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Harvard’s Only Latina Professor Was Denied Tenure, Sparking Student Protests and a Larger Conversation About Institutional Racism

Harvard has long been regarded as one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the US, if not the world. The Ivy League University has 36,012 students and 2,400 faculty members from over 150 countries. But although Harvard often boasts of the efforts they make to diversify their students, their faculty, and their curriculum, their track record has been less than stellar. That has been no clearer than in the recent turmoil surrounding the denial of their only Latina Professor, Lorgia García Peña. 

Once students learned of the University President’s decision to deny Garcia tenure, they were dismayed. Garcia’s tenure had been watched closely by the student body throughout the year, some going so far as to conduct a letter-writing campaign on her behalf earlier in the year. Once the initial disappointment at the decision faded, some students felt the need to take action. 

On Monday, roughly 50 students took to Harvard’s University Hall to protest Professor García’s tenure denial.

Although there is a Non-Discrimination and Affirmative Action clause in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences Appointment Handbook, students believe that the decision to deny García tenure “exemplifies bias in the review process against professors of Ethnic Studies, whose scholarship and mentorship often put them in tension with Harvard’s administration”. 

In light of the upsetting denial of Garcia as a tenured professor, students drafted a petition with a list of demands aimed at the administration. The petition demands that the administration provides students with an explanation as to why Garcia’s tenure was denied. Students also demand a formal investigation into the alleged reasoning behind the tenure denial, with a specific focus on possible unconscious or structrual bias. Last but not least, the students demand the formal establishment of an Ethnic Studies Division–a request that the student body has been pursuing since 1972. 

For college professors, securing tenure is widely thought of as the most important accomplishment in their academic career.

According to The American Association of University Professors, becoming a tenured professor means that you “can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances”. In other words, it is a professor’s permanent job contract, which grants them greater academic freedom and protects them from being arbitrary fired. Usually, a professor is granted tenure after a probationary period of six years after which they’ve established themselves as valuable to the institution they’re working for. Usually during this time, they’re expected to publish academic research and findings to prove their value.

According to Professor Robert Anderson of Pepperdine University, tenure means that professors “are the most secure” in the unpredictable game of university politics. “[Tenured professors] are more like debt holders. If anyone bears the risk, it’s the staff who get tossed in the trash to save faculty”.

The uproar over Garcia’s tenure denial represents the larger struggle that many Latinx academics face when trying to establish themselves in higher education. 

As Latina Harvard student Mercedes Gomez tweeted on Monday, “Harvard flaunts its diversity and its admission numbers, but refuses to do the work to cultivate an environment for its students of color to feel safe and represented”. This statement rings true

As for the broader Latino community, they have not stayed silent on social media when commenting on Harvard’s questionable decision.

The fact itself that Professor Garcia is the only Latina on the faculty on the tenure track is room enough for skepticism. 

Harvard student Mercedes Gomez is especially invested in justice for Professor Garcia. 

https://twitter.com/gomezsb_/status/1201607299741212672?s=20

Let’s hope that the students’ activism spurs Harvard to re-think their decision.

This Latina academic has some chilling stories to tell about the way POC academics are structurally oppressed by academic institutions:

https://twitter.com/yarimarbonilla/status/1201689622583160832?s=20

The evidence seems to be piling up that these professors are denied tenure because their ideas don’t align with the institution’s bottom line. 

This Latina made a valid observation about how boringly predictable these tenure outcomes for WOC have become.

https://twitter.com/allisonefagan/status/1201864198403305472?s=20

The problem with institutional racism is that it’s so insidious–it’s often hard to see when it’s in front of you. And it’s even harder to call out.

This Latina is angry simply at the denial because of Garcia’s stellar resume. 

https://twitter.com/marisollebron/status/1201597626233315329?s=20

It’s frustrating to see that Ivy League institutions recruit off their claims of radical inclusivity, but their administrations don’t follow through when it comes to changing the structures of their institutions. 

The reason for Garcia’s tenure denial should be made public and then investigated. Because if this isn’t evidence of institutional racism, we don’t know what is.

