petition supporting the sit-in, a counterpetition is attracting support for Kelly. "Jodi has dedicated her life to students. She is a strong, intelligent, open-minded woman who has helped many students on their educational paths," says the petition.
The Executive Council of the Modern Language Association has issued a statement condemning North Carolina's controversial law requiring public institutions, including schools and colleges, to limit access to multiple-occupancy bathrooms to those whose legal gender at birth matches the facility's designation. "Such forms of legislation risk placing in danger a highly vulnerable population that is already subject to increasing violence. The MLA supports the condemnation of this bill by the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. It supports policies and pedagogy in educational institutions that respect the human dignity of the transgender community," says the MLA statement.
The prevalence of mental health issues and neurodevelopmental disorders in higher ed is so high, and the associated shame so great, that many students and even professors end up floundering, writes Scott B. Weingart, an autistic academic.
As a lifelong champion of civil rights and a firm believer in fighting for what is right, I applaud our young people for the various protests they have undertaken in recent years, such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Recently, the young brothers and sisters of MRC Student Coalition at Matteo Ricci College, Seattle University, have taken up such a fight based on curriculum concerns. This protest, however, has become personal for me, since it is in part centered on my autobiography entitled Nigger, and the fact that some students became offended when Jodi Kelly, dean of Matteo Ricci College, recommended Nigger to a student to read.
While I strongly support their right to air their grievances, I ask these students to ask themselves if the scale of their movement is appropriate for a curriculum discussion. Can students adequately connect a recommendation to read my autobiography with their larger curriculum issues?
I am not offended by Dean Kelly's use of the word “nigger.” In fact, I am pleased that she has the foresight to want to give these young men and women the knowledge, insight and experience of a civil rights activist that might just help them understand life a little better. I am disappointed that they seemed to have stopped at the title instead of opening the book and reading its contents. Years ago my mama told me, “Son, sticks and stones can break your bones, but names will never hurt you.” I grew up thinking that Richard was what they called me at home, but my real name was Nigger.
That’s why I named my autobiography Nigger, because it only echoes what “they” called me -- it doesn’t define who I am. People called me nigger in 1964 when I marched with Martin Luther King Jr., when I sat in the Birmingham jail with him and when I walked across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. When I fasted for 72 days protesting the Vietnam War, the white folks and even some black folks said, “Look at that crazy nigger.”
I have frequently said that sometimes black folks focus on the wrong injustices. For example, black folks tolerate Howard University being named after General Howard, who became famous for killing Indian children, and Spelman College being named after the grandmother of Nelson Rockefeller. Many times we rise up for injustices that are not the most oppressive. I frequently speak on college campuses and explain that we were fighting for liberation, not education. A liberated mind requires a deeper historical and analytical understanding about the good, bad and ugly regarding America’s past, and its future.
I tell students they should be concerned that some of their classmates can’t walk down the streets in certain cities without the fear of being shot by both gangbangers and misguided police officers. They should be concerned about violence and sex assaults on college campuses. The National Rifle Association wants to arm students -- and that doesn't bother you? Students should be concerned about the exorbitant cost of education and subsequently student debt, the next financial crisis. Also, students should be concerned about a job market that is not going to be waiting on them upon graduation.
Some students want to punish Dean Kelly for giving them some good advice. Somehow, her advice and the hypersensitivity to her suggesting my book by its title managed to get dragged into the curriculum debate. By adding a hot-button racial component to that debate, the students managed to water down their main objectives. Movements need to be clear and well defined, yet they rarely are.
I have read the students’ list of demands, which include issues such as “Classrooms which encourage healthy academic discourse.” That includes fostering dissent, analyzing diverse narratives, discussing the intention of others and dealing with microaggressions. Classrooms must also provide space to discuss how books from previous generations may be problematic yet remain very much connected to modern-day issues.
