Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In Our Own Words: Institutional Betrayals By Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt in Inside Higher Education

Excellent critique of the systemic inequitable situation for faculty of color published in Inside Higher Education. I'm really proud of the Independent Equity Committee at UT pictured below for their boldness and courage in standing up to injustice at the University of Texas at Austin. Do read the statements below made by faculty of color that have departed higher education institutions.  They're poignant and enraging because of the racism and white supremacy that exists. 

This is not sustainable.  That's why there's a whole movement that's taken to the streets that's saying that all of this othering has to stop.  There's simply no defense for discrimination, especially institutionalized forms that though enmeshed in the very fabric of what counts as knowledge in higher education, must get interrupted in a big way sooner or later, as this is not sustainable. Plus, it is in our interest as a nation and as a community that, to borrow from a piece on Ethnic Studies that Emilio Zamora and I wrote, we must "weave a broader we" in this country. We need equity everywhere. And we need to end white supremacy everywhere, as well.  

All of these bad things happening as Trump denies that he heard people yelling "white power" in a video that he tweeted. Now he's saying that he didn't hear what he had tweeted. He should just own that he's a white supremacist and stop playing games.  

Thanks to Dr. Tony Baez for sharing.

-Angela Valenzuela

When Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt asked a large group of underrepresented 
faculty members why they left their higher education institutions, they 
told her the real reasons for their departures -- those that climate surveys 
don't capture.

