Academia, Love Me Back

Academia, Love Me Back

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced content that is of high caliber. 

I name these accomplishments because I understand the vitality of credentials in a society where people like me are not set up to succeed. My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth. These stereotypes and generalizations forced on marginalized communities are at times debilitating and painful. As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces. In the journey to become a successful student, I swallow the “momentary” pain from these interactions and set my emotions aside so I can function productively as a student. 

Today is different. At eight o’clock this morning, I felt both disrespected and invalidated. For years I have spent ample time dissecting the internalized racism that causes me to doubt myself, my abilities, and my aspirations. As a student in an institution extremely populated with high-income white counterparts, I have felt the bitter taste of not belonging. It took until I used my cloud of doubt and my sociological training to realize that my insecurities are rooted in the systems I navigate every day. I am just as capable if not more so than those around me and my accomplishments are earned. 

This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this? 

In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued. It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word “hence,” a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research. The professor read a few pages that reflected my comprehension of complex sociological theories and terms and invalidated it all. Their blue pen was the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy. In front of my peers, I was criticized by a person who had the academic position I aimed to acquire. I am hurting because my professor assumed that the only way I could produce content as good as this was to “cut and paste.” I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed them. 

Instead of working on my English paper that is due tomorrow, I felt it crucial to reflect on the pain that I am sick of swallowing. My work is a reflection of my growth in a society that sees me as the other. For too long I have others assume I am weak, unintelligent, and incapable of my own success. Another element of this invalidation is that as I sit here with teary eyes describing the distress I am too familiar with, the professor has probably forgotten all about it.  My heartache can not be universally understood and until it is, I have to continue to fight. At this moment, there are students who will never understand the desolation that follows an underlined “not.” There are students who will be assumed capable without the need to list their credentials in the beginning of a reflective piece. How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?

At this moment, I am in the process of advocating for myself to prove the merit of my content to people who will never understand what it is like to be someone like me. Some of you won’t understand how every word that I use to describe this moment was diligently selected in a way that would properly reflect my intellect. I understand that no matter how hard I try or how well I write, these biases will continue to exist around me. I understand that my need to fight against these social norms is necessary. 

In reality, I am tired and I am exhausted. On one hand, this experience solidifies my desire to keep going and earn a PhD but on the other it is a confirmation of how I always knew others saw me. I am so emotional about this paper because in the phrase “this is not your word,” I look down at a blue inked reflection of how I see myself when I am most suspicious of my own success. The grade on my paper was not a letter, but two words: “needs work.” And it’s true. I am going to graduate in May and enter a grad program that will probably not have many people who look like me. The entire field of academia is broken and erases the narratives of people like me. We all have work to do to fix the lack of diversity and understanding among marginalized communities. We all have work to do. 

Academia needs work.

3,807 thoughts on “Academia, Love Me Back

  1. Hi Tiffany,

    my name is courtney dejesus and I am with News 12 The Bronx.

    We would love to do a story on you.

    please call us at 7188616800

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  2. I’m writing from another country but regardless of whether the professor wrote what he did because he’s an idiot or because he’s racist, behaviour like this would automatically be reported to his boss by the student involved and would result in a full investigation and reprimand. But I can’t imagine anyone here suggesting plagiarism unless they’d found the quotes involved on an anti-plagiarism website. Competent universities run all student papers through the software before academic staff look at the work so plagiarism, whether conscious or unconscious, gets caught early and can be discussed privately long before work is handed back. I’m horrified that a university with the aspirations to excellence of Suffolk doesn’t appear to be either using normal modern filtering techniques or training its staff to behave in a civilised manner

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  3. I know I’m on the privileged side of things for the most part, but I have to say what your professor did was beyond evil. How dare he assume to know your level of intelligence! If there’s anything I can do to help you fight, I’m there for you. Sending you lots of love and hope for a better future.

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  4. You say that your professor wrote “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste” on your paper. While it’s not perfectly clear, it seems to me the professor is issuing a command to fix something done in the past. As in, past tense. As in, it should be “…indicate where you cut and PASTED”. So…whose language is it again?

    Maybe you should politely correct his incorrect ‘correction’ and suggest that these will not be HIS words until he learns to use them properly.

    I’m sorry. What a crappy thing to do to somebody. You are amazing for exploring your feelings about it so honestly. Thank you!

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  5. I attended a California college during the early ”70’s. I had written an impassioned paper concerning animal rights. The female assistant prof made comments almost identical to those written on your paper. Incidentally, I am “white”. I was devastated that she would question my integrity and my level of ability. I submitted a written challenge addressing her remarks and noted that it was alarming that a “teacher” could so easily underestimate the intellectual abilities/potential of her students. To her credit, she apologized.

