Seeing Inequality in Zoom

By Alexandro Jose Gradilla (April 1, 2020)

One of the problems we struggle with in the university is getting a lot of the faculty to honestly see the “whole student”.

As I Zoom teach with my students…I see their realties…”attending” class with a phone in a car. In very small cramped rooms. You can tell they are precariously positioned in the camera so as to “edit out” all the people they live with and not to interrupt them. The anxiousness is on their faces.

So after this disaster or catastrophe is over…we as educators commit to culturally responsive teaching and more equity minded pedagogies and policies. You can still be “rigorous” and have “high or tough standards”…but know what the realities are of your students.

Zoom is revealing in interesting ways our social inequalities that we ignore.

And a shout out to my colleagues who are adjuncts. Adjuncts do the majority of the teaching in most higher ed systems especially in the CC and CSU. As budgets get uglier…we will have to struggle together to keep the budget priorities on the mission of the university…teaching.


Letter to the President of Georgia Southern University Regarding Book Burning

By Mark Naison (October 13, 2019)

Letter to the President of Georgia Southern University regarding book burning at his school
Kyle Marrero
President, Georgia Southern University

Dear President Marrero

As a historian of race in the United States, who has written 7 books on the subject, and a professor for 49 years at one of the nation’s major universities, I am writing to express my extreme dismay at the burning of the books of a prominent LatinX author who spoke at your campus. In all my years of college teaching, this may be the single most disturbing act of racial harassment I have heard, both because of the specter of Nazism it invokes, and the chilling message it sends to students of color in an already highly charged political climate.

If students of color at your university are to feel protected from racial violence- and book burning is a violent act- and if your university’s reputation is not to be permanently tarnished, you must take much more dramatic action than you have so far done.

First of all, the book burning must be described as an act of racial violence and harassment, not as a manifestation of free speech. You must say, in the loudest possible voice, that this action has covered Georgia Southern with shame, and that it must NEVER happen again on your campus or at any campus in the nation

Secondly, you must take some disciplinary action against the students involved, ranging from academic probation to suspension. Your students of color will never feel safe unless those responsible for the book burning are punished

Let me close with one more reminder. There was another time when the state of Georgia was known for the use of fire as an expression of rage- the burning of Black bodies during lynchings. If you don’t believe me, look up the lynching of Sam Hose, who was burned at the stake in your home state after his body was dismembered

The history that comes before us should be a guide to greater wisdom, not an excuse for looking the other way when racial violence and harassment occurs.

Please consider what I say very carefully, because it is in the minds of thousands of my peers who teach at universities around the nation


Mark D Naison

Dr Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Founder and Director, Bronx African American History Project


How Can We Make You Stop? They Can’t. A Guide for Marginalized People Who Challenge Discrimination

By Christian Matheis (June 20, 2019)

One of the things that happens to people from underrepresented backgrounds when they begin to advocate for themselves, including when they challenge patterns of institutional / systematic discrimination: attempts by people in positions of authority to get you to doubt your reality.

We need to call this what it is: an attempt to get people from marginalized groups to further internalize oppression, to engage in horizontal hostilities, and to accept assimilation and tokenism as “the other” (Suzanne Pharr).

Naomi Zack, a philosopher role model and mentor to me many years ago, told a story at a conference a few years ago (2016 APA Central Division Meeting) I want to paraphrase as an example.

Naomi had been invited by a colleague to give a talk at another university as a guest lecturer. As the talk neared, the colleague who invited Naomi wrote to say that faculty in the hosting department — also philosophers — were pressing this question: “how is what Naomi Zack does philosophy?”

Naomi identifies as a biracial/multiracial African-American Jewish woman from the U.S.A.


This is, in brief, how Naomi responded: she itemized her entire CV by illustrating that she earned various degrees in philosophy, including a PhD, has taught philosophy courses for several decades at accredited universities, has held various non-tenure and tenure-track positions in philosophy departments at different universities, is now a tenured full professor of philosophy, and has a long list of peer-reviewed publications in various branches of philosophy in a range of philosophy journals.

At the end of this narrative Naomi added the key response: “Tell them this, my CV. And then tell them that what they are asking is not how what I do counts as philosophy. They are asking, ‘how do we make her stop?’ And the answer is, tell them they can’t. They can’t make me stop.”

The intimidation may take all sorts of different forms, but it owes to the same objective of trying to convince people from marginalized groups that they are not qualified by their experiences, studies, survival mechanisms, community mentoring, etc. to address institutionalized oppression.

The intimidation may percolate up and take shape through a whole range of different phrases and behaviors that seem all-too-reasonable.

But what those with authority are asking is not whether thou art qualified. They are asking, “how can we make you stop?”

And the answer is: they can’t.

But you have to believe it and spend time with other people who live it, care about liberation, and who also believe it.


“We Must Defend Our Universities”: Statement by George Ciccariello-Maher

By George Ciccariello-Maher (December 28, 2017)

After December 31st, 2017, I will no longer work at Drexel University. This is not a decision I take lightly; however, after nearly a year of harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs, after death threats and threats of violence directed against me and my family, my situation has become unsustainable. Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing.

