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Accusations of racism are all over the place at Minneapolis community college

December 5, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Just reading about all the discrimination complaints being made at Minneapolis Community and Technical College makes me tired.

This week, English instructor Shannon Gibney, who is black, has been in the news after writing about an incident back in October. She says she received a formal reprimand and was ordered to attend sensitivity training for discussing "structural racism" in an introduction to communications class. Two white male students in the class challenged her on the topic, asking why it was being discussed and why white males were being made out to be villains. According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Gibney responded: "You guys are taking it personally. This is not a personal attack. We're not talking about all white people, you white people in general. We're talking about whiteness as a system of oppression." She finished by telling them to go and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint with the community college's legal affairs department if they were really upset. And, of course, the young men took her up on her challenge and filed the complaint. The college investigated and apparently decided that Gibney had been out of line and made the young men uncomfortable with the way she discussed the topic. However, college officials are careful to say that it is important for students to learn about and discuss structural racism.

Apparently they just object to the way Gibney went about it. Gibney, who wrote an opinion piece about her experiences at The Gawker, which can be found at http://gawker.com/teaching-while-black-and-blue-1473659925, has said this was not the first time she clashed with the college administration. Back in 2009, a college newspaper editor filed a complaint against her after Gibney made some comments during a newspaper staff meeting. The editorial staff had discussed why readership was down and Gibney apparently had commented on black students not seeing themselves represented at or in the paper. He thought it was inappropriate for Gibney, the staff adviser, to make those comments and also objected to the tone of her emails. The alleged editor was interviewed and gave his side of the story in an article at http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2013/12 /shannon_gibney_mctc_prof_also_took_heat_for_structural_racism_comments_in_2009.php Judging by the atrocious spelling and grammatical errors in the editor's letter of complaint, the quality of the paper may have left something to be desired. At this same student newspaper, there had been an incident the previous year, when two black students complained after the previous editor hung a noose in the office to remind staffers of story deadlines. Nothing came of their complaint.

Another complaint was filed against Gibney by a former colleague, who objected to her department's use of "critical race theory" as a hiring qualification and claimed that a few faculty members created a hostile working environment for white males because of their promotion of "critical race and white privilege" theories. Gibney didn't receive a formal reprimand following that complaint, but apparently the college reviewed its hiring policies after the complaint was filed. Gibney and other instructors have now filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging workplace discrimination, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

I don't know what kind of instructor Gibney actually is, but I suspect she's one who spends a fair amount of time discussing white privilege and critical race theory. Over at Ratemyprofessors.com there are a handful of complaints from students who thought she spent far too much time on that topic and didn't spend enough time actually teaching writing. There are other comments praising her as a tough, but interesting, instructor who was willing to make allowances for students who needed it. Those kinds of evaluations should probably be taken with a grain of salt, since they are usually made by students who have an ax to grind with the instructor for some reason. Judging by her own essay, she'd be more than happy to change everything to do with the college. Putting it right in her eyes would mean "a radical change for the pedagogies, course curriculum, biased policies and the racial and ethnic make-up of the faculty and leadership on the college campus," to paraphrase her essay. Radicals tend to put others' backs up and it sounds like Gibney is an outspoken radical.

What's unfortunate here is how willing everyone involved, from white students to black students to white professors to minority professors, has been to file complaints against each other. This sort of mindset is common these days on college campuses. It's one of the reasons I've been a bit leery of going back to study for a master's degree.

 
 

Article Comments

(54)

AndreaJohnson

Dec-06-13 11:05 AM

"Q u e e r theory". For some reason the censor won't permit me to use this term, which describes the study of the history and culture of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I sympathize to a certain extent with the students who objected to this professor, though I question whether they needed to file a complaint. In some classes I took in college, it seemed as though every professor I had wanted me to analyze a work of literature from the context of race or a character's sexuality. I found it repetitive. I tended to avoid classes taught by those professors in favor of old school profs who used a more traditional approach. But it may well be that the course Gibney taught is required for students in the major to graduate and they don't have other options.

AndreaJohnson

Dec-06-13 10:56 AM

Plus "micro aggression," which I gather is unconscious actions that are racist, such as staring at a minority or crossing to the other side of the street when he approaches. There's "backstage racism," used to describe how whites talk when they are not in the presence of minorities. There's "tipping point," describing what happens when there are more minorities in a school or neighborhood than whites feel comfortable with. At that point, they engage in "white flight" and move away or open enroll their children at some other school. There's "social justice", which I would assume Gibney would call her desire to remake the curriculum, teaching methods and racial and ethnic makeup of the professors at the community college. All of these things, along with "***** theory" and "women's studies" are in vogue in certain circles of academia, particularly education and English departments.

EarlyBird

Dec-06-13 10:30 AM

Societal racism is a term which refers to racist attitudes within a Society. It also been called Structural racism in that substantial numbers of people from minority backgrounds have been excluded from taking part in social institutions. According to Walter R. Allen in writing about racism in higher education in the US, racism can be categorized into five types, Overt and Covert racism which are an individual phenomena and institutional and societal racism. The final category is Civilizational racism.

bushandcheneylied

Dec-06-13 8:45 AM

She represented her point of view in a fair and legitimate manner.We all know how touchy the editoriol people can be . Stop reading between the lines and try listening to her.

 
 

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