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      1. Um… yes, it sounds like its almost exactly the same. I have a professor remark once that when she found the source material from a paper I wrote and received an A on, that she would be updating my grade and submitting it as academic dishonesty. I wrote every word so needless to say, she was never able to fulfill her goal. She was white, Im white and korean, but I dont feel like race played a part in my case.

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  6. I have had so many moments where I have allowed the intimidation of a graduate program keep me from applying.

    As a father this paper confirms why I must continue my education and never allow fear to determine my future or the future of my children. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I will fight for you to be seen as an equal and to be afforded the rights and privileges you have earned. I apologize for this happening to you.

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  8. You probably know the things I will say; I say them just in case, because so many students who do not come from privileged backgrounds do not have the information or support they need to fully advocate for themselves.

    I haven’t been able to find an ombudsman’s office listed at Suffolk, but if you know of one, talk to someone there. As others have said, please do take this to your dean of students, and also to student affairs—this falls squarely under their guiding principles. Do not go to the professor first. If s/he tries to contact or engage with you about it, do what you can to make sure it’s in documentable—in email or otherwise in writing. If you have friends or allies in the class, ask them to report the professor’s behavior as well. And be sure to talk to trusted professors and faculty mentors about this, as they may have knowledge of university resources that you don’t know about.

    This is crappy for you to have to deal with. I’m glad to read that you’re standing up for yourself.

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  9. This person seems to think “hence” is a big word. It is not. So sorry this happened to you. The abilities of black and Hispanic students are too often called into question when so many white students have been busted in entire cheating rings.

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    1. I think the idea here is to stop bringing up race. Address injustices but stop the “they did this and that” bullshit.

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      1. Sam, I understand your frustration with the topic of race. However, this young lady is expressing HER experience through the lens of HER history of experiences. It is actually bullshit for you to assume your understanding of her experience trumps her own.
        I, too, would LOVE to disregard race as a talking point. It is an unnecessary part of our cultural thinking in America.
        But…the point is…it IS still part of our thinking, and therefore permeates the nuances of our interactions. Whether we like that or not.
        Wish you the best, Sam. You are obviously passionate about your stance and want something better. Hope you do find a way to bring light and compassion into an often cruel conversation.

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  10. Perhaps you could make a deal with your professor that she hand out your paper to the rest of your class and offer extra credit to anyone who can find where it may be copied and pasted from and if it is nowhere to be found, then she must offer you a letter grade and a written apology.

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    1. @Tammy – No. The burden of proof lies with the accuser!! The professor should use a plagiarism program. In fact, the professor should ask her to advise the other students on how to write well.

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  11. Is there any way we could see the rest of the paper? I am just interested in seeing the rest of the comments the professor made.

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  12. My words are not nearly as eloquent as yours, but simply put – you deserve better. I am captivated by your ability to write with poise and fervor. You are more than capable and an impressive academic!

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  13. Though there are several things wrong with this situation, I don’t think that racism is a part of it. Though racism does play a part in a lot of unfortunate situations, this is not one of them. When writing essays, my teachers always say that you should write how you talk and not use words you wouldn’t normally. They say to write it with a professional tone but not so much that it doesn’t have your tone. I’ve had the same thing written on my paper (and I’m white) so I don’t think it’s a racist issue. I think the problem is the specific word your professor circled. For someone in college, you can’t use the word “hence”? This is a common word, so I think it’s a little much to say it’s not your language. I also think it’s wrong that your professor assumed it was plagiarized. What happened to innocencent until proven guilty? Your immediate action should have been to go to your professor or dept. head.

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    1. Bull. Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to explain away simple racism. You’re doubly insulting her by thinking she’s too stupid to read the comments (“you cut & pasted”) and to hear the professor’s words and know whether or not she was being stereotyped or being taught about voice. “Racism doesn’t exist so you must be hallucinating.” It’s people who refuse to ever see racism who are hallucinating.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I didn’t have to read trough this to know that you’re white and do not understand the struggle quit making excuses and pretending that this doesn’t have to do with racism

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    3. “When writing essays, my teachers always say that you should write how you talk and not use words you wouldn’t normally. They say to write it with a professional tone but not so much that it doesn’t have your tone.”

      Teachers do not always say this. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever had a teacher tell me this and I’ve been particularly lucky with my writing teachers. Academic writing is a completely different style from spoken word and you would be graded down for writing that way. Your theory sounds like a recommendation by a freshman year highschool teacher to a student who has difficulty getting writing to flow, not like a well thought out critique of a research paper of a senior in college by a professor.

      Plus, “this is not your language” clearly referred to the accusation of plagarism, which the professor provided no evidence for. You agree that the accusing her of plagiarism and telling her she couldn’t use the word “hence” made no sense. If it wasn’t racism (which I’m guessing is something you haven’t experienced), what’s your explanation?

