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Interim President White Responds To Black At St. Rose Social Media Bias Complaints

Black At St. Rose Instagram Account
Jackie Orchard
/
WAMC
Black At St. Rose Instagram Account

Prompted by claims of racism on campus chronicled on an Instagram account called “Black At St. Rose,” interim president Marcia White is promising to hire a Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the private Albany college.

Students at Albany’s College of St. Rose are taking to Instagram and naming names with allegations of racism in the classroom. The account entitled “Black at St. Rose” has almost 200 anonymous posts.

One says a social work professor “made countless amount of sexist and racist remarks during his lectures. There were so many complaints about him during my sophomore year, the college began evaluating/sitting in during his lectures… He’s still employed.”

Another says a creative writing teacher “would make inappropriate comments like calling me sassy, assumed I was from a rougher area, and he asked me if he could call me sister.”

Another reads, “I will never forget sitting in a meeting with the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and a couple of other students and being told ‘Do not be the reason that the college does not let in other black students.’”

Interim college president Marcia White says the claims on Instagram are being investigated.

“Academic affairs leaders are currently reviewing the experiences shared by students,” White said. “The deans are meeting with students and faculty already and division leaders in the areas are looking into those accounts so we are investigating the accusations being brought forth.”

No disciplinary action has been taken yet. White says she wants students to be able to lodge a complaint in a more official capacity than social media, so she is focusing on revising the reporting process. White says under Title IX, for example, all faculty, staff and administrators are mandated reporters but there is no similar requirement at St. Rose for reports of bias, and no requirement that bias reports are brought to the attention of the president.

David Cuttino is a senior at St. Rose and the Chapter President of the Albany County Chapter of the Groove Phi Groove social fellowship, a fraternity with roots in the civil rights movement.

Cuttino, who is Black, is a music major, and says he has never had a Black professor.

“It’s the same six old white males teaching the same classes retiring, coming back, you know,” Cuttino said. “And we have some women, white women, that are very progressive like Suna Gunther, you know, we have Kari Francis, who are there. These are teachers that are younger and they understand that, you know, Black people have contributions, Black people have meaning. But as for the older white male majority that’s there, they refuse to change anything or allow anyone in there.”

White says with revenues down during the pandemic, now is not the time to hire new staff.

“We are in a hiring freeze,” White said. “Do we, will we be looking at individuals of color when we begin to reassess and have the opportunity and the funds to apply – that’s a policy we’re always held to but at this time, we aren’t in the - we don’t have the opportunity to do that.”

White says she is hiring a Director of Diversity and Inclusion.

“It is in the budget,” White said. “It will be in the budget no matter what we have to cut. It is a priority. So, if we have to cut something else we will.”

There is some pushback to the hiring from faculty, who say there’s already a Chief Diversity Officer, and from students like Cuttino, who dismisses it as a Band-Aid.

“Just hire Black people,” Cuttino said. “It could be one-by-one, it could be time at a time, but we just want Black people more on campus other than being gardeners and other than being lunch aides. That’s it. A diversity – no. Don’t waste no money on a director of diversity. That’s a waste of money.”

According to St. Rose, 55% of the student body is white, 15% is Black, about 10% is multiracial, and 7% is LatinX. White says about 15% of the 177 full time faculty are people of color.

Cassandra Watson, who is Black, graduated in May with a degree in psychology.

“Black students deserve teachers that look like us,” Watson said. “And not just teachers that are teaching history or teachers that are teaching English so we can read Black books. We need teachers that are teaching art. We need teachers who are teaching gym. For every white position that’s at St. Rose we need a Black teacher for it because representation matters. There shouldn’t just be representation in the dining hall and the janitors and sprinkling a diversity director in there.”

Cuttino says hiring a diversity director is akin to people making broad demands to reduce police funding instead of holding individual officers accountable.

“We say arrest Breonna Taylor’s killer. They give us Black Lives Matter signs,” Cuttino said. “You know what I mean? What is that doing? Arrest the killer that killed Breonna Taylor. That’s all we’re asking for. Hire Black people on campus. ‘Oh we’ll get a Diversity Director.’ What? That doesn’t answer my problem at all.”

White says the problem is the reporting system as a whole at St. Rose. Watson agrees.

“If you’re a ‘good Black’ and you fall in the realms of what we think good Black is then you won’t have to be spoken to,” Watson said. “But as soon as you step outside of those - as soon as you’re too loud, as soon as you cuss a little too much, then no we don’t want that.”