In 1956, Frantz Fanon resigned his psychiatric post at a French clinic in colonial Algeria with the observation that, “there comes a moment when tenacity becomes morbid perseverance.” This rings true for me in the present moment: certain morbidity has set in, and the same racist social structures that Fanon confronted impose their reality on us with a fury that increases by the day. I look forward to deepening my research, my writing, and my political organizing in the service of those movements most capable of confronting the urgent tasks of the present.

We are at war, and academia is a crucial front in that war. This is why the Right is targeting campuses with thinly veiled provocations disguised as free speech. My case and many others show just how cynical such appeals are, and how little the Right cares about academic freedom. They will continue to attack me and many others, but from these attacks new unities spring dialectically forth: an upsurge in new AAUP chapters and the establishment of the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN), among others.

To faculty: tenure is a crucial buffer against those who would use money to dictate the content of higher education. But in a neoliberal academy, such protections are far from absolute. We are all a single outrage campaign away from having no rights at all, as my case and many others make clear. The difference between tenure-track faculty and the untenured adjunct majority—which has far more to do with luck than merit—is a difference in degree not in kind.

Tenured faculty need to defend the rights of all faculty, at all levels, from attacks by the Right and white supremacists. Only then can we build campus solidarities that transcend such artificial boundaries among faculty—and beyond, to campus workers and students as well—solidarities that will be the last line of defense in what is today a losing battle for universities. We need to fight to defend our place in academia against assault from the racist Right, but we urgently need to realize that the struggle for academia is part of a far broader fight.

In the past year, the forces of resurgent white supremacy have tasted blood and are howling for more. Given the pressure they will continue to apply, university communities must form a common front against the most reprehensible forces in society and refuse to bow to their pressure, intimidation, and threats. Only then will universities stand any chance of survival.

To my students: you have earned my admiration and the admiration of many by standing up for your rights. I hope and believe that you have learned by putting into practice—by marching and by protesting—lessons in power that too often remain within the classroom. And I hope and believe that you will take these lessons to whatever is next—and something will be next. I look forward to continuing to support and work with you informally, whether in reading groups, in the streets, or both.

In the face of aggression from the racist Right and impending global catastrophe, we must defend our universities, our students, and ourselves by defending the most vulnerable among us and by making our campuses unsafe spaces for white supremacists.


Universities Should Not be Trojan Horses for Alt Right

By Alexander Reid Ross (October 23, 2017)

When it comes to shutting down minority protections in the interests of the 37 percent of the country that supports Trump, Republicans seem eager to support a “democratic mandate.” However, when the masses openly repudiate such a loathsome would-be cardboard tyrant as this, the fear of a “tyranny of the majority” is invoked by our benevolent rulers. Hypocrisy is the downfall of education.

The assumption that universities are forced by law to allow anybody who has the support of a small student group to speak under their auspices is both foul and false. Universities regularly reject speakers and have the right to do so based on any number of objections, whether right or wrong. There are engines driving the alt right—for instance, those that surfaced out of the quagmire of Breitbart and neo-reaction in the recent Buzzfeed article. Universities that allow Richard Spencer and his misogynist, racist, odious gang to step foot on their grounds is not only violating the very premises on which they were founded (eg, University of Florida’s mission statement “for economic, cultural and societal benefit”), they are putting their own students at risk of the extreme violence that their followers have carried out.

A state that would call a state of emergency to defend this obnoxious little spectacle only plays into the circus. Intentionality is of less concern in this case than the kind of unprincipled idiocy that it takes to make universities into trojan horses for fascist brutes rather than places of reason and learning. Whoever permits this “speaking tour” charade cosigns the murder of vulnerable people throughout the country.


Millennials Are Not Dictatorship Material

By Mark Naison (August 27, 2017)

If Fordham is Any Example, Millennials are Not Dictatorship Material

One of the reasons I am confident that Donald Trump will not take us on the path to dictatorship or authoritarian rule is the refusal of young people to be intimidated by authoritarian figures in their lives, be they parents, teachers, or school and university administrators

I have seen this first hand at my own university in the past year. In three separate instances, students have mobilized to protest what they consider unfair or inappropriate action by different wings of the university, risking suspension to get their point across.

The first example took place when Dean of Students Office refused to give club recognition to “Students for Justice in Palestine” after every student and faculty committee which evaluated the matter suggested it be given such recognition. Students not only organized rallies, vigils, and protest marches to challenge the decision, they brought the matter to the press and are now suing the University in court to challenge the decision.