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    4. Why, exactly, are you dismissing racism so casually from this situation? What is it that makes you assume no racist bias?

      Your teachers on some subjects may say to write essays like you talk normally, but academic research writing is _not_ done that way. There’s no place for ‘personal tone’ in say, reporting results of a study.

      As you note, ‘hence’ is a very common word, and the ‘this is _not_ your word’ note is, quite frankly, both absurd and offensive. If one of my professors had written that on one of my papers, I would’ve not just been livid but would have gone to administration to seek disciplinary action for unfounded accusations.

      Imagine when she’s got her PhD, and couple of years hence her application for research grant comes before a panel, and this real gem of a professor sits there and tells the rest of the panel ‘oh yeah, she’s a plagiarizing student. I caught her using someone else’s text in my classes’.

      We’re not talking ‘college freshman’ here. She’s not a first-year. She’s a goddamn undergrad with a BS degree and her own published work. Show some respect.

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    5. Although sharing the view is valid, and critical thought is good, the professor’s statement can be interpreted in a few ways … none of which are logical. What if she uses hence in her speech? I do. Does that make it my word? So what if she is an undergrad … Does hence belong only to a certain academic rank? Or does it mean, even subconsciously, this is not your word culturally, that this person does not belong, that they are disallowed from using ‘intelligent’-sounding speech? The whole issue is there is meaning to be unpacked from an ambiguous statement like that; that the student was likely docked points i.e. systemic punishment for using a word that belongs to everyone; and that the student was socially shamed in a power relationship and in front of peers for something quite severe, plagiarism, that she claims is patently false. It leaves the question hanging, just whom does language belong to, and who gets to decide that …?

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      1. Starting a sentence with “and”, no capitalization, and poor sentence structure… yup, surely you’re a professor.

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    6. You don’t think it’s racism. You know what she should do. Sadly you – yes you – are possibly making it worse,because you aren’t listening! Listen!!

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  14. Tiffany – just wanted to say I hate this happened to you. Unfortunately, this does happen to women and minority students more frequently. I wish it weren’t so, but there you are. I hope you have at least tried to work with your advisor or with any other resources the school provides for dealing with academic and classroom issues. As a former professor myself I can tell you that his behavior is completely unacceptable in a college environment. If he had concerns, he needed to have a private conversation with you, not announce it in front of a group. His was the act of a coward and a bully, using his position with the class itself (who I’m sure he assumed would be more sympathetic to his charge than to you). Further, the focus on a single word is frankly, embarrassing. I mean, if someone reads a book or two (which should be a baseline assumption for a college student anyway, particularly an upperclassman), they might even obtain a rather broad vocabulary. So if you are up for it (and that’s a decision you should make – taking care of yourself must be #1), you have an opportunity to make it significantly less likely he’ll pull the same crap on another student. Think about it. And don’t worry about the people trying to make you doubt your assessment of the situation (the “you shouldnt call him racist” hand wringers). I’m white, married to a black woman and have four kids. This country is better on racial issues today than it was 30 or 40 years ago but it still has a long way to go. There are still plenty of people out there who seem unable to transcend their own biases, and seem to be more willing to speak and act on them in this age of Trump. Be smart, be measure, but tell the truth as you see it. Best wishes

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  15. Therese Perry also writes about virtually the same experience in “Young, Black, & Gifted.” I think she would love to hear from you.

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  16. Can somebody please explain to me how this is racist? The professor never said anything about race, just that they suspected the student didn’t write the paper.

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    1. Racism is defined by the experiences of the oppressed and not the prejudice of the oppressors. The professor’s intentions don’t matter, only that the actions furthered a common experience and history of students of color.

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      1. So, if its 100 degree’s outside but I feel cold then that must mean it is cold. It doesn’t work that way. Your feelings dictate your reality but not necessarily what is real.

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    2. I think it’s impossible to know for sure if a particular instance of something like this is an example of racism, but it is a little suspicious to me, and I think when you look at the broader pattern in society, it looks relatively clear that racism (and perhaps sexism, classism, anti-rural biases, and other factors) is a factor in the prevalence of these events. I’m a white, male-assigned person who grew up in an urban area, and I NOT ONCE had anything like this said to me throughout my entire academic career…never in junior high, high school, college, or either of the two graduate programs I was in, and I handed in a lot of material and wrote a huge amount. I’ve never been accused of plagiarism online either.

      But I hear black students and non-Asian minorities talk about these things more often. I’ve also heard white people who have heavy southern accents, especially rural / Appalachian accents, express similar things. Like the idea is that people get “surprised” when they show intelligence, competence, or evidence of strong educational background…and if people are “too surprised” they get suspicious about plagiarism or other foul play. It’s all about whether you fit the profile of the “type of person” that people expect to perform well academically.

