"The College affirms the intersecting identities of all its community members—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—and recognizes their contributions to the vitality of our unique living and learning environment. The College’s approach to pluralism and inclusivity—both as fields of inquiry and practice—is to prioritize flexible thought, and to invite the examination of access, value, and power through its institutional policies and areas of study."
By Samantha Ivery
One of the many conversations I’ve had while working in higher education was if I saw myself as a scholar-practitioner or the reverse a practitioner-scholar. When I was working on my master’s degree almost 20 years ago I had no idea what this really meant. The implication in the question was that there existed a tension in this field between those who created and disseminated knowledge and those who used that knowledge. Further complicating this issue was whether or not you could do both and which was more important; your ability to create knowledge or your ability to integrate the knowledge into your work praxis.
If I may keep it 100 with you, I think this discussion is one of the biggest problems in higher education leadership. If in fact we (faculty, administrators, student-facing and non-student facing staff) were truly committed to the educational principles our institutions espouse, we would freely admit that learning never ends. In order to meet the needs of all students, in order to inspire creativity and original thought, in order to be competent in working within the diverse world we live in, learning must never end. Therefore, we would all aspire to be scholar-practitioners and practitioner-scholars; and here is the reason why.
Irrespective of the prevalence of traditionally and culturally white, Christian, wealthy, male institutions, our aspiration to transform these educational environments into spaces that welcome every student we admit, then learning must never end. We must strive to learn and accept what our scholars are telling us are best practices. We must inform the scholars when their work is missing an element of pragmatism. We must, in essence, be both scholars and practitioners. To that end, here is a forum for that work to begin.
Search the resources available in this collection and the variety of places on campus where you can find them. There are individuals who are opening up their bookshelves for you to continue your learning. Additionally, students have also created resource lists. There are books, articles and other media. Go a step further and add these works to your course requirements, engage with them to increase your awareness and discuss something you’ve learned or that challenged your prior understandings. When learning never ends we can all be transformed.
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What I'm Thinking About
This recorded debate between the acclaimed author and social critic, James Baldwin and conservative author and founder of The National Review, William F. Buckley is a must see/hear for those who are interested in understanding how the activism of artists is, not only meaningful but, powerful. In this debate at the student union at Cambridge University in the fall of 1965, James Baldwin eloquently addresses the question. In his argument he posits several notions that are worth exploring. First, he notes that reality is subjective. Baldwin says, “One’s system of reality...one’s reaction to that question has to depend on effect and, in effect, where you find yourself in the world, what your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is. That is, it depends on assumptions which we hold so deeply as to be scarcely aware of them.” Second, Baldwin situates himself in his response to the question. He goes on further to say, “I [long pause] have to [pause] speak as one of the people who’ve been most attacked by what we must now here call the Western or the European system of reality. What white people in the world, what we call white supremacy – I hate to say it here – comes from Europe. That’s how it got to America. Beneath then...has to be the question of whether or not civilizations can be...equal, or whether one’s civilization has the right to overtake and subjugate, and, in fact, to destroy another.”
In these two points Baldwin illustrates that in order to understand white supremacy and the notion of racial oppression, one must first understand that it is a system of reality. Race is a social construction that creates realities for both the subjugated and the subjugator. Next he goes on to argue that embedded in the system of white supremacy and racial oppression lies another question of equality. How can a system built on oppression, anchored in the subordination of one set of people be made equal for all? Baldwin continues his argument with a question that sums up his entire position. Baldwin asks, “If one has got to prove one’s title to the land, isn’t four hundred years enough? Four hundred years? At least three wars? The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship, or my right to live there, how is it conceivably a question now?” Baldwin’s assertions about systemic oppression, struggles for equality and nationality are just the tip of the iceberg in his argument. Buckley, rather inarticulately, doesn’t come close to answering the proposition of whether the American Dream has been achieved at the expense of the Negro and unfortunately doesn’t offer up a position steeped in evidence or historical facts.
There is much to be learned from Baldwin and Buckley regarding how they address the question and each other. The level of understanding of the issues from two vastly different perspectives illustrates the chasm that exists when we consider how to address systemic inequalities based on identity. I’ve watched this twice and read the transcript. I think I may need to watch it again and again to really appreciate Baldwin’s 1965 argument and its relevance in 2018.
