How can political science increase its diversity?

The overwhelming whiteness and maleness of many academic disciplines is an on-going concern.  Here’s an excerpt of a piece by Colleen Flaherty in on the struggle for diversity in political science:

Imagine there’s one political science faculty slot to fill, and two equally qualified candidates emerge from the pack. One applicant is a woman, and there are few women serving in the department. Her area of expertise, however — Europe — is already well-represented among current professors, and they’re hoping to “fill out the map.” The other candidate is a white male – a demographic well-represented in the department — but his area of expertise, Africa, is something the department is hungry for.
What does the search committee do?
“The answer is that you go to your dean and ask for two slots,” said Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government at Harvard University and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University — acknowledging that the response in most cases will be “No.”
Beyond that, she said, there are no easy answers: Hochschild walked the room here through a variety of what she called “problematic” solutions to the faculty question; hiring the woman in the hope that she’ll mentor female undergraduates, or represent “family” concerns at faculty meetings, puts unfair expectations on her. But not hiring her could be worse — even if the department ends up with a more global orientation.
Hochshild posed her not-so-hypothetical dilemma (she said her department has faced such choices) to a group of political scientists here Thursday during a session on “Equality in the Academy,” at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. While speakers in the discussion all agreed that the discipline needs to become more diverse, they noted challenges — such as the one in Hothschild’s dilemma — to getting there.

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Class differences in learning

A new study shows clear cultural differences between middle class and working class students in how actively they participate in their own learning.

In a paper that will be published in the October edition of the American Sociological Review, Indiana University sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco writes about what she saw when she observed a bunch of third-through-fifth-graders in a public school. Crucially, she only studied white kids — she wanted to isolate the effects of socioeconomic class. What she found, as McCrory put it in the study’s press release, is that “Middle-class parents tell their children to reach out to the teacher and ask questions. Working-class parents see asking for help as disrespectful to teachers, so they teach their children to work out problems themselves.”


Read more about this at NY Mag.

This provides further evidence for these cultural differences discussed in Irv Peckham’s excellent and informative Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction.

New organization for combatting rape on campus

Faculty Against Rape is a new organization with the following mission:

The mission of Faculty Against Rape (FAR) is to get more faculty involved in sexual assault issues on campus, and to protect faculty members who experience retaliation for doing so. Our name is a nod to the Feminist Alliance Against Rape (FAAR), the first national anti-rape organization established in 1974. To fulfill our mission, we provide

resources for faculty to best support survivors inside and outside the classroom
tools, guidance, and support for faculty who want to get more involved in reform efforts on their campus
tools, guidance, and support for faculty who are facing retaliation for fighting sexual violence on their campus.

Check it out.

NYT’s charts the depressing lack of racial progress of the past fifty years

America’s racial divide is older than the republic itself, a central fault line that has shaped the nation’s history. This month it has manifested itself in sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., after a police killing of an unarmed young black man. The resonance of that event is related to deeper racial fissures between blacks and whites; that divide is the reason that the events in Ferguson amount to something bigger than a local crime story.

What is the state of that larger divide? In what areas has there been meaningful progress toward shared prosperity over the last generation, and in what areas is America as polarized by race as ever — or even more so?

Across a broad range of economic and demographic indicators, the data paint a largely depressing picture. Five decades past the era of legal segregation, a chasm remains between black and white Americans – and in some important respects it’s as wide as ever.

From:  America’s Racial Divide, Charted

The Racial Gap in Cancer Treatment

According to an op-ed in today’s New York Times:

“Black women experience significant delays in diagnosis and treatment [for cancer]. According to the C.D.C., even when they have similar insurance coverage, 20 percent of black women with an abnormal mammogram wait more than 60 days for a diagnosis, compared with 12 percent of white women. And 31 percent of black women wait 30 days to begin treatment, compared with 18 percent of white women.”

Read the entire piece here.

Faculty Women of Color Conference at the Univ. of Illinois

Check out this exciting national conference for faculty women of color on March 28-29, 2014:

The Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference is a unique educational and professional opportunity for women of color scholars. With a theme of “Taking it to the Next Level,” the goal of the conference is to connect, empower, and support women as they pursue the next level of their career in the Academy.