There’s a blurb on the cover of my book from The New York Times. It says, “Powerful and ugly and beautiful … a moving story of a man who deeply wants a world without malice and hate and is doing something about it.” I’m proud that Dean Kelly recognized my autobiography as something that students of all races can learn from. I am also proud and pleased that my autobiography Nigger was among her collection of books.
I do not presume to know more than professional educators. Yet it appears to me that Dean Kelly was encouraging healthy academic discourse. I ask the students to ask themselves if they objectively considered Dean Kelly’s real intentions and if they themselves are willing to engage in academic discourse. This seems like an issue that is bigger than one dean. It also seems that if both sides were to have meaningful discussions, they would find common ground.
The person who has read and is now recommending my autobiography to her students is most likely not racist. My communication with Dean Kelly leads me to believe that she respects students’ intelligence enough to share with them the autobiography of a black man who was honest enough to name his book Nigger.
Students, your dean didn’t name the book -- I did. I am hopeful that my autobiography will become required reading at Matteo Ricci College -- and I am certain that it will be enlightening. I’ll even provide the books for free. Continue to be respectful and peaceful, loving and lovable.
God bless you,
Dick Gregory is an American civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur and comedian.
Idaho State University has been sued by a tennis player who charges that he was the victim of religious discrimination and sexual harassment, The Post Register reported. The athlete who sued is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His lawsuit says that team members made fun of his Mormon faith, repeatedly badgering him with questions about sexual practices that would conflict with his faith. The harassment increased, the suit says, when he told his coaches and fellow team members that he would be leaving the next year for a mission trip in which Mormons typically participate. Then an assistant coach and players sent two prostitutes or strippers to the student's room to try to make him violate the teachings of his faith. He sent the women away.
The suit charges that an assistant coach directly participated in the harassment and that the coach permitted a culture in which the Mormon student was harassed. Both the coach and assistant coach are no longer in their positions. The university said it does not comment on litigation. But the newspaper reported that an internal investigation by the university backed up many of the complaints, including the allegation involving prostitutes or strippers.
The Asian American Coalition for Education will today announce that it is asking the U.S. Education Department to find that Brown and Yale Universities and Dartmouth College discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The complaint cites data such as the increasing number of Asian-American applicants and studies that have found that, on average, Asian-Americans need higher grades and test scores to earn admission to elite colleges, and comments from former admissions officers to back up that view. The coalition and other groups have been seeking to challenge affirmative action policies that they say favor all non-Asian applicants (including white applicants) over Asians. To date, these efforts have not succeeded.
William Paterson University in New Jersey must pay more than $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former professor of secondary and middle school education who says she was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of race and religion, a jury decided last week. Althea Hulton-Lindsay, former chair of her department, alleged various forms of mistreatment and said she was stripped of her responsibilities and saw her proposals rejected by Candace Burns, dean of the College of Education, because she is black and a born-again Christian, NorthJersey.com reported. For example, Hulton-Lindsay said, Burns once called campus security because she and colleague were praying at the colleague’s desk.
Hulton-Lindsay said that she filed several harassment complaints with William Paterson, but that they were never investigated and that she was eventually removed as department chair in 2012. The professor also alleged retaliation, saying that the action came a week after she filed a complaint, but the jury rejected that claim. Noreen Kemether, a deputy state attorney general who represented William Paterson during the trial, said that Hulton-Lindsay was not discriminated against and rather removed from her leadership role because she failed to work cooperatively with Burns and other colleagues.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison has suspended Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity after an investigation found that chapter members repeatedly used racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The fraternity also was found to have ostracized a black member who asked them to stop using the slurs. Last year, a video of members of the SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma singing a song with racist slurs attracted national attention. And while SAE officials have said that the organization is committed to treating all people equally, the Madison incident is the latest in a series of racial incidents involving chapters of the fraternity.
The University of Melbourne, in Australia, is currently restricting three mathematics faculty jobs to female applicants, ABC Australia reported. Officials said mathematics departments struggle to attract female applicants. Australian law permits discrimination (in this case against male applicants) designed to promote equal opportunity.