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    3. A white person with her credentials would never have her work questioned for using the word “hence.” An assumption was made based on no information besides her name and appearance that she did not have enough fluency with the English language to write a good paper. (That’s what “this is not your language” means–it means “you aren’t good enough to create something like this.”)

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      1. You’re an idiot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been chastised by professors who thought because I was an undergrad, I should speak like a common millennial. The fact is that I am not a millennial, I am of the GX generation and ten years ago I was called out for using a word more appropriate for a grad student or so she thought. The professor was Asian, I am caucasian. It was not racist, it was just her not realizing we are all different and that she should treat us as such. The Dean had a discussion with her and fixed that.

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    4. Becca, the entire essay was the explanation. As a POC, the author recognizes the “soft bigotry or low expectations” (Gerson) that the academic community holds for minorities.

      The idea that her professor can read a few papers over the course of a semester and know intimately the vocabulary all her students possess is absurd. To add to the absurdity, the insult of accusing the author of cheating in front of peers wreaks of class superiority and serves as a micro-agressive act to remind the author of what her place is and not to step out of line.

      As an ally to POC, it is important to acknowledge the stories of bigotry and racism that they experience, without demanding proof through the lense of one’s privilege.

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    5. Thank you for being the calm voice needed here. Everyone wants to be more accepting but they go on the attack when we dont know the details, only one account. I heard so many people cry discrimination when it’s often just an excuse for their shortcomings. Im a minority myself, born in another country and have worked hard my whole life and hate hearing people use a real issue as a weapon in situations where discrimination is absent.

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  17. IMHO, unless you are in a small class where the prof knows everyone, I cannot imagine that the prof knows you and your writing style so intimately that he/she can say something like that.
    Meanwhile, do as Andrea Buchanan urged.
    Best of luck to you, my dear.

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  18. Personally, I’d sue this professor for defamation and add the school administration to the list of defendants. I’m betting that, if these facts are true, you’ll have no shortage of lawyers to take your case.

    When the school begs to settle, do so for a bunch of money AND the termination of this professor WHILE still continuing the suit against the professor. Take everything he/she/it has. Everything. House, car, future earnings. Forever. When they’re cleaning toilets in Tijuana for a living, be there to grab the 3 pesos they earn. Burn their life down. Forever.

    Don’t get mad. Don’t get intimidated. Get even

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    1. Haha this sounds like overkill and I doubt a court case like this would go very far if you didn’t first try to resolve the situation with the school. Usually, a lawsuit like this will have more grounds if you attempt to resolve the case with the school, and the school completely refuses, and you document all your interactions with the school. The less cooperative the school and the better you document things, the stronger your case. That’s how you build the case for a lawsuit. If it looks like you are acting out of bad faith, it can weaken your case or cause it to be thrown out, and then you end up stuck with court and/or legal fees.

      Ideally the school administration would address this issue, and ideally the professor would admit wrongdoing and take measures to become educated on internal biases so that something like this wouldn’t happen again. At my undergrad college there was a professor who had been accused of sexism in grading, and the school took away his ability to grade classes. I was glad to hear that, although I would have preferred some greater actions. I’d always rather a person admit wrongdoing, take responsibility, and take whatever actions they can to grow as a person, rectify the situation, and prevent similar things from happening again.

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    2. @BDR: The professor most likely has an unrecognized negative expectation. Would you rather the prof learns and goes on to support minority students next time (and learns to behave decently on a classroom!), or the prof develops hatred and becomes an embittered bigot?

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  19. I’m so sorry this happened to you! It makes me angry because I was in almost the same situation.
    I have a stutter and was put in Special Ed. during elementary and middle school but I was always really advanced for my age. I had an aid follow me around in 7th grade (for god knows why!), and I absolutely LOVE reading. So I had this 400page book written and it was certainly not children’s or young adult literature. i finished it in under a week and the aid didn’t believe I had read the whole thing. She kept questioning me, and even told my teacher that i lacked focus because I couldn’t hold on to a book for more than a week! It hurt because I did read that book. I even got chastised for reading it during class. I read in on buses and at night, I stayed reading that book because I thought it was a really good read… but, a little black girl in Special Ed? how could she POSSIBLY have finished such a lengthy and wordy book. CLEARLY she didn’t read the whole thing. -rolls eyes-

    I graduated with a BA in English Literature and am currently in graduates school pursuing a Master’s in Information and Library Sciences.
    I would just love to tell that teacher’s aid to Suck It!

    Keep doing what you are doing. Get you your PhD like you wanted, and write a killer thesis. That would be the biggest “Suck It!” of all. My track coach used to always say, don’t let these haters get to you, prove what you are worth on the track and make them eat their words. I was in 12 when he told me that, and I will never forget it!

