Focusing on the Wrong 'Higher Ed Sins'

February 3, 2021

Steven Mintz's Feb. 1 "Higher Ed’s 7 Deadly Sins" misses the mark. I was expecting this to be a critique of the higher education system, not individuals, and much is missing from his analysis. For example, I see one of the greatest "deadly sins" not mentioned is that faculty in colleges and universities are overwhelmingly white. There is also disparity among faculty rank where more than half of full-time professors are white males, about a quarter white females, and Black males, Black females, and Hispanic males each account for just 2 percent of full-time professors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

Another equally concerning "deadly sin" also not mentioned in this article is that in most institutions of higher education, half of the faculty are part-time. There is no critical analysis of the additional pressures faced by individuals who must cobble together an income, have no guaranteed health care, and can be terminated due to low enrollment. Nonetheless, Prof. Mintz finds it necessary to criticize how we present ourselves. "After all, frumpy, drab, scruffy and unfashionable are, far too often, synonyms for professorial dress and symbols of a (sic) deeper flaws, including a lack of concern for the sensibilities of others." It's hard to be fashionable when you're earning $5,000 per class. I could go on. 

This list of "deadly sins" Professor Steven Mintz cites (sloth, avarice, malice, pride, snobbery, pedantry, bookishness) seems to me to be more about how white privilege/patriarchy infests higher education and manifests in subconscious behaviors to maintain that status quo. Perhaps it would be better to critique and disrupt these systemic disparities if we truly want to better support our increasingly diverse student body than to lay blame on individual faculty members. 

--Mary Lawrence (she/her)
Adjunct Professor of English, First-Year Studies
Gateway Community College

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