More information here.

Racial Gaps in AP Courses Continue

As reported in, the College Board is reporting significant racial gaps in both the participation in AP courses and in students’ performance in those courses.

The College Board is releasing data today showing sustained growth over the last decade in the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams, with more than 1 million members of the high school class of 2013 taking AP exams.

That’s nearly double the 514,000 from the class of 2003.

The data also show a substantial increase in the number of low-income students taking AP exams — from 58,549 to 275,864 during that decade. As applicants to competitive colleges have added more and more AP courses to their high school schedules, the question of whether the program favors wealthier students has become a big one for the College Board, which has pushed to expand access to the courses.

The data also show, however, a more than doubling in the number of AP examinees who only achieve test scores of less than 3 on the exam. (Typically a score of three is the minimum required for college credit, and critics of the program have said that increases in the number of sub-3 scores suggest many students may not be gaining from the courses, a contention disputed by the College Board.) These figures grew from 182,429 to 395,925 during the last decade.

Likewise, the number of AP exams with scores of less than 3 also more than doubled, from 521,620 to 1,345,988.

The data also show significant gaps in participation rates and success rates (scores of 3 and higher) on the AP exams, by racial and ethnic group. White and Asian students are more likely to participate and to get good scores. Black students are much less likely to do so.

AP Participation and Success Rates by Race and Ethnicity

% of High School Seniors % Taking AP Exams % Scoring 3 or Higher
American Indian 1.0% 0.6% 0.5%
Asian 5.9% 10.7% 12.7%
Black 14.5% 9.2% 4.6%
Latino 18,9% 18.8% 16.9%
White 58.3% 55.9% 61.3%

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Structural racism + snow = disaster in Atlanta

Here’s a good piece in Slate about how the context of structural racism made it possible for two inches of snow to paralyze Atlanta for two days.

What Does Racism Have to Do With Gridlock?

In Atlanta, everything.

Atlanta Snow Commute
High school student David Hunter and his mother Demetra Dobbins walk up a highway exit ramp on their way home during Atlanta’s Jan. 29 storm.
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

This week’s weather fiasco in Atlanta, which stranded thousands of commuters on glassy-slick roads and gridlocked the entire metro region for the better part of 24 hours, was caused by a freak snowstorm, they say. And this is true, in the same way it’s true to say the Civil War started because some guys in Charleston, S.C., started lobbing cannon balls at Fort Sumter. But the real problem in Atlanta isn’t snow; the real problem is history.

Read the rest here.

The whiteness of thinking of higher education as a business

The case of Professor Gibney at MCTC in Minneapolis illustrates what happens to the teaching of mainstream research on racial oppression when colleges and universities frame their purpose with a business model:

“A white student may feel discomfort when it’s pointed out to him how he has benefited from structural racism, but to compare that discomfort to discrimination is a false equivalency. Hurt feelings hurt, but it is not oppression. But hurt feelings can be bad for business. And a lot of powerful people think colleges should act more like businesses. When they do, students act more like customers. And our likely customers might not be amicable to discussions about structural racism. If the customer is always right, then the majority share of customers is more right than the minority.”

Read more here.

Justifying murder on the basis of normalized heterosexuality

The recently aired HBO documentary, Valentine Road, examined the murder of 15 year old Leticia King by a classmate.  She was transitioning from male and had asked out a classmate, who then shot her dead.  The clips (available here on from the documentary show how structures are maintained that define ‘normal’ behavior vs. ‘deviant’ behavior.  In one clip, one of her teachers is appalled that she should come out as transgender and she says that she relates with his murderer, saying “I don’t know if I would have taken a gun…”  I don’t know??!!

In the second clip, the jurors discuss how much they felt sorry for the murderer, and how his actions were quite reasonable.  They even argue that the white supremacist drawings in his notebook were merely the result of random doodling.

The behaviors of these women are exactly what generates the social understanding of what “counts” as normal and what “should be” stigmatized.  Their behavior sanctioned the murder (and in the teacher’s case, explicitly sanctioned beating him) of Leticia.  Those of us who remain silent, while knowing these norms exists, and believing that we are innocent, are in fact complicit in creating the environment in which such actions can appear justified.