we are working on it

On Wednesday, December 9th Brown University’s administration hosted a Faculty Forum to discuss the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). You can read the plan here, however, we recommend that you also read the list of demands composed by a coalition of graduate students, this critique of the DIAP, and the alternative 5% plan drafted by twelve professors, and the demands of the 1968 Black Student Walkout which have yet to be met by any University administration.

The Faculty Forum began with several white men introducing each other. Provost Richard Locke, the third white man to speak, gave a lengthy summary of “key parts of the plan.” Incorporating playful language throughout, Locke managed to seem both ‘over it’ and invested in “change”. Below we offer you a paraphrased and annotated play by play of the Faculty Forum.

Locke began by detailing “Stronger Financial Aid and Mentoring Support” in the form of supported living and learning environment, expanding resources for centers that support students from “diverse communities,” and expanding mentoring programs. Locke seemed particularly excited about developing professional and educational opportunities for all, as well as developing and running workshops on diversity for faculty and students. Following this point Locke countered himself by admitting that no actual plans have been made towards institutionalizing diversity training for faculty. Locke stated that there are conversations going on and plans need to be “figured out.” He, then, immediately referenced Tricia Rose without any real acknowledgement of her important work. Note: This is more labor going towards a Black woman on this campus doing the job of the administration. Locke concluded this section of the presentation with emphatic remarks of “We are Working on It!”

Note: This increased “diversity” includes, diversity of religion and diversity of intellectual thought, according to Locke. At this point in the forum he has yet to mention any concrete dates, times, or financial allowances for these diversity trainings and workshops.

Locke then spoke of “Investing in People” (which made us think of this institutions steadfast investment in white people). Locke seemed impassioned as he described the failings of past diversity plans and reified his faith in changing hiring practices by declaring “let’s actually do it!” Later, he continuing by claiming “Brown wants to be a diversity leader.”

Note: 20 minutes into his remarks, Locke has yet to utter the word “race”.

Launching into his “Accountability” segment, Locke repeats a question he has surely heard many times, especially from what he calls skeptical groups of students, “Why should we believe you?” His response is to refocus the “locus of energy” into departments and centers and to work towards what makes sense for them. Obviously Locke has selective memory when it comes to historically white departments, i.e. every department except for Africana studies and Ethnic studies. These other departments have repeatedly shirked responsibilities to diversify. Note: several representatives from these departments would later comment at the meeting blaming a “pipeline problem” and placing impetus for change on emerging scholars of color, instead of reckoning with the entrenched white supremacy within their curricula. Locke goes on to describe the highly bureaucratic process that he believes would ensure the greater faculty diversity: plans will be reviewed by a number of people, reports will be written annually, a oversight committee will be created, money disappears into the cracks of the institution.

During the “Accountability” segment Locke seemed to lose his polished rhetoric to deplore the “confrontational style” of some student activists. Locke implied the activists hurt his feelings, by lamenting that some student activists were “less polite than I would have preferred.” He, then, legitimized his white tears by speaking of the five student “activists” who came to apologize to him personally for the behavior of their peers after the reclamation in University Hall.

Note: the use of “activist” (enclosed in quotations) is meant to be read as “sellouts”.

Locke seemed to have discovered the power of listening in the past month. He said it was the student’s stories that inspired him to actually care, and spoke to the ways in which students’ narrative were “not just an intellectual argument but an emotional appeal.” (Note: this is coming to consciousness is emblematic of a whitefeminist ™ framework) Locke mentioned the “anxiety and tension” caused the recent wave of activism on college campuses across the nation. And reassured the audience that “We are working on it!”

Locke emphasizes that everyone should “stay calm,” because “most people are really happy here.”

Sherine Hamdy, associate professor of Anthropology, opens the discussion by slaying, and called for Brown to take a public stand against current events, specifically Trump’s violent rhetoric.

Locke: What can we do? Note: Not Professor Hamdy’s job to have the solution.

Hamdy: Brown can have a response to national media discourse that incites violence, I mean Trump is saying he wants to kill all muslims!

John Savage, An Wang Professor of Computer Science: The official note taker, takes job very seriously, uses a fancy pen and a legal pad. Note: throughout the Forum he only interrupts twice, both times to ask female professors their names and departments (Sherine Hamdy and Tricia Rose) . Savage seemed unsettled that women would speak their minds. One of the four old white men at the front of the room, he loudly proclaimed that the faculty cannot speak for the institution, and that we must uphold the “good name” of this institution (and the free exchange of ideas).

Another older white man whose name and department we did not catch seemed excited to expound on his school days during the Vietnam War and the revolutionary teach-ins he attended. (um lol ok)

Locke: *looks at Tricia Rose for help* Addresses Hamdy’s comment by saying Brown should not get into bi-partisan politics, but we should address the issues collectively. (unclear what collective he is referencing).

