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There’s a deep, dark secret inside the walls of MCTC – one filled with White Privilege so giving that in April of 2012 a Native American attempted to join the 95% White Student Senate and was denied ratification because of his G.P.A. status. This stands in sharp contrast to a White male student with the same G.P.A. challenge was given a pass and ratified to become a student senator earlier in the year. What’s even more unusual is when those who teach at MCTC have experienced the same bigoted attitudes filled with White Privilege and a matter-of-fact disposition.
by Donald W. R. Allen, II – Editor in Chief/The Independent Business News Network – Special Series Education
Minneapolis, MN (IBNN NEWS/Racism in Education/June 9, 2012)…Dr. SooJin Pate received her Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, with a minor in African American and African Studies. She specializes in Asian American Studies, African American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Multi-ethnic Literatures. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Macalester College, where she teaches courses on critical race theory, immigration, and postcolonial approaches to the study of U.S. history and culture. She is also a Contributing Scholar for Absent Narratives, a project spearheaded by the Minnesota Humanities Center. Her book Genealogies of Korean Adoption is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press.
On April 30, 2012, Professor SooJin Pate sent a letter to her superior, Dr. Linnea Stenson of Academic Affairs, at Minneapolis Community and Technical College:
I am writing to formally notify you that I am resigning from my position as full-time unlimited faculty in English. My last day of employment will be May 29, 2012, as per the responsibilities under the terms of my employment contract.
As you know, I was extremely excited and energized about the opportunity to teach at MCTC. Coming in, I perceived this place as a haven of racial and educational equity because of the student body. In addition, the institution seemed to be committed to increasing the number of faculty of color, using hiring language that intentionally attracted teachers of color. It didn’t take long for the façade to shatter. Less than two months in, I was charged with racial discrimination by a white male student because I taught critical race theory in my composition English classes. The very expertise that made me a preferred candidate was now subject to charge and harassment. Two weeks after this case, I was called in on another racial discrimination suit: this time about the hiring process that hired me. The fallout of these two cases has led to a climate where “critical race theory” has become a “bad word” or “lightening rod,” in the words of President Phil Davis. To be sure, the administration has concluded that the English department can no longer use the language of “critical race theory” in their job descriptions. The very language that attracted faculty of color to the English department has now been rescinded. What kind of message is this sending? And what kind of institution is threatened by a theory that investigates the workings of institutional racism?
Given these things, the climate here has made it very difficult to do the work I do and to teach the way I do. The teaching load at this institution is difficult enough; however, working in an environment that is hostile and unsupportive of faculty of color who are critical of systematic racism has made my work here exponentially onerous. I tried to convey this to you during our annual review. I shared that in my first year here, the most challenging aspect of this job was the administration and the structural racism at this institution. Your response to this, I felt, trivialized the weight of my critique; you said something to the effect that everyone feels that way—not only here but elsewhere—and that I should just focus on my teaching. I wish it were that easy. I focused solely on my teaching when I first started, and I got slapped with a discrimination suit. There are other factors here—unequal relations of power based on race, gender, and age—that make it difficult to just “focus on my teaching.”
Furthermore, as a junior faculty member, I see the way that other faculty of color—both probationary and tenured—are being treated. In my brief time here, I have witnessed the firing or quitting of at least 7 faculty and staff of color. I have witnessed and also been a target of retaliatory efforts by the administration to strike down or minimize the power of those faculty who are committed to making real, systemic change.
All these “signs” tell me that I am not safe here. The culture of fear, retaliation, and silence that has become the hallmark of this place is toxic. It is for these myriads of reasons that I hand in my letter of resignation.
Sincerely, Dr. SooJin Pate
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As of yet, Dr. Pate has received no real response to her letter from the institution, with the exception of a short letter from MCTC President Phil Davis sent to her home, stating that he would be willing to talk to her about her concerns. Pate replied that after a year and a half of sincerely engaging Davis, the administration and faculty around these issues of institutional racism and ongoing structural inequities through initiatives such as forming a “Concerned Faculty” group that met regularly with the president until he disbanded it a few months ago, and organizing Equity Trainings for English Department Faculty that continue to be met with fierce resistance, she had no faith that MCTC is actually prepared and honestly interested in creating an atmosphere of equity, and fostering student success.
If you recall, MCTC is the college that eliminated the Men’s basketball team. In a story from the Star Tribune, “Basketball team No. 1 in nation … and shutting down,” (Jim Souhan, Star Tribune November 10, 2009 -http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/69725342.html) said the reason was, “Last year, the school’s Student Senate and Student Life Budget Committee decided that basketball was not a high priority, and school President Phil Davis accepted the recommendation to withdraw funding for the program. That silly process — letting students who will spend a maximum of two years on campus decide the fate of a traditionally powerful program run by two dedicated lifelong coaches — leaves the Mavericks renowned yet doomed.”
Shutting down of the Men’s basketball team was achieved by a racist culture within student senate and MCTC, which has excluded many of the majority of MCTC, who are Black. Since this culture is allowed to persist — indeed, encouraged — MCTC will continue to hemorrhage its best and brightest, and Black students will continue to fail at alarming levels.
Stay tuned for Part 2: MCTC’s “Pet Blacks”