This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

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This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

As a kid, one of the most exciting parts of science class is observing how certain chemicals react with each other—seeing how all the abstract information you’ve learned on paper manifests in real life. Of course, every school science lab is supposed to have an eye-wash station, a shower, a fire extinguisher, and other such safety tools in case something goes awry, and while accidents do happen, it is imperative that science demonstrations in the classroom be handled with extreme care. Although no hard evidence currently exists on how often school lab accidents occur—as no entity tracks them as a distinct category—scores of preventable incidents are reported every year.

Most recently, the case of 13-year-old Priest Rivera has been making headlines.

Credit: Instagram | CBSNews8

Rivera’s face and upper body were severely burned when his teacher mistakenly botched a science demonstration in June 2019, and his family has filed a lawsuit against San Diego’s Encinitas Union School District.

Last June, sixth-grade teacher Lori Feinberg fumbled a seemingly simple science demonstration called the “black snake experiment.” This experiment involves the mixing of baking soda, sugar, sand, and alcohol, which is then introduced to a flame in order to form of a “sugar snake.” (When the mixture of baking soda and sugar gets hot, it decomposes to create carbon dioxide gas. A lack of oxygen in the sugar from the combustion creates carbonate and water vapor; the carbonate is pushed out by the pressure from the carbon dioxide, and voila! A snake is born.)

“It wasn’t really working and the science teacher kept pouring more rubbing alcohol to make the flame build up more. It went wrong and blew up in my face,” Priest told CBS News 8. He explained that he had ignited, and his friends surrounded him saying, “He’s on fire!”

The lawsuit filed on December 30, 2019, claims that Feinberg “recklessly” performed the “dangerous” science experiment which involved alcohol and flames “in windy conditions.” It also alleges that Feinberg provided her students with neither safety instructions nor protective equipment (like safety glasses) before performing the “black snake” experiment. The complaint also cites “severe and permanent injuries to Priest,” alleging both negligence and negligent action and stating that “Feinberg and the District knew it was highly probable that injury could occur when conducting an experiment involving flames, but knowingly disregarded that risk.” The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for Priest’s present and future hospital bills.

Although, as mentioned above, no hard numbers currently exist to verify the frequency of school lab accidents, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety is seeking out “reliable data.”

Credit: Facebook | John M. Mantel / Daily Mail

According to Scientific American, “surveys find incidents to be much more common in academic settings than in industrial labs”—and if university labs are seeing high numbers of injury and death, imagine how much less prepared public elementary, middle, and high school labs are likely to be.

Indeed, another student victim of a science experiment gone wrong was awarded $59.1 in damages from the New York Department of Education last July. Alonzo Yanes and classmate Julia Saltonstall were left with severe burns after a botched demonstration by a high school teacher in 2014. Science teacher Anna Poole attempted to conduct a “Rainbow Experiment,” a popular staple in high school chemistry classes due to its rapid and intense bursts of flame.

The Rainbow Experiment involves a variety of mineral salts and lit candles, usually placed in a line. An accelerant commonly used in the experiment is methanol, an extremely volatile liquid that shows how different salts produce distinct colors when burned. However, methanol also produces vapor clouds that can quickly spread flames (or, conversely, which can linger and be ignited by unwitting sparks later on). It was this substance that Poole used in her demonstration, pouring it out of a gallon-sized jug instead of a safer, smaller container.

Students said that she had only reached the second dish when a massive flame spread down the line of dishes and enveloped Yanes in flames, ultimately burning 30% of his body. Students also remarked that Poole was the only one in the room wearing safety goggles.

Rivera’s parents have addressed the school’s reticence to claim responsibility for what happened to their son, and the consensus within the scientific community is a similar one: almost all such incidents are preventable by improving oversight and supervision. They are not simply the consequence of random misfortune.

According to chemical safety expert Neal Langerman, “The problem of school lab danger lies in management responsibility.” With proper training, appropriate safety measures (like wearing protective clothing), and regular procedural oversight, accidents like those that have affected countless young students (as well as teachers) all over the country can be avoided in the future.

