Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Welcome to the Academy: A Plethora of Contradictions. (Last Word)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Welcome to the Academy: A Plethora of Contradictions. (Last Word)

Article excerpt

I often tell my students of various races and backgrounds, "Be careful in selecting your careers because there will be times when you will question your sanity as to why you selected your chosen profession." I also tell them they should never work in an environment if they do not feel good about getting out of bed and coming to work.

This is a credo I've held for nearly 20 years. One of the things I did not understand when I decided to live by this creed was that the academy can be a plethora of contradictions. On the one hand, "it" espouses to be one of the most liberal and democratic organizational enterprises. On the other hand, it is rarely challenged to the point of looking at its practices and seeing the constant injustices African Americans and other under-represented groups face.

The highly profiled public debate surrounding former Harvard University professor Dr. Cornel West gives reason for pause and reflection on how far we've actually "not" come in the academy. Whether one agrees with West's ideology, the mere fact he was challenged by the "establishment" to examine not only how he spends his time but also asked to acquiesce to the status quo is both mind-boggling and extremely discouraging. It's discouraging because West represents the tree essence of a scholar. What he postulates is sound and truly presents the opportunity for critical dialogue among "scholars" in myriad fields. In addition, his work consistently has been well-regarded and critically analyzed by some of the most renowned intellectuals in higher education.

The "Cornel West Debate"--as I respectfully call it--is also discouraging because West's work is being attacked by those who not only refuse to see their own arrogance but also refuse to open up their lens to broaden the definition of scholarship.

As I travel around the country, African American and Latino students often ask me, "Why should I choose to pursue an advanced degree and teach at the collegiate level when one is not free to teach and produce scholarship that reflects one's own experiences? …

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