March 6, 2020
Why do marginalized faculty members leave their college or university?
Climate surveys that institutions conduct to try to assess the reasons do not capture the true personal narratives. It is time to allow a public space for marginalized faculty who have left or been cast out of their institutions to reclaim their exits in their own words. Some have departed their institutions for far better opportunities elsewhere or for personal situations beyond their control, while others have left because their institutional climates are unbearable.
The 2019 HERI survey revealed that “faculty of color and female faculty disproportionately experience stress due to discrimination and feel they have to work harder than their colleagues to be perceived as a legitimate scholar.” Not long ago, eight professors at the University of Texas at Austin demanded that “documented inequities in pay, promotion, leadership opportunities and recognition for Hispanic faculty members” be resolved. And in honest discussions, discriminatory practices, racism, macro-invalidation and inequity are repeated reasons why marginalized faculty and staff leave their departments -- creating a revolving door where new faculty are hired to replace those pushed out of their positions or exiting the academy permanently.
Yet many institutions misinform their constituencies as to why faculty of color and other underrepresented faculty members resign or are asked to resign. The reasons for their resignations are often portrayed as a lack of fit or better opportunities elsewhere, but their colleagues, harassers and aggressors, human resources departments, and institutional legal counsels know the real story. And, unfortunately, the urgent question still remains unanswered as to how institutions have changed their structures and policies as a result of the climate surveys to provide protection for and retain such individuals in the future.
This is a piece about institutional betrayals and the failure to create campus climates that promote diversity, equity and inclusion among faculty members and administrators. Perhaps the climate studies and reports should be called transparency reports on institutional betrayals, if there is any chance that these betrayals will be followed by redress.
In Their Own Words
In an attempt to collect honest rationales (in lieu of exhaustive climate surveys) as to why underrepresented and marginalized faculty and staff members have left their previous institutions, I asked a direct question, “Why did you leave?” to a large group of underrepresented faculty members on a closed Facebook group. I promised to maintain their anonymity and requested that they distill their reasons to 500 characters or less. The goal of this project was simple: to allow those who have left/resigned/been forced out to narrate in their own words the real reasons for their departures -- those that climate surveys did not capture. Here’s what faculty said:
  • I left because, in Sara Ahmed's words, I was an “institutional plumber” and nobody wanted the real blockages in the system removed. They wanted the floral spray, the food and fiesta, rather than digging out the deep roots that were destroying the foundations.
  • I left because I never felt included. My white colleagues promoted each other’s minor publications, while I never received any acknowledgment about any of my national-level publications or awards.
  • I left because I received a hate letter on my department letterhead after Sept. 11 and my university refused to investigate. I found out later that there were two faculty members within the department who were active members in a white supremacy group in town.
  • I left because I was disciplined for correcting a white colleague when she mispronounced my name.
  • I left because my department chair started calling other colleagues at other units to tell them I am a “bad citizen” and they shouldn’t write for my tenure case. When I reported this abuse, the dean threatened me and the so-called civil rights office backed her up, saying I must have misunderstood her.
  • I left because our associate provost protected the white abuser and not me. My white abuser continued her bullying to a point that I had to seek counseling.
  • I left because my workload was much heavier than my white colleagues’ and I received two-thirds the pay of the male white colleague who came in next.
  • I left because a Zionist in my institution started employing spies in my classrooms and reported to our administration that I was anti-Semitic because I taught my students about the plight of Palestinians. As an immigrant Muslim woman, I felt I had no real allies among our white but woke faculty.
  • I left because I complained to HR that some of my white colleagues were harassing me publicly. Rather than holding these colleagues accountable, our dean protected these white colleagues and made them file a complaint against me for complaining.
  • I left because my institution hired an outside investigator to investigate alleged hostile climate after two faculty of color left. The investigator held my institution responsible for not addressing the creation of a hostile environment. My administration voided the entire investigative report, saying that the African American investigator was incompetent.
  • I left because my colleagues blocked me from participating in any major decision making. They marked me as “angry,” divisive” and “hostile” when I protested their white supremacy structures.
  • I left because my chair said my book was an inferior publication from a substandard press. A reputable university press published my book. It won three prizes.
  • I left because my department actively blocked my promotion to full professorship when I stood up against the bullying culture promoted by some of my senior white male colleagues.
  • I left because I was told on numerous occasions that I only got the job because I am a person of color. I was also told that I would be tenured simply because I am a faculty of color, although my teaching evaluations and publications record exceeded the departmental standards for tenure and promotion. When I made the dean aware of such repeated microaggressions, she told me I was “overreacting.”
  • I left because I was asked to resign as a result of supporting students of color and their demands for more faculty of color, programming and diversity training for many of their faculty and administrators. I had to also sign a nondisclosure statement to not sue the institution in my separation agreement.
As many of the respondents noted, toxic departmental climates and routine failure and negligence by those that hold institutional power to address various forms of micro- and macro-aggressions (and sometimes outright racism) continue to be pervasive features that female and minoritized faculty within academe face. When pre-existing conditions that create unwelcome environments are not seriously considered, retention of marginalized faculty and staff members poses a serious challenge. “You just can’t bring brown [and black] bodies into a white supremacy system and expect [them] to be OK,” noted Ebony O. McGee.
In 2014, a writer who used the pseudonym Female Science Professor in “Talking about a toxic environment: Should you tell administrators and colleagues why you are leaving?” noted that “talking about your reasons for leaving may not be an easy thing to do, especially if you have been in a toxic environment for a while and just want to leave it behind as soon as possible.” Yet institutional failures to grapple with toxic work environments leads to a perpetuation of the problem. “Even if only one person is primarily responsible for creating a hostile workplace” says the Female Science Professor, “there may be an institutional culture that does not allow such problems to be recognized and resolved effectively. “Remaining benign or indifferent to climate issues experienced by underrepresented faculty or staff members -- in spite of expensive climate reports -- is the clearest indication of institutions suffering from a racism problem.”
The stories of cover-ups of hostile work climates by administrations to save face for the institutions in front of donors, the news media and the public are commonplace. So are the various forms of retaliations, harassment and gaslighting that the brave faculty of color and other marginalized people confront when they have come forward and filed complaints about their hostile work environments, microaggressions, racist and blatant differential treatment. Rather than responding to these complaints and acts of whistle-blowing with utmost compassion and care, the retaliations and gaslighting that can follow are truly alarming. In Sara Ahmed’s blog “Feminist Killjoys” she articulates how:
A formal complaint can lead you into the shadowy corners of an institution, meeting rooms, corridors; buildings you did not have any reason to enter before become where you go; what you know … You learn about processes, procedures, policies, you learn to point out what they fail to do, pointing to, pointing out; you fill in more and more forms; forms become norms; files become futures; filing cabinets, graves.
A mediator who was once hired to deal with the hostile climate in a department told me, “You are like a canary in the coal mine.” While the canary signals the imminent danger in the coal mine, it is also always caged, and its eventual fate is death. Many of us who are underrepresented faculty and staff members engaged in diversity work cannot become canaries. We must find exit doors to survive when faced with repeated aggression from those on our campuses who block narratives of documented hostile climates. We cannot put our bodies on the line to uphold diversity initiatives without any institutional mechanisms to protect us.
We also cannot become institutional plumbers and mechanics when it becomes clear to us that beyond the “climate surveys” conducted, the blockage, the leaks, the outdated wiring and the foundational cracks cannot be repaired. They need major renovations by rewriting and revising institutional policies and establishing a record of compliance by holding those accountable for perpetuating hostile climates and microaggressions against their underrepresented faculty and staff. To do anything less is just watching the revolving door keep revolving.


Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt is the Edith Green Distinguished Professor and teaches in the English department at Linfield College in Oregon. She is the author of The Postcolonial Citizen: The Intellectual Migrant and is the lead editor of the forthcoming book Civility, Free Speech and Academic Freedom in Higher Education: Faculty on the Margins. Dutt-Ballerstadt frequently writes and critiques about conditions that impact underrepresented faculty in higher education and issues of free speech and academic freedom.

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An Update on the Latino Job Situation in May 2020: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back by Dr. Rogelio Saenz

Terrible job figures for Latinos, particularly Latinas, provided by Dr. Rogelio Saenz in Latino RebelsKey quote:
"Latinos continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the country with Latinas being the most likely to be without a job. While there were some improvements in job growth for Latinos with 644,000 more persons having a job in May than in April, we need to keep in mind that this small bump does not make a dent in the massive job loss that Latinos have sustained since February."
And many of those who are working are frontline workers holding jobs that put them at risk for COVID.  And then the CARES Act was racist, excluding undocumented, including mixed status families that have children who are U.S. citizens.  This decision, while getting legally challenged as you can read yourself from this NPR article titled, "Lawsuit Alleges CARES Act Excludes U.S. Citizen Children Of Undocumented Immigrants," this decision by Trump and his administration has worked against our interest by helping to propagate the coronavirus.  Viruses do not respect borders, race, class, ethnicity, or party affiliation and we are paying the price for this.

-Angela Valenzuela

An Update on the Latino Job Situation in May 2020: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Last month, as part of my monthly blog for the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), I provided an overview of the hemorrhaging job loss among Latinos. Compared to other groups in the country, Latinos had the highest unemployment rate at 18.7 in May and sustained the highest percentage decline (20.2%) in jobs lost between February and April, translating to 5.7 million fewer Latinos working. The research brief that I prepare here provides an update on what occurred in the following month
I draw here on data from the May 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) to carry out the analysis below.
Overall, while there has been a shift in the ledger from massive job declines in April to slow growth in May, the job fortunes of Latinos continued to be worse in many respects compared to other groups.

Latinos Continue to Have Highest Unemployment Level

As in April, Latinos continued to have the highest unemployment rate in May with 17.5% of the civilian labor force without a job, though the rate eased downward from the earlier month (Figure 1). Whites had the lowest jobless rate at 10.8%, down a little more than two percentage points from the earlier month. In contrast, unemployment rose a bit for African Americans and Asians and Pacific Islanders.
We observed last month that Latino men and Latina women had the highest unemployment rates compared to their gender counterparts from other racial groups. There has been a slight change.  In particular, the unemployment rate of Latino men (15.8%) was now slightly below that of African American men (16.1%) in May (Figure 2). However, the situation was much less favorable for Latinas with approximately one-fifth without a job in May, a slight dip from the 20.8% unemployment rate in April. Whites (9.7%; and 11.9%) enjoyed the lowest two lowest jobless rates among all groups.
While there were fairly narrow differences along the lines of nativity among Latinos in the job situation last month, there was some change in May. As they did in April, foreign-born Latino men had the lowest unemployment level in May, at 14.0%, nearly three percentage points below that in April (Figure 3). In part, this reflects the high concentration of Latino immigrants among workers on the front lines and employed in essential industries. The jobless rate of U.S.-born Latinos remained unchanged. Latino women, regardless of where they were born, continued to have elevated rates of unemployment in May, although native-born Latinas saw a slight improvement as their unemployment dropped slightly from 20.3% in April to 18.8% in May.