Here’s How To Maintain A Long-Lasting And Healthy Relationship According To Advice From Reddit Grandmas

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Here’s How To Maintain A Long-Lasting And Healthy Relationship According To Advice From Reddit Grandmas

@Samkelwe14 / Twitter

When it comes to relationships, there’s no doubt that some good advice can go a long way. Whether you’re in your early days or headed down the aisle, we found the best advice Reddit could give for you to apply for your blossoming relationship.

Check it out below!

Do two tasks for your partner and don’t make a big deal out of it.

“For me, my grandfather gave me the best advice. He said, ‘choose two things to do around the house that she never has to ask you to do. Do the best job you can do and take pride in it but never draw attention to or complain about it. Just do it and expect nothing in return.’ I cook dinner and do the dishes/cleanup cooking messes. It took my wife almost a year to notice. When she did however I would find my laundry was magically done on its own, folded and put away. When I told her she doesn’t have to do my laundry she stated “you always cook and clean for me! I figured it was the least I could do!” – u/Ironwolf9876

Be selfless between the sheets

” I feel like this same goes for sex – do that little bit extra to make your partner feel sexy and special every time. A little bit of selflessness on both sides adds up to a world of extra pleasure for each.” – philipjeremypatrick

Don’t always go for 50/50.

“The one I heard is “healthy relationships are not 50/50. Each person should be putting in 100%.” – reddit user

Give your S.O. the benefit of the doubt.

“The best relationship advice I have heard came from an interview Michael J Fox did where he talked about how his marriage had lasted so long. He said ‘We give each other the benefit of the doubt.’ If your SO does something thatakes you worried, angry or sad, ask them to tell you their side of the story before you let your emotions run wild. There is probably a reasonable explanation and a good reason for how he/she acted. That will help avoid a lot of conflicts and foster trust.” – Loive

If you’re arguing to win you’ve already lost.

“You shouldn’t be arguing trying to prove that you’re right or that she is wrong. You should be communicating what you each see the situation as and come to a mutual understanding or agreement. Relationships aren’t a competition. Even if you guys end up not agreeing, at least you’ll know why it upsets the other person and will know not to do that because it negatively affects them.” – cdotace

Be sure they’re the one.

“My mother asked me the night i proposed to my wife if i was sure i wanted to be with her. It made me mad in the moment, but i realized she made a valid point. 6 years and twin boys later, I have never been more sure about a decision in my life. Thanks mom.” – sillysimon12

Get married when you’re poor.

“I was fortunate enough to be invited to a party where there were several elderly couples. At the time, I was in my early twenties, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. A couple in attendance had been married for over 60 years. I asked them, “What advice do you have for a young person like me? The woman said, ‘Get married when you’re dirt poor…’ My mind was blown. I thought to myself, “Wow, that is some incredible advice. Literally start a life together, and build it up from nothing. That would create an unbreakable bond and friendship.’ Then she finished with ‘… so you can’t afford to get divorced!'” – MutantCoach

Say I love you before you leave for work in the morning.

“1. Say I love you (and mean it) every morning before you leave for work. You may not see them again. 2. If they regularly do something small that annoys you, first see if you are able to stop being annoyed by it before asking them to change.” – Reddit user 

How do you do the little things.

“To achieve an amazing relationship, you need to consider what you do in the little things. What your girlfriend/wife is like when she greets you at the front door, over the table at breakfast, etc. These little things add up to 80% of the success of your relationship. Dedicate yourself and be focused completely in the moment in these little moments and you will achieve the best relationship that you have ever had.” – ImpulseTee

Carry the load. Know it’s like moving a sofa.

“I heard a comic once say a relationship is like moving a heavy, awkward sofa up 3 flights of stairs. The whole time you’re talking to the other person, and you wonder if they’re carrying their load, and it can be tough. But its easier than doing it alone.”  – beingtwiceasnice

Be on the same page before you get married.

“Being in love with someone is a good reason to date them, but not necessarily marry them. People fall in love all the time but if the two of you don’t agree on the important life decisions (kids, religion, fiscal responsibility, etc.) then your marriage is likely to face some serious challenges.” – bdd1001