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  20. As a professor I am just horrified for you. Students of all backgrounds have substantial vocabularies. The prof also was completely out of line to accuse you in front of your class. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

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  21. Former McNair scholar here. I can say without a doubt that I’ve experienced what you’ve gone through. In undergrad I had one prof pull me aside and ask me point blank of I had plagiarized my paper (I did not), when I proved that those were indeed my words I was given a B for a grade.

    It’s not only inside the classrooms where this problem exist. I also had the indignity of having my name tarnisbed and being accused of an altercation when none ever took place. My supervisor simply accepted it and did nothing. It’s only when I came back after summer break did I find out what was being said. I’ll admit these experiences have left me a little jilted. I felt as if the old stereotype of “angry brown man” was simply accepted as fact. I filed a complaint, but I became very distrustful of the staff and spoke carefully and in a neutral low tone after that.

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  22. Hey! I’m reading your post. I’m sorry this has happened to you. It is completely unacceptable. Have you submitted an official discriminatory complaint through the appropriate center at your school ? I would really recommend that you do. The professor’s comments are despicable and unbecoming of his position. There might be people at Suffolk who can help you get justice. Please know that there are people who stand with you. I stand with you.

    With love.

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  23. Nothing the professor said was inherently racist and I’m not sure why everybody is assuming the cause is race. Perhaps after turning in a few assignments, this assignment had a markedly different writing style and that made the professor suspicious. Was it okay for the professor to berate you in front of the whole class? No. Is it okay for you to get yelled at by a professor and suddenly call him racist? No.

    In response to other commenters – this has nothing to do with race or sex. The professor cited neither of them in their argument against the student. This is in no way a Title IX issue, and claiming it is is frankly insulting to true Title IX issues.

    This professor is an asshole, but not a racist or a sexist. Not everything happens to you because of your race and/or sex.

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    1. The professor doesn’t have to state blatantly, “I don’t believe you could write at this level because you’re Latina,” in order for it to be racist. Yes, there could be other reasons why the professor refused to believe she could write in an educated manner, but seriously? I have a hard time believing her previous papers were the reason, judging from the way this blog was written. So if it wasn’t that, what then? That she’s female? I have a hard time accepting your reasoning.

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    2. “This is not your language…”

      Please explain how this can be interpreted that is not racist. I bet you’re one of those people who whines about the “PC police” too.

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      1. well it can just be interpreted as relating to her specifically as in “this is not like your other work”. Actually that would be my first thought. I’m just saying, it really would. He may or may not be a racist, on balance it sounds like he was making a judgement that included her race, but the evidence isn’t actually that strong. I mean if he’s to be convicted. He might be motivated by other stuff or a combination, there’s no actual proof. That doesn’t mean I endorse his behavior, or endorse racism or whatever. Just that you should know for sure before you judge.

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    3. No, not everything is about race. But a great number of things are. As a consumer of a piece of writing, a member of an audience who observes the result, but not the act, it is preposterous of you to presume that you have a better handle on the situation than someone who lived it.

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    4. I fail to understand how a white Professor telling a Latina student “This is not your word.” doesn’t seem racist to you.

      Telling someone of a different race than you that a word they use is not -their- word, is incredibly racist. Period.

      Racism isn’t always overt or obvious like telling someone “You can’t use this water fountain, Whites Only.” If you’ve never had to deal with racism personally, you wouldn’t understand the many ways racism can rear its head and make its presence known to those that it is aimed against. And I am not sorry to break that to you, Anne.

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      1. I really could see him saying that to any student at all to mean “you never used that before, I think your style is suspiciously different to previous work”. I’m white and if you’re not maybe this has strong connotations for you. But are you sure it has strong connotations of race to him? I don’t know but he easily could have just meant it was unlike her previous work, using “hence” in particular. It could be race too. This guy is going to be eviscerated for this incident so I think we should at least try get his side. Beyond being a dick to her which he obviously was. Maybe it was motivated by race but there really isn’t evidence to be sure. I could see myself saying or thing that. I don’t really give a shit about race. I am more careful than him.

        But maybe his wife left him that morning. He has a story too and there’s not enough to say he’s racist yet. He’s going to be pilloried and he really should be proved guilty first, not just this.

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    5. Sadly that is why she wrote many of you may never feel what I feel. Until you walk in our skin you’ll never know just how we inherently know what is or isn’t about race. It’s like knowing what each cry of your child means. He sleepy cry, the hungry cry, the angry cry or the hold me cry. You’ve had enough exposure to just know what it all means. Did the professor actually attempt to determine if those were not her words?? Doubtful. I’m betting he assumed she did t have the mental acumen and I’m getting it’s based on race. Maybe it’s not even consciously. And there is the biggest problem. Institutionalized racism is built in and ingrained so when it happens the racist never felt it–like breathing. With one deep sigh she and her academic abilities were dismissed.

