In September, students and others at Eastern Michigan University were shaken by several incidents of racist graffiti being found on campus. On Monday, the university was again roiled, this time by a large spray-painted message -- using the N-word -- urging black people to leave. The university has offered a reward for information leading authorities to the person or persons responsible. On social media, some are saying Eastern Michigan hasn't done enough to prevent such incidents.
Jim Smith, president of the university, released a statement condemning the racist message.
"The deeper and systemic issues that are behind these incidents continue to be a focus for our student leaders, our faculty, our administration and all who care about this institution and the welfare of our students. These incidents run counter to the values and mission of the university and our actions over the past several weeks and going forth have and will continue to reflect that," he said. "Again, I am personally angered and saddened, and want to convey my strong sense of resolve in finding out who is behind these incidents and in continuing to come together as a campus community to confront hate and racism, and promote an environment of mutual understanding and inclusion."
Six women who were among the subjects of a "scouting report" that made sexist and demeaning rankings of the physical attributes of the women's soccer team at Harvard University have answered back. The Harvard Crimson recently revealed a tradition of male soccer players compiling the report on members of the women's team. The women who were the subject of such a report -- after being asked to share their feelings privately -- published a letter to the Crimson with their reactions and their names.
"In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack," the letter says. "More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men's entitlement to bodies that aren't theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks."
University of Wisconsin says fans’ offensive costumes depicting a lynched President Obama are protected by First Amendment. Black alumni say incident is the latest in “a long pattern of ineffective responses to a growing racially hostile environment.”
As discussed in Harper’s forthcoming book, Race Matters in College, college and university faculty members are the byproducts of their own educational experiences. Whether in K-12 schools, college or graduate school, too few of us were given sufficient opportunity to learn about race and racism or meaningfully engage with others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
As a result, too little attention has been paid to the problematic and stereotypical ways we have been socialized to think about people of color. Naturally, the failure to challenge such biases prior to entering the professoriate has allowed prejudicial racial attitudes of some colleagues, particularly white faculty who are the overwhelming majority of college and university professors, to inform racist pedagogical practices in their classrooms.
The recent case involving a first-generation Latina student, Tiffany Martínez, at Suffolk University, is but one example. An accomplished undergraduate, published journal author and McNair scholar, Martínez wrote a personal blog post titled “Academia, Love Me Back.” In her heartfelt plea, Martínez first recounts an experience she described as both disrespectful and invalidating and then explains that a sociology professor accused her of plagiarism, not privately, but in front of the entire class. The professor’s claim was further illustrated by emphatic written statements on her paper such as “this is not your word” and “please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.”
One such comment was written in the margin near the word “hence,” which the professor had circled, an important detail, given Martínez merely used it as an appropriate transition to connect two related sentences. Was it that surprising to Martínez’s professor that she knew how to appropriately use a transitional word?
Although some may dismiss this as a minor incident, Martínez reminds us of the internalized racism and self-doubt resulting from years of educational violence. Like the many students of color from whom we hear similar stories in our campus climate assessments, what transpired for Martínez was yet another debilitating and painful experience of marginalization.
In this case, Martínez’s professor was in disbelief that a Latina student was capable of using language consistent with what is regarded as strong, academic and scholarly writing. Such disbelief is likely to have been informed by common stereotypical portrayals of Latinas with which Martínez’s professor was most familiar, which are unlikely to have been reflective of the intellectually rich contributions of Hispanic, Latina and Chicana scholars like Laura Rendón, Gloria Anzaldúa and many others. Instead of acknowledging that Martínez is as capable as her white peers, the professor assumed intellectual incompetence and publicly reduced her demonstrated genius to an act of theft. Such assumptions and actions were not only pedagogically irresponsible, but demonstrably racist.
It is imperative that our colleagues stop being surprised when students of color are able to thoughtfully articulate themselves in their writing and in class discussions. Such low expectations of students of color who have, at minimum, earned admission to our institutions effectively erases their demonstrated capabilities and ongoing potential to meet subjective academic standards.
Furthermore, it is categorically unfair that students of color are routinely targeted and attacked with allegations of academic dishonesty due to the limits placed on their genius by the white imagination. Not only are white students not subjected to the same scrutiny and humiliation by their same-race professors, but they are also regularly excused and validated when proven to have committed the very offenses that the academy abhors.
Charles H. F. Davis III is on the faculty in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Davis also serves as director of higher education research and initiatives in the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.
Faculty members play a critical role in how ethnic and racial minorities and women interpret the rigors of graduate school, according to a new study to be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Analyses of 29 student and alumni interviews and focus groups in four doctoral programs in the sciences and engineering suggest that faculty mentors’ reframing of student experiences of struggle or failure, honestly discussing the way social identity affects one’s experiences in academe, validating students’ competence and potential -- what the paper calls “cognitive scaffolding” -- all support persistence and well-being by warding off isolation and a sense of not belonging.
The paper’s author, Julie Posselt, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, said via email that “Ph.D. students, maybe counterintuitively, see faculty as a last resort for academic support” and feel safer approaching peers and postdoctoral fellows. Graduate students often worry that professors “will judge them negatively if they show signs of weakness,” she said, but “when faced with doubts about their ability to make it (for example, impostor syndrome) they benefited greatly from a faculty support,” in the form of cognitive scaffolding.
Professors help students reframe their struggles and self-doubts, focusing on growth and the long term rather than the stress of immediate experiences and perceived failures, Posselt said. “Also very meaningful to students was honest talk about the ways that race and gender affect their experiences in the academy; they appreciated frank conversations about this from both same-race and same-gender faculty as well as mentoring across social identity.”
Racists posters appeared Thursday morning at about 20 locations around Iowa State University, the latest university this fall to see such posters. Photos of the posters were posted on social media (right) and alarmed many students and others. The institution took the posters down.
A statement from the university noted that "free expression is fundamental to the educational experience" at the university, but added that the posters violated Iowa State rules. "We continue to defend any individual’s right to free expression; however, attacks directed at any individual or group are inconsistent with the principles of the Iowa State community: respect, purpose, cooperation, richness of diversity, freedom from discrimination and the honest and respectful expression of ideas," the statement said.