developing scholars of color ain’t that hard

When people point out that many departments have few scholars of color, the response is often, “look, we only hire people with the right publication records and there aren’t that many.” True on the surface, but it evades a key issue – scholars of color are often hideously under-represented in top journals and university presses and these institutions are the de facto credentialing agencies of elite academia. It’s not as bad as it used to be when I started the academic track in the 1990s, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

To be blunt, the situation will only change when the predominantly White faculty at leading research programs start mentoring students of color, and women as well, so that they have the “right” publications upon graduation. If you have ever worked at a research academic program, you notice that the most common profile for a junior faculty hire is a doctoral candidate who has an unpublished dissertation but who is also a co-author on a senior professor’s “A journal” article. So one way to bolster the pipe line is to bring in graduate students onto projects – and early.

IU does not have a huge graduate student cohort and, frankly, it is not diverse as it reflects Indiana’s demographics. Still, progress can be made and it isn’t *that* hard. In my own case, I’ve been able to chair two dissertations of minority students who’ve gone on to academic careers and I’ve been able to have a third co-author on two articles. I’ll also include my friend Rashawn Ray, who was in one of my grad courses. When someone nominated me to edit Contexts and I needed a co-editor, I remembered that Rashawn was an intelligent and thoughtful guy, so I reached out to him. He was already tenured at that point, but I do hope that co-editing a journal will be a career enhancing activity for him. My reach out efforts don’t always succeed, but you have to at least try and sometimes it works.

In general, I am not impressed with diversity initiatives, fellowships, tough talk on diversity, and what not. Sure, they’re nice but that’s not where the hard work happens. The real challenge is taking the time and effort to say, “sure, I’ll chair your dissertation,” or, “hey, do you want to co-author this piece?” Unless you try to do that, it’s just cheap talk.



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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 16, 2020 at 1:53 am

Posted in uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thank you Professor.


    Armand Chevalier

    January 20, 2020 at 11:04 am

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