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    6. Do you know what bias is?
      We all have it. We expect something base on our view of the world. The prefessor may have certain biases base on gender or race. Who knows. We could conduct an experiment to see if race is a factor of how a paper is graded. That would be cool!

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    7. Anne’s acrobatic presumptions arguing against race are olympian, while Jamie Fessenden’s logic (below) helps us come back to reality. Gimme a break. I’m just an undereducated white guy, but even I can smell the professor’s racial bias if not outright racism.

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    8. I agree. I think white males aren assumed to be racists and that is well …racist in itself . I had professors question my writing in the 80s and i was a white male. I had a Latina professor who said most white tried to hold down minorities daily in her class. However professors are to question ..manynare jerks. But accusing him of racism without hisnside of the story is wrong . its becoming like a modern day witch hunt….I think this reporter has not done her homework. Calling a professor a racist is basically a death sentence. It can’t be Proven by one little word….college kids plagerize all the time …white brown women men…professors arenpaid like 2k a class and are under a lot of stress. Not an excuse to be racist ….but we still no proof he is. If you read any modern day college curriculum. ..most of it is overtly critical of white males….get the facts first then find out if he is a racist or just a jerk or both

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      1. Sorry for mistakes I am writing on a bus on my cell phone …also I am not saying Latina are free from racist jerks. My wife is Peruvian ….so I have some empathy for her …but she should be careful …but more so the reporter for destroying a man who can’t even defend himself

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    1. Can somebody please explain to me how this is racist? The professor never said anything about race, just that they suspected the student didn’t write the paper.

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      1. Much of the racism that is in play today in not overt. There are certain assumptions people make about others because of their race. Police profiling is an example. Very often you can spot this kind of racism by the tone used. Why would the professor have assumed it wasn’t her writing? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate for an educator to ask if her assumption was correct. The fact that her message was charged with an underline clearly shows she had biased feelings. Otherwise she would have asked or made a neutral statement. Obviously, Tiffany has experience with this, as so many others have. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, check out world-trust.org. They do fantastic work around educating and exposing systematic racism.

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      2. There was not a good reason to suspect the student didn’t write the paper.

        Using the word “hence” in an academic paper is not unusual; this is a word that is associated with academic writing (and not particularly high level academic writing at that), and it shouldn’t raise any red flags unless the professor suspected that the paper’s author was for some reason not capable of writing an academic paper.

        Tiffany didn’t have a bad academic record, so why would her professor think she wouldn’t be capable of writing an academic paper?

        Although the professor did not explicitly refer to Tiffany’s race, negative assumptions about an individual’s ability to do high quality work are more frequently directed at students of color than white students, regardless of their academic abilities. People of color are constantly being stereotyped as less intelligent or capable than their white counterparts, and have had a long history of stereotype threat and marginalization in academic settings.

        Research and widespread anecdotal evidence confirms this. Institutionalized racism is a building block of western society…just look at our history. We rationalized colonialism, slavery, etc. by spreading the belief that non-whites were inferior, and although we’ve come a long way in some areas, biases against people of color are still a huge part of our culture.

        Even though nothing was “said” about race, it’s likely that this was a racial incident, because it fits the description of how many students of color have been mistreated at institutions of higher education in the past.

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      3. Yeah, right. It’s like, Donald Trump is not being racist when he says that “Certain communities in Philadelphia” need to be watched for election fraud, and “you know what I’m talking about.” Because where’s the word “race” in that? Right?

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  24. I have a similar story.

    When I was 11 years old, back in 1965, our class took a field trip to a Coca-Cola bottling plant. When we got back, we were assigned to write a report on our trip. I wrote mine from the point of view of a bottle, starting with a dawning awareness as the hot glass cooled in the mold, proceeding through the bottling process, being loaded in crates and then a truck, sitting in a soda machine at a gas station, hearing the other bottles clank down the chute, wondering with the sound of each dime when it would be my turn, ending with being returned to the plant to be sterilized and refilled. We read our reports aloud to the class, students voted by secret ballot on which they liked the best, and the three reports with the most votes were then to be sent to the principal to pick a winner, who got a case of Coke. My story got almost all the votes, so many that only one other report got any, and the teacher had to pick a third.

    But after reviewing the three reports sent to her, the principal called me to her office and asked me if I had any help writing the story. I said, no, I had written it all by myself. She replied that she had been teaching for many years, and read hundreds of student reports, and that my story was not fifth grade work, and it wouldn’t be fair to the other students for me to get the prize. I was crushed, but I was so innocent and naive that I did not even realize that she was accusing me of cheating. I thought she was saying that I had such a natural advantage over the other students that it would not be fair to let me compete in academic contests.

    So I cried, but acquiesced.