The second example took place when the University refused to recognize or negotiate with an organization of contingent and adjunct faculty and even claimed a religious exemption from such negotiation. Students not only organized rallies and marches in support of contingent faculty, they tried to march on the President’s office and demand he begin negotiations, an action which led to a confrontation with Fordham security guards that led to some injuries and disciplinary action against the students. Following the incident, which caused widespread distress among faculty as well as students, the University changed its position and agreed to negotiate with the faculty group

Finally, and more recently, the Dean of Students made a presentation on Campus Sexual Assault to Resident Advisors that some found so offensive that they interrupted the presentation and walked out of the room. Following the protests, several students issues a public statement on the presentation demanding that remedial action be taken and last night, the University said it was launching a formal investigation

In all my years of Fordham, I have rarely seen students challenge actions by the administration so forthrightly and effectively.

I suspect this is part of a national, and generational pattern.



The Little Department That Could: An Inspiring Story from Fordham

By Mark Naison (February 10, 2017)

My department- the Department of African and African American Studies- was not supposed to last. it was created as an Institute in 1969 as a result of a student sit in at the Fordham administration building by a committee of Black graduate students and undergraduates who were given power to hire faculty and in some cases to become faculty themselves. A year after it was formed, i was hired as a full time faculty member, becoming the first white faculty member in a Black studies entity anywhere in the Northeast, if not the US. When I arrived, I surveyed the lay of the land and realized that most of the Fordham faculty shunned us and feared us. But many students, white and latino as well as black, were intrigued by what the Institute did and signed up for our courses. And the other people teaching in the Institute, all of whom were Black, none of whom had Phd’s, were all amazing teachers, dedicated activists, and in some cases excellent scholars. So i knew it was going to be a hell of a ride

The challenge was going to be to keep the faculty and administration from quarantining us and dissolving us. And that required strategies on numerous fronts. The first part of that strategy was creating and teaching courses which attracted large enrollments, which we did. The second was joining every activist organization on campus, from Black and Third world groups to SDS, to make sure that student activists knew us, trusted us, and were prepared to defend the Institute in a pinch. The third, a bit unconventional, was playing basketball with the small number of Jesuits that were favorably disposed to us so that we had some friends in the Administration And the final part of the strategy is to work hard on getting our Phd’s and publishing our work so that we could pass muster by the University’s standards for judging faculty and get some of our folks tenure.

These strategies proved successful, so much so that when the academic Vice President called for our dissolution, we demanded an investigation which resulted in the Institute being upgraded into a Department, and two of our faculty, me and Claude Mangum, getting tenure.

But our enemies didn’t give up. They kept squeezing us by denying our courses access to the Core Curriculum. For more than ten years, we hung on by a thread, surviving through sheer stubbornness. But then, in the late 80’s the tide started to turn, we regained access to the Core Curriculum, and we added a brilliant young faculty member, Rev. Dr Mark L. Chapmanwho was as charismatic as he was socially conscious. Soon, our enrollments started expanding again and by the mid 90’s we were once again a force on the Fordham campus. Consolidation with the Black Studies entity on the Lincoln Center campus only helped us as we added two amazing scholars and teachers, Irma Watkins-Owens and Fawzia Mustafa.

Fast forward to today when we are now a Department with 8 full time faculty, many of whom are world class scholars, host a nationally known community history project, and are even able to replace bright young faculty members with equally talented people when they leave for other schools.

The lesson of this story is, with ingenuity, courage, persistence and creativity, you can defend institutions that serve the need of disfranchised groups and even make them permanent.

The Department of African and African American Studies at Fordham is one great example of such an effort. Let’s create a lot more of these in the years to come.

Why Elites Have to Destroy Public Education

By Mark Naison (March 11, 2016)

I just had an epiphany. I’ve been thinking about why our economic and political elites are devoting so much energy to destroying public education. What’s in it for them, other than the profits to be made from investments in technology, software, real estate and other direct benefit to corporations from testing and school privatization? Continue reading “Why Elites Have to Destroy Public Education”

The Bunsis Report, February 2016

In February 2016, Dr. Howard Bunsis of Eastern Michigan University visited Oregon State.  He offered an analysis of the financial priorities of OSU and evaluated how well it allocated resources toward accomplishing it’s academic mission.

The Anarres Project co-sponsored his visit, along with the Allied Students for Another Politics, OSU-Association of American University Professors, Service Employees International Union 503, the Alliance for a Socially Just University, and the Coalition of Graduate Employees.

The Anarres Project wishes to share the slides from Bunsis’s report and encourages students, staff, and faculty of OSU to view and discuss them with colleagues.

Bunsis Oregon State February 2016

Which Way Will Campus Protests Go?

By Mark Naison (November 23, 2015)

One of my great fears with the current wave of campus protests is that Universities will respond to student protests by trying to reshape student and faculty attitudes rather than having universities change who they recruit and admit and hire. Continue reading “Which Way Will Campus Protests Go?”

We Won’t Pay: How Debtors Unions and Strikes Can Lead the Fight for Tuition Free Education

As part of the Allied Students for Another Politics!’s Fall Radical Teach In series, a panel that explores the reasons for hikes in tuition, the explosion of student debt, and how we can collectively lead the fight to abolish student debt and create a tuition-free university. Continue reading “We Won’t Pay: How Debtors Unions and Strikes Can Lead the Fight for Tuition Free Education”