If today’s college student is any measure of how they were raised, a big lot of them were brought up to be demanding, coddled and in charge of the household. These overgrown brats are now out in the real world wielding their self-perceived power and putting their colleges on notice that it’s their way or the highway.
Sociology students, alumni and “allies” at Pomona College did just that in an open letter to the Sociology Department, Dean of Academic Affairs and the school President. They unequivocally demanded the college rescind its offer to hire the white “racist” and “unethical” sociology professor, Dr. Alice Goffman. To show just how serious they were, they demanded the college turn the reigns of hiring over to them to hire a professor who is color-appropriate and more to their liking.
“We, a collective of Sociology students, alumni, and allies at Pomona College, are writing to express our anger and concern regarding the recent hire of Alice Goffman. Goffman’s hire proves the college’s failure to wholeheartedly address underrepresentation of faculty of color … [T]he national controversy around Alice Goffman’s academic integrity, dubious reputation, her hyper-criminalization of Black men, and hyper-sexualization of Black women does not embrace and align with our shared community values,” the letter begins.
“To this end, we demand … the rescindment of the offer to hire Alice Goffman as the McConnell Visiting Professor of Sociology. In the case that she has accepted the offer, we demand the termination of her contract.” They also demanded, “the creation of peer-appointed, influential student positions on the hiring committee,” where they will be, “at the forefront of all current and future hiring decisions in the Sociology Department.”
The students have a number of issues with the white professor – the first being she’s not the right color.
The two other candidates for the position “were highly qualified Black women whose critical research focuses on intersectionality and structural inequality” while Goffman “boasts the framework that white women can theorize about and profit from Black lives while giving no room for Black academics to claim scholarship regarding their own lived experiences,” according to the students’ statement.
Goffman is best known for her research on the effect of mass incarceration and policing in low-income African-American communities. She came into the national spotlight with her book, “On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City,” which found her living in a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia where she chronicled the lives of drug dealers and young black men over a six-year period. Although it was met with glowing reviews, soon after, many questioned the veracity of her research.
Although the safety of informants was paramount to Goffman, Pomona’s sociology students aren’t buying it and, if her whiteness wasn’t bad enough, the fact that her research perpetuates anti-blackness, in their minds, is enough to send her packing.
“Her [Goffman’s] methods have endangered her research participants, encouraged the hyper-policing of Black communities, and continue to perpetuate anti-Blackness,” the students write. “Additionally, hiring white faculty who engage in voyeuristic, unethical research and who are not mindful of their positionality as outsiders to the communities they study reinforces harmful narratives about people of color. This practice is detrimental to Pomona’s goal of supporting students of color; we condemn the harm Goffman’s research has caused Black communities.”
The letter goes on to accuse Goffman’s publications of being “racist, sensationalist, and unethical.” They deem the sociology department’s hiring decision as “flawed,” and, as such, it is critical “students are made aware of and involved in hiring practices that directly impact our college experiences.”
The students also are demanding a formal letter from the sociology department detailing where it went wrong in choosing Goffman for the position. They consider her hiring as unsupportive of the black community and see this as an act of violence against marginalized groups because “women of color faculty have taught us so. We recognize the way these institutions operate as microcosms of the broader society, and with the knowledge that all oppression is connected, we will continue to push Pomona College and the 5C’s to do better.”
The students capped off their demands with an infamous warning: “We expect the Sociology faculty and administration to address the demands that have been presented above in a timely manner. Should we not receive a response to our demands by Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 5PM, we will take direct action.”
They didn’t have to wait for a response. The same day the email was sent to the sociology department from a pseudonymous email account, the sociology department refuted the students’ claims and reaffirmed its decision to hire Goffman.
It must have been a tough letter to read for a group who barked out orders and kept their parents in line throughout their formative years. These are the same students who sat there coloring and wouldn’t budge when their mothers and fathers went to pick them up from after school daycare. “I’m not done!” their little princess would howl… and the parents would dutifully wait.