    It wasn’t until four years later, in ninth grade, that it dawned on me that when the principal had said it “wasn’t fifth grade work”, that she meant she thought an adult had written it for me. It stirred up weird mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was relieved to realize that gifted students weren’t being told they should handicap themselves to even the playing field. On the other hand, I was angry that I hadn’t been told more directly that they hadn’t believed I had written it by myself. If I had been aware that they thought I’d cheated, I could have proposed an extemporaneous writing challenge, to write a similar narrative about a topic of her choice right there in her office while she watched.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Lots of good ideas for responding to this formally so I won’t add any. Only this: You have the words. You have All OF THE WORDS. Glad you’re using them!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. If you have not done so already, go to the department chair, your advisor, and and the dean. Even if he suspected you of plagiarism, he had no right to call you out in front of the class. Both my parents were college professors, and I used to be a high school teacher, so I know that the proper thing for him to have done were to write ‘please see me’ and discussed it with you privately.

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  27. What makes this professor even more obviously a sickening racist is the fact that it is SUPER SIMPLE to look up parts of a paper to see if it is plagiarized! There are entire websites devoted to the process, where all you have to do is write in a sentence or two of the paper in question. This man is a lazy, unprofessional, racist piece of garbage through and through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a professor in 2001 who said all White Males try to hold down minorities ….and she was racist too…what proof do you have that a racist ..give me one

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  28. I had something similar happen to me in grad school, though admittedly not because of my race or looks. My semi-famous prof wrote in my final review that she doubted the same person had penned both pieces of writing I’d submitted. In response I provided her with print-outs of several rounds of drafts and notes. Her response? “I wish you would have spent as much time on your work this semester as you have in fabricating these documents.” My friends convinced me to speak with the administration and have her comments expunged, and they agreed to do so – but the entire time they treated me as if I had been the offending party. There will always be people who, for whatever reason, are not in your corner. Keep holding the light.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. 1 – To be completely honest, every semester but one I turned in a student for plagiarism (lack of citation included – my class included an extensive unit on APA citation and the students were warned repeatably about copy and paste). The most egregious case was the first and in that, I too read something that was “not the student’s word.” However, a quick Google search found those words, lifted verbatim from the Princeton University library website. But before alleging anything, I met with the student – plagiarism charges were only filed after the student claimed the work as her own, strenuously denying having copied the passages, and she could not verbally answer the essay question she plagiarized. (The student also admitted using her cell phone during the midterm in question, to “text her husband.”) There are ways to handle questionable material and ways not to. Jumping to a conclusion is not the way to handle it. Documentation is.

    2 – Tiffany, you had me, and every benefit of the doubt, at “McNair Fellow.” You don’t get that by not being able to write in a scholarly fashion.

    3 – As a professor, you have to be open to letting your students surprise you. I had a girl a couple semesters ago who was not very well spoken in class, although she always asked questions that demonstrated she did the readings, etc. I was floored when she turned in her midterm exam, written right in front of me. Her written expression was wonderful. Just to be sure I Googled that too, and none was lifted from any sources I could find. I wish I had more students like that – if I did, I might still be teaching.

    Tiffany, you should report what happened. The instructor was wrong. If your campus has an ombudsman, meet with the instructor with them present. Speak to the department chair for the class in question, your Dean of Students, etc. You don’t deserve to be treated like this.

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  30. I am in an academic field at the tenured professor level and you certainly have my support. This really struck a nerve, as I can’t imagine a more degrading and unprofessional treatment of someone clearly brilliant and motivated.

    A long time ago, I had an undergrad electronics course, this was in another country. The young prof assigned a fairly simple extra credit problem that wasn’t “standard.” For the next class, I submitted the solution and got a zero with a comment along the lines of “completely wrong.” I responded by saying “when you are on a quick break from being full of shit, read it again.” The prof started his next lecture with an apology opened with “I indeed was full of shit.” It was kind of humbling that a professor could admit that and make it public. I look back with respect for the dude, if anything.

    Here, however, a student cannot say this to a professor — there is a wall against well-deserved honesty. Further, we live in a very unapologetic society, so there will likely never be a direct and public apology, i.e. one that matches the insult. Absolutely do take it to the student affairs and all the way to the school president, if needed.

