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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.

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The Principle Of A Florida School Was Captured Spanking An Undocumented Six-Year-Old Student With A Paddle

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The Principle Of A Florida School Was Captured Spanking An Undocumented Six-Year-Old Student With A Paddle

Corporal punishment includes all sorts of cruel physical acts. They range from spanking, slapping, force-feeding, and pinching to pulling, twisting, and striking with an object. The act of corporal punishment has long been criticized for its part in causing greater damage than intended.

Though the effects might bring around immediate compliance, researchers have underlined that such changes in behavior are often only short-term and can increase aggressive behavior. Perhaps this is why the act has varying legal statuses across the country.

Elementary school principal Melissa Carter is learning her own lesson from corporal punishment, but not as the receiver.

The elementary school principal from Florida is being investigated by local authorities after her use of corporal punishment on a 6-year-old student was captured on camera.

Principal Melissa Carter and school clerk Cecilia Self used a paddle on the student last month as punishment for damaging a computer screen. According to local CBS affiliate WINK News, corporal punishment was performed on the child in front of their mother. The mother used her cell phone to record the paddling in a clip that has gone viral.

According to WINK News, a female employee from the school contacted the child’s mother on April 13 after her daughter allegedly damaged a computer.

The mother of the child, who speaks Spanish and not fluent English, said that she was confused by the allegations made against her daughter during the phone call. During the conversation the school employee had mentioned “paddling” but the mother didn’t understand what that meant because of her language barrier.

She had been under the impression that she had been brought to the school to pay a $50 fine. Instead, she was taken to Principal Carter’s office where her daughter and the principal were waiting.

Carter soon brought out a wooden paddle and smacked the six-year-old on the backside. The video recorded by the mothers shows the little girl crying in pain during the attack.   

The mother claimed she resisted intervening because she feared having her immigration status brought into question.

“Nobody would have believed me. I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school,” told the local news about the incident. “The hatred with which she hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that, really I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her. I had never hit her.”

Bret Provinsky, the mother’s attorney, said the State Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case to see whether they will pursue criminal charges against Carter and Cecilia Self.

Self was meant to translate for the mother, but the mother said she did not do so. “That’s aggravated battery. They’re using a weapon that can cause severe physical harm,” said Provinsky. “The child is terrified, she feels vulnerable. There’s nothing she can do in the hands of these adults, who treated her so brutally, savagely, sadistically.”

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Indigenous Purépecha Woman Gets Full Ride Scholarship To Attend Harvard

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Indigenous Purépecha Woman Gets Full Ride Scholarship To Attend Harvard

In just a few months, college freshmen will be descending on their campuses across the country. One of these students is Elizabeth Esteban who is the first person from her indigenous tribe in Mexico to be accepted to an Ivy League school.

Elizabeth Esteban is going to Harvard and it is a major deal.

Esteban is a member of the Purépecha tribe, an indigenous community from Michoacán, Mexico. Esteban is the first member of her tribe to be accepted into an Ivy League university, where indigenous representation remains small. Esteban’s parents work as farm laborers in the eastern Coachella Valley in California.

“Well I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion because I never would have believed that a person like me, would be accepted to a prestigious university,” Esteban told NBC News.

Not only was Esteban accepted into Harvard, a prestigious university, she also received a full-ride scholarship. Esteban’s family is part of a community of hundreds of Purépecha people who relocated to the easter Coachella Valley in search of work and a better life.

Esteban plans to study political science.

Dr. Ruiz Speaks with State of the Union Guest, Elizabeth from Desert Mirage High School.

Join me for a live conversation with my guest for tonight's State of the Union, Elizabeth from Desert Mirage High School!

Posted by Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Esteban wants to make a difference in her community. As an indigenous woman, Esteban wants to break barriers that are set on women in her community. She told NBC News that her community expects for women to stay home and be stay-at-home mothers.

The incoming Harvard freshmen was discouraged from applying to Harvard at one point because of her community’s unreliable internet connection. Esteban lives in a mobile home with her family in Mecca and struggled to complete course work. The internet went down in the middle of her Harvard interview and it almost prevented her from applying to the university.

“Well, I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion because I never would have believed that a person like me, would be accepted to a prestigious university,” Esteban told NBC News about being accepted to Harvard on a full scholarship.

READ: California, Harvard, MIT File Lawsuits To Challenge Government’s International Student Visa Announcement

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