What I'm Reading
Nicolazzo, Z. (2017). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
It only takes one news cycle, if that, to see the increased violence and harassment felt by misunderstood and historically marginalized communities. This phenomenon makes Nicolazzo’s Trans* in college a must read for those who value inclusion, equity, and full access in higher education. “The aim of this book is to elucidate how trans* college students navigate their gendered cultural context” (p. 16). While there is an increase in research, according to Nicolazzo, much of the discourse is situated in a deficit model which presents trans* students as having problems with a need for accommodations (Marine, 2011). Trans* in college invites readers to learn from the voices of trans* students and “recommit to intersectionality” (p. 151) in research and praxis. An intersectional approach (Bowleg, 2008; See also Crenshaw, 1989, 1995) creates the foundation on which we can embrace the compounding nature of social identities in the lives of students. Consequently, by better understanding how gender, trans* identity in particular, is understood and discussed, I hope to encourage others to reflect on the ways in which we effectively use an intersectional approach to work with students rather than focusing in on one specific social identity. It is my hope that this work will create a more seamless and affirming environment for all students
What I'm Thinking About
With exasperation and fatigue, I’ve said multiple times in the last month, “You’re microaggressing the hell out of me.” (Yes, I know I have turned a noun into a verb.) Nevertheless, that statement underscores a major theme in my personal and professional life. As a Black woman concerned with issues of inequity and intolerance, I am often in discussions that seem redundant and disdained. I’ve been saying for over a decade now, things like, “Why did you touch my hair?” Or, “It doesn’t matter if the joke is not about me, I don’t think it’s funny.” They are disdained because often I hear sighs, see rolled eyes and ultimately the behaviors continue. I am actually becoming fatigued and slightly angry that I’m still saying the same things. Here’s a helpful thought for those on the other end of my opening statement, “You’re microaggressing the hell out of me.” Consider the words of Oluo when she writes, “…when you are called out…Before you respond at all, pause and…remember that your goal is…to have a better relationship.” If it matters to you at all, the colleagues, students, family or friends that are naming for you a moment when what you did or said hurt them; Pause; Ask yourself why; Explore if you feel threatened; Remember, this isn’t the first time they’ve been hurt and the impact is greater than your intentions; Do some research; and finally Apologize (Oluo, p. 175-177).
What I'm Reading
“I mean, as I see it, they have the same opportunity and everything. They should be doing equal,” (p. 31). This reflection from one of the participants in Bonilla-Silva’s study concretely describes the need for this important book. In Racism without racists, Bonilla-Silva explores color-blind ideology and the negative impact on anti-racist activism. He argues, as the title suggests, that there is no racism without racist attitudes and behaviors to maintain and reify the underlying oppression that results from “a pervasive system of advantage and disadvantage based on the socially constructed category of race” (Adams, M., et. al., 2016, p. 134). He explains that a color-blind racial ideology is “about justifying the various social arrangements and practices that maintain white privilege” (p. 211). I hope after reading this book to better understand the transitions in racial ideology made by white people (Jim Crow, Civil Rights Movement, Affirmative Rights and post-Obama eras). Consequently, by better understanding how racism and white privilege is understood and discussed, I hope to encourage honest dialogue about how to dismantle this ideology and replace it with a more effective approach to anti-racist activism.
What I'm Thinking About
Peeples gives voice to the unnoticed and unnamed challenge that people of color in the academy face almost daily. Aggressions, whether micro or macro, “feel like perpetual paper cuts to the spirit, but they act more like parasites. They suck away at a person’s sense of self…. leaving no mark on the outside, offenders never really have to deal with them.” As a new member of the Bennington College community I was prepared to answer questions about my job, where I am from, and how I am dealing with New England weather. Unknown to most, I additionally prepared myself to encounter stares at my natural waist-long locs and my brown skin. This additional preparation is not something white people (generally) have to do. Having lived in 9 states across 3 times zones has taught me that my physical appearance to some is invited and welcomed and to others is curious, unwelcomed, and worse feared. Peeples in her post recounts when she came to awareness about her own white privilege and how that privilege came with racist attitudes and behaviors that while unnoticed by her, were visceral in the lives of her colleagues and students. I am grateful she came to this realization and now I have to remain hopeful that she does not stop there. In order for me to not have to prepare to encounter racism, I need her and others to continue to understand White privilege and work to become anti-racist and end systemic racial oppression.