    Very best of luck and under no circumstances let this garbage, racially motivated or not, ever get to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Tiffany, as another minority member I empathize. However I want to offer an alternative response to the obvious angry reactions above that call for this professor’s tar and feathering. Although I can certainly understand angry mob mentality I strongly urge you to take the high road by excelling in this class and shutting this professor down WITH YOUR WRITING!! There is no better, no sweeter revenge than proving someone wrong! Getting him fired or attacked on social media is child’s play. Why should he get off that easy? Make him eat his words, make him embarrassed for the day he ever doubted you. The only way to do that is to galvanize yourself, get those creative juices flowing and write the best damn papers from now on. I bet you Sonja Sotomayor had her doubters. But after Princeton, Yale and the US Supreme Court, those doubters are probably cringing from embarrassment. Now get off this site and get to that paper!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why not both? Why do we always only have to take the “high road” which is what allows these professors and other figures of authority to just move on to the next person who dares to defy stereotypes? Why should this go unchecked. By all means she should excel to the point of making him eat his words, but professors who do this lose all credibility. Students can no longer trust them or their judgement, and while I think everyone has biases and one must acknowledge them to ensure they act fairly…there gets to be a point where a person’s ability to capably perform this role for ALL students must be considered compromised. Whether it is someone running for office, a manager, or a professor when you decide that a student isn’t credible by any means and decide to publicly shame them because this doesn’t sound like you think they should you are the one without credibility. You can say this doesn’t sound like “Her or him or them”…ok talk to them about it, analyze why you feel that way and then use one of the dozens of databases to search those words, but you best be willing to acknowledge why you feel that way and address it like a damn adult.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And the thing is not everyone will be able to bounce back from that. It isn’t a matter of being weak or strong…things affect us all differently and maybe this behavior catches someone on a day where they just don’t have much fight left. That’s damage. That’s dangerous.

        Liked by 1 person

  32. I remembered 10 years ago I was in this situation somewhat, except that the English professor in question wrote insulting remarks on my paper. I don’t recall what exactly the paper was about, but he pretty much said my arguements were “stupid and that it was like comparing apples and oranges”. The difference was that I did not report this to the faculty dean at all. I felt powerless, humiliated, and thought that I was stupid that I couldn’t write a simple English paper. This treatment was so strange to me that I personally went to see another professor in one of my social science classes and she couldn’t find any faults in that essay at all! What needs to change is the academia’s culture, but unfortunately the school’s system is so bureaucratized that it takes a long time for the investigation to conclude. Getting a lawyer would definitely help the process. I would sue that professor for defamation, institutional racism and abuse of power. Wow what an ass!! That professor should not be teaching!!

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  33. A similar thing happened to me. I used a semicolon in second grade, and the teacher had to discuss it with me. Um, that’s how a professor is made, folks. We start early, learn to express ourselves, and plain old come to school to learn and we just never stop. No worries. Just fight this, and keep up the good work. Look at all the support you’ve got! You are not alone. There’s not many of us in the academy, but we are here. Welcome!

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  34. Hi Tiffany, first and foremost I want to thank you for sharing your story. As a woman of color myself, I know that it is not always easy to speak up and recognize when we’ve encountered injustice for the fear of being told that we’re being “hypersensitive,” further invalidating our struggle as professional or academic women of color. Secondly, I just want to say that your story truly inspires me. I am in my third year of my undergraduate career, and given that I’m starting to narrow my career options and find what I want to do, the idea of having to encounter these issues – the covert racism and biases that continue to stifle our success and negatively impact the way people perceive us – can be paralyzing. Yet hearing of your experience only inspires me further to pursue my dreams and represent women of color in fields where they are underrepresented, unappreciated, and underestimated. Please don’t give up, we need more women like you in academia! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. “This is not your word” – interesting how this assertion doesn’t seem to apply to prejudicial epithets.
    Furthermore, what sort of educator discourages an enhanced vocabulary?
    This makes my brain hurt. I’m sorry you had to go through this, and that this professor is in the position to judge or teach anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. as a former prof I’m echoing at least one other person here — don’t dwell on it online. yes you’re educating your readers but you’re not fixing your problem. Go to the dept. head. You should have already done this. Then go to the dean of student affairs. If you are part of a student advocate society on campus– league of women students, ect, take it to that faculty advisor as well. You want as many phd’s as possible on your side when you file your complaint against this prof. Look, educate people all you want on your blog, that’s great. I’m all for it. But first things first? Look out for yourself and your academic career. This professor can do you irreparable harm with these allegations (it can keep you from grad school if it were to get out and isn’t challenged) so crush this guy like a bug and use the university administration as your big fat bug smashing book. educate later, protect your future now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I want to echo Andria and all others who’ve encouraged you to take this to the department head, the dean of students, the president of your university. There are many people who can sympathize and empathize with your story, but that is not enough. That is not effective. This professor needs to understand what she has done, how she has engaged in implicit racial (and/or economic) bias. Please take direct action.

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  37. tiffany, good luck in your journey. you do not deserve this professor’s inconsiderate comments on your work–they were totally presumptuous and out of line. as a fellow poc female looking to attain a phd in a humanities field, your experience resonated with me quite completely (although luckily, the climate at my school has been such that i haven’t had to go through a similar experience: your post also has a cautionary aspect to it that i appreciate as i begin the grad school application process and narrow down where to go). some of the comments on this piece i read through suggest some legal action, and i am curious if there is anything you plan to do. in any case, know that there is a crowd to back you up. wishing you well from new york. -m

    Like

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