Watson was President of Spectrum the ALANA Student Union – ALANA standing for African, LatinX, Asian, and Native American. The group represents minority students and holds celebrations, expos, and even fashion shows. Watson says to be Black at St. Rose is to feel on edge.

“You can’t be moving through Cam too quickly with stuff in your hand or they’re going to think you’re stealing,” Watson said.

Cam is short for Camelot – the dining hall.

“You can’t be in the library talking about things with your friends while you’re studying or else the security guards are going to be called because you’re making a ruckus in the library,” Watson said. “And it’s just those subtle things that have happened to me and my friends or I’ve seen happen to other people and their friends that do not happen to the white students on campus.”

Watson says these micro-aggressions are extra offensive because she feels St. Rose is a selling a picture of diversity while recruiting that isn’t accurate.

“Specifically from the city. From New York City. Sending busloads of students up here with their parents and having the clubs of color come to these star days and come to these accepted student days so we can sit there and kind of be props for them so we look like, ‘Oh we’re such a diverse campus,’ and then when they get here they have nothing for them,” Watson said.

Cuttino says the issue is not just at St. Rose, and wants his to be the last generation to deal with systemic racism. 

“This is the time,” Cuttino said. “This is the time where we were in social studies and we listened to Malcom X and Martin Luther King and we heard them and we said, ‘If we were there we would do this that and the third,’ those times are now.”

St. Rose students are due to return to campus August 24. White says new reporting policies will be in place by that time.

St. Rose faculty are meeting Thursday via Zoom and the agenda, which WAMC obtained, has many motions and demands related to the Instagram account. They suggest hiring two minority visiting professors rather than White’s planned Director of Diversity.

The complete list of suggestions is below.

 

Extraordinary Meeting of the Faculty

July 9, 2020, 3 pm

Via Zoom

  1.  Announcements

*. Rank and Tenure [Becky Landsberg]:  In light of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,
Rank and Tenure is exploring options to make the document submission process online/electronic for the fall.

II. Motion 1 [Risa Faussette]: The faculty direct administrators at The College of Saint Rose to establish a Department of Racial and Ethnic Studies. This department shall be staffed by a minimum of two new, tenure-track faculty lines filled with scholars of color from different academic disciplines. These two individuals will be selected through a thorough, national search. Academic discipline is open, and we strongly encourage the hiring of interdisciplinary scholars. Current faculty members, with teaching experience and research expertise in race and ethnicity, may apply for joint appointment to the new department.

Rationale: Students on the Black at Saint Rose Instagram page have clearly demanded a more diverse faculty and academic attention to racism. Similar departments are found at colleges and universities throughout the nation; Saint Rose is far behind in this area. We recognize the budget impact of this new department and we encourage Administration to seek grant funding, but it is clear that we cannot afford to continue without this department and the faculty expertise it will bring. Further, a more inclusive faculty and a Department of Racial and Ethnic Studies serves the mission of the college, which states that "we welcome students from all religious and cultural backgrounds." To fulfill our contract with students - our integrity statement asserts that we will "support the entire community" and adhere to "clear and fair institutional policies, standards and practices applied equitably and humanely" - we must heed the call.

III.  Motion 2 [Young-In Kim]:  The faculty direct the College of Saint Rose to purchase a copy of How to Be an Anti-Racist (Kendi, Random House 2019) for each full-time student and employee (including faculty, staff, and administration). Purchasing copies for part-time students and employees is encouraged, but will be left to the College’s discretion. Books will be distributed to students and employees no later than the first day of classes in August 2020.

2. At least twice during the Fall semester and twice during the Spring semester, the College will host a campus-wide conversation related to specific portions of the book. These events will occur at different times to allow as many people as possible to attend. Further, they will be scheduled for days and time periods with light class sessions. The College will provide appropriate food and beverages (breakfast for morning meetings, snacks for afternoon meetings, etc) to further encourage attendance and to welcome those who join the discussions.

3. To minimize the budget impact, administrators are asked to purchase copies based on their salary levels:

$100,000 and $150,000: Purchase 100 copies of the book.

$150,000 and $200,000: Purchase 150 copies of the book.

$200,000 and $250,000: Purchase 200 copies of the book.

$250,000 and $300,000: Purchase 250 copies of the book.