Joseph W. Hogan, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Professor of Biostatistics: Y’all forgot about Providence! Notes the “absence” of Providence in the Diversity Action Plan and more generally Brown’s attitude. Emphasizes that Brown has power in the city yet we are not even reaching across the street to Hope High School. Note: Brown’s Department of Public Safety routinely racially profiles and harasses Hope High School students. Note: Hogan acts as if he’s the first person to think of including the input of Providence community members; meanwhile student activists are working with community representatives in collecting feedback on the plan and drafting demands, not presuming to know what’s best for the community.

Nancy Khalek, Associate Professor of Religious Studies: “What has been exposed is that Brown, like the nation, is not value neutral.” The University does have values, we can revoke honorary degrees (*cough* Bill Cosby *cough*), and it would be irresponsible to pretend we are “clinically neutral.”

John Logan, Professor of Sociology: Seemed upset that the online feedback form was closed, viewed it as “sharply truncating the dialogue we can have with each other.” Hates seeing the administratively filtered responses to the Diversity Action Plan. Note: Although Professor Logan continued to out himself as someone who is “old-fashioned” and still believes in the Civil Rights era politics (whoops!). Intention aside, his comment did illuminate the administration’s mechanisms for breaking down faculty unity and limiting organizing possibilities.

Locke: We closed the feedback form, because people were attacking each other’s comments instead of commenting how I wanted. Now we are collecting the data and will continue to have meetings like this. Yay meetings! Note: the administration loves meetings *unless it’s with “skeptical” and “confrontational” students.*

James F. Egan, Professor of English: Professor Egan serves on the Tenure, Promotions, and Appointments Committee, so he knows how few departments reward the kind of scholarship that included the diversity Locke keeps referencing. Implies that the tenure process is fucked up.

Wendy J. Schiller, Professor of Political Science, Professor of International and Public Affairs, Chair of Political Science: Gimme a definition of diversity! *The hundreds of students who have been asking this exact question 5ever roll their eyes*

Liza Cariaga-Lo, Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion (the only person at the front of the room who is not a white man): We are focusing on historically domestically underrepresented groups, specifically Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native and Pacific Islanders. I embrace diversity in an intersectional framework. We must also specifically support our students from the Middle East.

David Josephson, Professor of Music: Hi! I’m racist! Was condescending and rude towards Professor Hamdy’s comment about Trump and “corrected” her to say that, in fact, Trump doesn’t want to kill all muslims, he just wants to *deport* them. Doesn’t see any reason to privilege Middle Eastern students, cited a student from rural China and another from rural Africa who also needed support and who had trouble assimilating. Didn’t seem able to grasp that people from many communities face difficulties and hardships. Note: Since when is assimilation a good thing?  HUGE FAN of free speech, felt very “bullied” by a group of faculty on campus. Cites Professor Matthew Guterl’s article “Weaponizing Free Speech” as rhetoric that shouldn’t be at this University. Note: Professor Josephson thought a woman wrote “Weaponizing Free Speech” and seemed pretty sexist tbh. He also was involved in writing the vehement defense of (racist) free expression in the Brown Daily Herald. He felt very strongly that “privilege isn’t just white” it is also tenure. And concluded his remarks by emphasizing that although people may read him as white, he identifies strongly as Canadian and Jewish as well.

Jose Itzigsohn, Professor of Sociology: “Diversity has happened where people want it to happen” nothing is standing in the way of diversity. This plan will only work if the administration makes it work by instituting clear incentives and disincentives for diversity. What (the fuck) is intellectual diversity???

Leah VanWey, Associate Professor of Sociology: Um, also data is socially constructed so…. We need to figure out what data is meaningful to us and how is the best way to use the data constructively, currently data obfuscates LGBTQ+, 1st gen, and disability identities.

Rebecca Burwell, Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences: We need space!!!

Locke: Gentrification! I love the Tri-Lab!

Ken Miller, Professor of Molecular Biology: I LOVE THE PLAN! Shockingly Professor Miller’s remarks didn’t expose his racial animus until halfway through the first sentence, when he mentioned the free exchange of ideas (David Josephson snaps appreciatively). He seemed really upset that some students don’t feel safe voicing their ideas and commends Reason@Brown. Seemed worried that a description of diversity would not include him (as white man). “Hope we don’t become an echo chamber” of non-racist rhetoric lol!

Tricia Rose: Honestly over all these people. We have a pipeline problem, but also a subfield problem, as in folx don’t understand that you can talk about race in the sciences, etc. Most departments and fields of research are too compartmentalized. We’ve constructed a narrow pipeline, by not giving students of color space to acknowledge their identities within more traditional disciplines.



1 Comment
  1. I LOVE it when brown complains about the pipeline problem when they LITERALLY ARE THE PIPELINE. like who funnels people into faculty positions?? UNIVERSITY GRADUATE PROGRAMS! who funnels people into university graduate programs?? UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTIONS!!! who decides who gets into undergraduate institutions?? UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES!!! like lmaoooooo what?? also, pertaining to policy, can we talk about #abigailfisher?? like can the university support the attorneys arguing in that case?? or take a stand AT LEAST ON THAT!?!?!!!????!!

    you can’t complain about the pipeline when u r the pipeline.

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