Mentoring Faculty of Color: Essays on Professional Development and Advancement in Colleges and Universities

By Matthew, Patricia A. | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Mentoring Faculty of Color: Essays on Professional Development and Advancement in Colleges and Universities


Matthew, Patricia A., The Western Journal of Black Studies


Mentoring Faculty of Color: Essays on Professional Development and Advancement in Colleges and Universities

AUTHOR: DWAYNE MACK, ELWOOD D. WATSON, AND MICHELLE MADSEN CAMACHO, EDS.

MCFARLAND PRESS 2013

PRICE: $42.75

ISBN: 0786470488

Mentoring Faculty of Color: Essays on Professional Development and Advancement in Colleges and Universities is best read in the context of the 2008 tenure cases at the University of Michigan. That year, all of the women of color up for tenure in The Program in American Culture were denied. In the introduction to the collection, Dwayne Mack, et al discuss the case of contributor Andrea Mitchell, and argue that her tenure denial, "represented a rejection of her Native American heritage, her feminist scholarship, and her anti-violence activism" (p.1). Although university tenure denials receive little national attention, the cases at the University of Michigan sparked, petitions, letters of protest, and student outrage that lead to a one-day conference that featured such luminaries as Angela Davis and Fred Moten. The conference crystalized for faculty of color across the country that the micro-agressions they experiences were not anecdotal but were, in fact, systemic. The Michigan cases also mark a shift in the structure and tone of books and anthologies about the experiences of faculty of color in higher education. The pre-Michigan anthologies like Christine Stanley's Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominately White Colleges and Universities (2006), Stephanie Evans's Black Women in the Ivory Tower: 1850-1954 (2007), and Deborah Gray White et al's Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (2008) offer histories and bear witness to the problems faced by minority faculty. Those projects started after 2008 have about them a greater sense of urgency and unvarnished frustration with titles like: Tedious Journeys: Autoethnography by Women of Color (2010) edited by Cynthia Cole Robinson and Pauline Clardy; Racism in the Academy: The New Millennium a collection of essays that grew out of the American Anthropological Association's Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology (2010); and Gabriella Gutierrez's et al's Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (2013), a tome of frustration. All of the collections reflect an understanding of higher education as structurally hostile to faculty, but Mentoring Faculty of Color presents the structural hostility as a problem across multiple disciplines, departments, and institutions. The collection tackles the problem with fewer critical and historical buffers than the pre-2008 books and, unlike Presumed Incompetent, which aims to account for the myriad challenges women of color face, Mentoring Faculty of Color focuses more on offering narratives as models for how to navigate those challenges. It is a how-to-manual as much for chairs, deans, and provosts as it is for faculty of color and provides a bird's-eye view not only from those who have succeeded but by administrators who function as gatekeepers.

The recurring theme of the collection is that faculty of color join departments and institutions expecting the workplace to be rigorous and challenging but ultimately fair and believe that hard work and merit will trump whatever biases they have to work against. It's not an unrealistic expectation given that they've overcome any number of obstacles to earn the required terminal degrees to gain this foothold in the academy. But the reality is often harsher than most academics understand, even academics of color who have experienced racism in their careers before joining the professoriate. Their strategies for success are reflected on in 14 personal essays that focus on professional obstacles and personal challenges that faculty of color are forced to negotiate--usually silently. …

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