$300,000 and $350,000: Purchase 300 copies of the book.

We further ask that members of the Board of Trustees cover the cost of the remaining books.

Rationale: 1. The Black at Saint Rose Instagram account has produced significant claims that need to be taken seriously. One way to do this is to hold a campus-wide discussion about race and racism. How to Be an Anti-Racist is a best-seller that can provide the framework for this discussion.

2. Simply reading the book is not enough. The Saint Rose community needs dialogue and healing, which is greatly facilitated by in-person meetings. Providing food will help attract participants (especially students) and create a warmer, more inviting atmosphere.

3. The purchase request reflects the faculty’s awareness that the College is in significant financial distress. We ask that those who are most compensated by the College give back to their community at this important time.

4. In addition to beginning the campus conversation that is so desperately needed, this will also allow Saint Rose to begin the tradition of having summer readings in preparation for the upcoming academic year. Colleges throughout the country use summer readings as a starting point for first-year experiences. Given our difficulty in establishing a solid first-year experience, we can use this opportunity to see whether this model will work for us in the future.

IV.  Motion 3 [Kathleen Crowley]:  After seeking input from the faculty at large, Rep Com should draft a formal Faculty response to the comments made on the “Blackatstrose” Instagram account to defend faculty rights to due process in the face of allegations of racism. The draft of the policy should be shared with the full faculty as soon as possible and then a vote should be held for full faculty approval. After approval, the response should be sent to the Provost and Interim President and published as a Letter to the Editor of the College’s student paper, The Chronicle.

Rationale:  A number of specific allegations have been made on the public Blackatstrose account that have included the naming of specific individuals. In some cases, faculty members explicitly were accused of racism. While some of these claims may be accurate and students have free speech rights, the lack of evidence, due process, ability to face accusers, and the right to defend one’s reputation are serious problems that border on being libelous. The rights of faculty to due process which includes facing accusers, being able to review evidence, and to mount a defense before a body that includes peers must be asserted and defended.

V.  Motion 4 [Kathleen Crowley]Rather than using funds for a new administrative position, “Director of Diversity and Inclusion,” the faculty ask that two annual Distinguished Visiting Professorships on Race and Ethnicity be established. Each of these professors will be hired to teach three courses on issues pertaining to race and social justice per semester and offer at least two public events—one in the fall and one in the spring—examining, challenging, and confronting systemic racism.

In the first year there will be one professor affiliated with the School of Education and one affiliated with the School of Mathematics and Sciences. In the following year there will be one professor for Arts & Humanities, and one for the School of Business, with the schools alternating in subsequent years. The search for these professors will be led by at least four school faculty members, two students from the school, and one staff member from the Chief Diversity Office or the Inclusive Excellence Committee. 

Rationale: Given that we already have a Chief Diversity Officer, a Director of Diversity and Inclusion appears redundant. Further, another administrator is unlikely to achieve what has not been achieved by the administration to date. A more effective use of the money would be to hire faculty who will directly interact with students on a daily basis, who will bring important scholarships to our curriculum, and who will provide students with influential role models. This proposal is somewhat similar to the Visiting Professors we hired before the Center for Citizenship, Race, and Ethnicity Studies (CREST) was defunded in 2015.

VII.  Motion 5 [Kathleen Crowley]:  A second course requirement should be added to the existing Undergraduate Diversity requirement.  The additional diversity course must be focused on “Understanding Racism and Social Justice” (RSJ). All departments must develop courses that will fulfill this additional requirement with content focused on the causes, consequences, history, and/or response to systemic racism.UAC will create a “Race and Social Justice Curriculum” subcommittee (analogous to the Writing Intensive Committee) to review and approve proposed courses for an RSJ designation. The committee should be formed by UAC at their first meeting in Fall 2020.  The subcommittee will immediately draft a constitution and bring it to the full faculty for approval no later than November 2020. The Constitution should include an articulation of the key criteria that will be used to evaluate proposed courses, along with bylaws governing committee composition and election procedures. Academic Departments should create at least one RSJ course for undergraduates, submit it to the subcommittee during the Spring of 2021, and implement the requirement at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year after receiving approval. Additional courses can be proposed and presented to the subcommittee on a continuing basis thereafter.