From Massive Job Loss to Small Increase

The analysis that I conducted last month examined employment change between February and April 2020. During that two-month period, the U.S. lost 24.7 million jobs with 23% of those jobs previously belonging to Latinos. Between April and May, the nation witnessed a slight uptick of 4.1 million jobs. Nonetheless, consistent with the results that I have overviewed above, Whites have been disproportionately the beneficiaries of the country’s job growth over the last month. Thus, of the nation’s 4.1 million new jobs, Whites held nearly 3.3 million of these, or four of every five jobs that the country added between April and May (Figure 4). Latinos, who sustained the greatest job loss between February and April, were next in line, albeit much further behind Whites, with an increase of 644,000 new jobs, or one of every six new jobs between April and May. The employment growth of African Americans (155,000) and Asians and Pacific Islanders (5,500) was much smaller.

Far From Recovery

The big news flash since last month is that the employment situation changed from massive job loss in April to small job growth in May. Yet, Whites largely dominated the nation’s growth in employment over the last month. Latinos continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the country with Latinas being the most likely to be without a job. While there were some improvements in job growth for Latinos with 644,000 more persons having a job in May than in April, we need to keep in mind that this small bump does not make a dent in the massive job loss that Latinos have sustained since February.
In fact, while the overall national job loss dropped from 24.7 million jobs between February and April to 20.5 million fewer jobs between February and May, the declines for Latinos inched down from 5.7 million to 5.1 million jobs lost, respectively. The decline in job losses for Whites were much steeper from the loss of 13.6 million jobs between February and April plunging down to 10.4 million between February and May. Figure 5 provides an illustration at the pace at which racial and ethnic groups are making relative improvements in restoring job losses since February. Taking February employment as the base, only Whites have seen improvements, as they accounted from 55% of the nation’s job loss in April, but just shy of 51% in May. In contrast, Latinos accounted for 23% of the overall job loss in April but for roughly one-fourth in May. Similarly, the relative job loss situation has worsened for African Americans and Asians and Pacific Islanders as well.

Latino Unemployment Particularly High in States Devastated by COVID-19

Last month we observed that Latino jobless levels varied greatly across the country. There was a cluster of states where Latinos had relatively low levels of unemployment, including several with meatpacking operations. On the other hand, Latinos were the most likely to be unemployed in Nevada, where 41% of Latinos in the civilian labor force did not have a job. Other states with high levels of unemployment were clustered in the Northeast, Midwest, and South regions.
There have been some shifts since last month. Fourteen states had the lowest unemployment rates among Latinos in May (Figure 6). The states are clustered predominately around an inner circle of the country expanding the South, Midwest, and West regions. Most of the 14 states also have the lowest overall unemployment rates in the country.
One thing that has not changed, however, is that Nevada continued to have the highest Latino jobless rate at 35.2%, down from 40.8% in April. More than one-fourth of Latinos were unemployed in a dozen other states.  The 13 states with the highest percentages of Latinos without work are clustered primarily in the Northeast and Midwest regions.  Other states that join Nevada with unemployment rates above 25% include Ohio (33.7%), Louisiana (29.9%), Hawaii (29.4%), Vermont (28.0%), Massachusetts (28.0%), and New York (25.6%). The 13 states with the highest Latino unemployment rates include states that were ravished by COVID-19 including Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as well as those that have the highest overall unemployment rates —above 15%— in the country including Nevada, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, and New Jersey.


It is clearly the case that the recovery of the U.S. economy will take a long time. Claims of things being better than in April are not very reassuring as job loss since February is still very steep. As the analysis that I have presented here shows, Latinos and other people of color are particularly falling behind Whites in making up the job loss sustained since February.  The analysis also shows that Latinos face the highest levels of joblessness in areas that have been devastated by COVID-19 as well as those whose overall economies have been suffering greatly.
Unfortunately, as public health experts predicted, as the country has widely opened up for business, there has been a significant surge of new COVID-19 cases in 22 states, including Arizona, Florida, and Texas. It is clear that additional help is needed to sustain the nation’s rank-and-file workers. Lamentably, the Senate has withheld support for the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES), which would contribute greatly to easing the devastating financial problems of workers. Many people are without work and many others, lucky enough to hold a job, face risks contracting the virus in the workplace and in their environs as the pandemic persists. Our people are our greatest asset. We need to all take measures to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Please do not let your guard down. We are depending on you. ¡Saludos!
Rogelio Sáenz is professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of the book “Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change.” Sáenz is a regular contributor to Latino Rebels. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @RogelioSaenz42.