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.

3,769 thoughts on “Academia, Love Me Back

  1. Well put. We must all remember that just because there people in higher places, doesn’t mean they are deserving of that position. Some may feel threatened, some may have bought their way in, others may have hit the top accidentally. It sounds like the “good old professors” are bigots, & feel threatened! You are not alone.

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  2. Just the fact that she used the term “Latinx” above that sentence should tell you all you need to know about this writer’s issues.

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  3. You assume this is because of your looks, your race, YOU as a person. I’m a white female and have encountered MANY situations like this when I was an undergrad. Maybe it’s just that professors are exerting their superiority. Maybe it has nothing to do with race. You just might be internalizing something that is completely outside of you.

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    1. Maybe white people need to stop assuming they know more about the situations and (justified) thought processes of people of color than POC themselves? I know you probably meant this as a simple hypothetical and will probably never see this comment, but I want other white people who are tempted to comment things like this know that this is incredibly hurtful.

      Clearly you understand that people can discriminate against you for sexist reasons, and you agree that this has happened to you. Wouldn’t you be frustrated if a man tried to tell you that he experienced the same kind of rudeness and condescension from teachers as you have? “Yes!” you’d reply angrily. “teachers have been rude to both of us, but in some cases, for me, it was because of my gender! That has never been the case for you!”

      The above example makes perfect sense to you, right? So why is it hard for you to believe that POC might experience something similar with race? A system of discrimination that is invisible to you because you don’t experience it? And yet you somehow feel comfortable commenting on it and explaining to us how we should feel about it.

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  4. There are faculty who will be assumed capable without making connections with student experiences or the need to list their credentials in the beginning of a reflective piece. My name is Rodney A. Brown. As an Assistant Professor at a research intensive university program and artist/scholar, I’ve presented my research nationally in Detroit, Compton, Atlanta, New York, Iowa, Columbus, and internationally in South Africa, China, Italy, and India among other places. I have developed creative research that is published by myself on social media, online, well-known professional art communities, historically Black, and predominantly White institutions in education. During the Undergraduate and Graduate student training phase of my career at Oakland University, and University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, I have consistently received meritorious support for my pursuits in research, which have centered on sharing HIV/AIDS Public Health messages with Dance Composition, and doing African American (or Black) Ethnography with Dance and Writing.

    As a first generation college graduate who aspires to be a performing arts professor, I have faced a number of obstacles in order to make a way for Africanist focused work in academia. I have found it rewarding and really challenging at times. At one point, I left my undergraduate program to transfer into a conservatory environment across the country because I was skeptical about the course of training in the program, for my Black dancing body, and because I felt aloneness since there were not many people in my classes who looked like me. At another time I interrupted my studies at an Ivy League school because of threats of death to African American students on campus, and a lack of institutional support. Despite all of these things I have continued working towards my aspirations and have been continuously awarded for my teaching, service, and research output including research grants, fellowships, and learning and teaching commendation at the Provost level. Like Tiffany Martínez notes, “I name these accomplishments because I understand the vitality of credentials in a society where people like me are not set up to succeed.” And I too am aware my appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth, share my pedagogy or dance any step.

    In my pursuits to become a successful faculty artist professional I have struggled to advocate for myself and students. As a faculty person on the tenure track, the hegemony of the academic environment renders me particularly vulnerable when I do speak up to senior colleagues and administrators who have considerable decision making power over my ability to achieve tenure job security. Students experience this kind of pressure when they are not certain academic freedom includes their voice. Hence, I usually concealed the lateral/horizontal problematic behavior from colleagues, students, and department supervisors, including penalization, social isolation, ostracization and unresponsiveness in email and on-campus environments such as the studio-classroom, creative research situations, and required faculty interactions. Defining oppression by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression) the academic community can be oppressive—creating environments where I did not always feel safe when I attempted to speak about my experiences as a member of the community. I am not alone in this assertion. Because there are a cadre of individuals that are assigned to shield the members of the academic community from incivility, I study theories and literature to learn protocols for coping and reporting. At The Ohio State University, for example, in Spring 2012 was the year my decision to speak out brought me into a position of deciding whether to leave a dream job. Students feel this pressure when teachers create difficulties in the classroom by not being inclusive and or supportive of difference. Professorships are not easy to come by or maintain; Neither are school acceptances to study with competitive programs. I have not forgotten the sacrifices it requires to reach these career points.