Rationale: When the diversity requirement was introduced in the Liberal Education curriculum in the late 1990s, it was originally intended to address racism and discrimination. Over time, however, the category has come to embrace all sorts of diversity, often eliminating any student discussions of structural racism, discrimination, racial violence, and directly related concerns. Recent events have shown that students have a pressing need and desire to understand, study, research, and confront structural racism in our culture and in the world, which will be what the new requirement will focus courses on.

VIII. Motion 6 [Risa Faussette]:  Motion A: The faculty requests that the Interim President directs the Strategic Planning Committee to modify the Strategic Plan by December 1, 2020 to include a faculty racial equity section that is accompanied by a timetable for diversifying the faculty in each of the four schools with full-time tenure track lines. This timetable should include measurable goals for hiring full-time tenure track faculty of color. 

Motion B: The faculty requests that an assessment of institutional progress towards achieving the goals stated in the faculty racial equity section of the Strategic Plan be included in the next Self-Study prepared for the next Middle States Accreditation visit.

Rationale: The College's commitment to inclusiveness and representative citizenship must include every facet of the institution including the student body, the faculty, the staff, administration, and the Board of Trustees.

Discussion Items

IX.  Discussion Item 1 [Emily Pinkerton]:  Will the administration be willing to offer reassigned time for curriculum redesign toward greater inclusivity?

X.  Discussion Item 2 [Kathleen Crowley]Should Rep Com, after seeking input from the faculty at large, draft a formal Faculty response to the comments made on the “Blackatstrose” Instagram account to defend faculty rights to due process in the face of allegations of racism? The draft of such a policy could be shared with the full faculty in the near future, and then we could hold a vote for full faculty approval. If the statement receives approval, the response could be sent to the Provost and Interim President and published as a Letter to the Editor of the College’s student paper, The Chronicle.

Rationale:  A number of specific allegations have been made on the public Blackatstrose account that have included the naming of specific individuals. In some cases, faculty members explicitly were accused of racism. While some of these claims may be accurate and students have free speech rights, the lack of evidence, due process, ability to face accusers, and the right to defend one’s reputation are serious problems that border on being libelous. The rights of faculty to due process which includes facing accusers, being able to review evidence, and to mount a defense before a body that includes peers must be asserted and defended.

XII.  Discussion item 3 [Kathleen Crowley]: Adjudicating Allegations of Racism Against Faculty Members (Attachments A & B)

If a process for receiving, reviewing, and adjudicating allegations of racism against faculty members is to be implemented, the faculty should have direct involvement in shaping that process and the policies around it—as we did in the creation of the other policies pertaining to faculty conduct and employment status articulated in the Faculty Manual.

I asked the AAUP national office for guidance on creating a process for addressing allegations of racism against faculty and received the following response:

When it comes to faculty misconduct (including racist actions), the AAUP’s position can be boiled down to a couple of basic principles.

 

First, faculty peers should review any allegation, but especially a serious one, prior to charges being lodged. 

 

Second, if the administration imposes a minor sanction (like a letter of reprimand) upon the faculty member, the faculty member should have the right to appeal the sanction to an elected faculty grievance body.

 

Third, if the administration imposes a severe sanction (like suspension or dismissal), it must first demonstrate adequate cause for doing so in an adjudicative hearing of record before a elected faculty members.  I.e., the same process as we recommend for dismissal.

 

These last two principles are set out in Regulation 7 of the attached Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (RIR). 

 

The first is set out in the attached Sexual Harassment: Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints.  You can substitute any kind of misconduct for “sexual harassment” in the title, and the procedures will be applicable.  Under “Applicable Procedures,” see 2c and 2d.

 

I don’t think the AAUP would say that any misconduct procedures would have to follow those in the latter document in every single respect, but I do think that the AAUP would insist that the three principles I noted be observed.

 

It’s clearly a bad idea to charge a faculty member with misconduct without affording him or her review by professional peers, who are in a much better position than an administrator to evaluate faculty conduct and take into account such issues as pedagogy and academic freedom. 

 

And it’s essential for us that any faculty member who is severely sanctioned be afforded the procedure set out in Regulation 5 of the RIR and any faculty member who is minorly sanction be allowed to file a grievance with a faculty body.  Grievance procedures are in Regulation 16 of the RIR. 

 

I hope these comments and the attached documents are helpful.

 

Best regards,

 

Greg

 

*************************

Gregory F. Scholtz, Director

Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance

American Association of University Professors

1133 Nineteenth Street, N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC  20036-3655

202.737.5900 (phone)
202.737.5526 (fax)

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