    Like Tiffany Martínez suggests, America and its educational programs have problems to solve. Over the next few terms I diligently reached out for support to solve mine and became exasperated by the unresponsiveness including lack of clarity from my local department and institutional mechanisms as a whole that were designated to provide support in hostile workspaces. I made phone calls, sent emails, was shuffled through program offices and meetings and reportedly no investigations had been made to look into my claims. Many of my professional mentors, former professors, colleagues and friends advised me to keep my mouth shut and put my head down in an attempt to keep my dream job. A person who has been exposed to dialogues on social justice and conscientized in a particular way by the struggles of women of color in the academy; Specifically by a pathbreaking account of the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women faculty of color, Presumed Incompetent, that through personal narratives and qualitative empirical studies, more than 40 authors expose the daunting challenges faced by academic women of color as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators, I could see how ducking my head down with silence is a kind of shield; However, I kept going back to my students. Thinking about budding university professionals like Tiffany Martinez who are interested in the painstaking work of being a teacher at the post secondary educational level. Moreover, my epistemology required that I dig deep and look in various places for career saving advice.

    One of the places I went, InsideHigherEd.com, puts out reliable expert commentary for academicians and students. In fact, Tiffany Martinez’s article can be found on this kind of educational site. In “Responding to Workplace Bullying, the Role of HR” published by HigherEdJobs, Allison Vaillancourt, Vice President for Human Resources & Institutional Effectiveness at The University of Arizona advises people in need to “make sure you have ‘I’m outta here’ money in the bank, a resume that is up-to-date, and a network of people who will help you find your next job.” Discerning all my advisements about my experiences, I believed that I had the right to continue to work at the job for which I had relocated, studied and practiced hard to possess, and at the same time the patience to cope or make it on the other side of the potentially damaging possibilities of that decision. I even volunteered and requested to move my office to another department office space altogether; still like Tiffany Martínez (and may others ) one morning, I too felt “both disrespected and invalidated.” However, never did I seriously consider that my decision to keep trying to make it work at work could mean that I could be labeled a criminal.

    After discovering string/rope (tied like a hangman’s noose) affixed on the back of the door in my locked faculty office, I saw, as the poet in Phrenology by The Roots spoke: Something In The Way of Things. I realized that I could no longer live under those circumstances. I remembered what I had seen of Black male bodies jolting and swinging from trees and lamp posts with strings tied in the same kind of knot—then their leaning heads—dead; It was exactly as the prophet (biblical figure) Daniel exclaimed terrified him as he slept in his bed one night —a real nightmare. I was at an edge. I could no longer believe that I was in a safe work space so I made the choice to say “help” immediately. This morning I utilized the well-known open door policy, scheduled a conversation with the university’s president at their administration reception desk and sat quietly in a chair in the waiting area for the president to speak with me. I was prepared to be what Vaillancourt describes as “the person who is not afraid to tell the president that so and so is a serious liability” since I did not find remedy with Human Resources. When the university police showed up at the president’s office waiting area and demanded that I leave, I was arrested because I made the choice to stay and Sit-In the chair in a non-violent protest activity. In this interaction, my professional career and personal sanity was both challenged and critiqued. I became a criminal. The campus police assumed I was a threatening presence. I’m not sure why exactly. Of course I did not possess anything that is considered a weapon by law. Of course I know also that non-compliance with police is deemed an illegal action. I never imagined that a university professor (in good standing) inside the limits of their employment campus jurisdiction would be a target for being made a criminal while seeking guidance. I maintain that my institution’s campus life protocol was followed and that I sought only to “talk” share of my experiences in the workplace environment on the campus and academia community in which I belong, serve, and contribute.

    I had been through so much on my job. I kept thinking about the war zone that is American current societies. I kept thinking about how I followed directives from my supervisor to get help on my job, which involved expressing what I was experiencing, with clarity, to the institution. I believed my formal complaints to The Ohio State University Office of Human Resources, College of Arts and Sciences leadership, and my Department of Dance leadership would have been enough to remedy the hostility I was enduring. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In one documented phone conversation with Human Resource personnel my experiences were being scrutinized because I could not pinpoint the reasons why I was experiencing what I was experiencing on the job. I did my part by communicating my experiences to appropriate academic systems creatively and in traditional writing language but the problem is not over. Given complex world history, I was not certain that I was being treated differently at work because of my religious faith, race or ethnicity, disabilities/abilities, sexual orientation, the way I wore my hair, the tattoos on my body or the theme of my scholarship or effectiveness of its practice. Even now as I petition for support from University Professor systems, I do not feel systematically supported. For example, it took several months and multiple emails before I got a response from American Association of University Professors. And once I did, senior management claims that there was no way of confirming my experiences even though I affirmed, reconfirmed and reaffirmed my position. It seems there is no confidence in all faculty seeking support. My experiences while on the job for sitting and waiting to speak with my institution’s president was what Tiffany Martínez refers to as “the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy.” More specifically, it was a particularly traumatic experience as a person who did not have prior criminal history with police and continued to be employed in Ohio (an “at-will” employment State) at The Ohio State University after the incident. I am replaying Fred Moten’s words in my mind: “there is some shit you just can’t do.”

    As a victim of a hostile work environment in the academy, I now have a lot more work to do so that I can regain trust. Academia should hold accountable those who engage in hostile behaviors as well as support victims abused while inside its communities. This work becomes considerably apparent in Ohio when I re-read comments delivered in 2013 by a former president and friend of The Ohio State University (and other Universities), Gordon Gee, about members of the Catholic faith tradition. As well as the recent circumstances surrounding the on campus shooting death of a student at The Ohio State University who might have felt harassed because of his outward appearance or religious faith tradition, in 2016. What about the next career moves for victims of abuse? Now that my job contract has ended and because of my work experiences, I now have a lot more work to do so that I can accomplish my goals. Considering the facts of my career and data on academic workplace environments, it seems reasonable to argue my experiences would be different if I were born White and male. Academia has a lot of work to do. Moving past the past can be quite challenging as a person who speaks out about being the victim of a hostile work environment and hoping to continue working in that environment. I find myself reading aspects of my victimization story on the Internet as I look through accounts of others who experience hostile academic workplace situations. I can not forget images of people of color who have been arrested, detained and lost their lives for doing what is logically possible for some—telling the truth to power. I was/am humbled by my experiences in the academic community, and am more critically aware as a result. As detailed by Tiffany Martínez’s experiences (and certainly others) minimization, unresponsiveness, lack of institutional support and discrediting victims stand out as recurring themes in situations where issues are highlighted in the academy.

    I am hurting because my institution assumed that I was not at work to work but to “Criminal Trespass” or “harass” with emails and phone calls to do something to stop the hostility I faced on the worksite. I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed the police; That my efforts to seek remedy with the president as a faculty person was in someway a criminal act of trespassing in the academic process of overcoming oppression, acquiring humanity, and job safety and security. I am hurting because of my experiences, as Linda Trinh Võ captures, “where colleagues, for a wide range of reasons- for example, you were not their candidate of choice for the position- treat new arrivals as rivals and attempt to sabotage their careers” and because “it is difficult to trust colleagues in your department when they are the reasons for your grievances.” I am hurting because instead of making further progress on my established research program, teaching and service commitments needed to acquire the next academic job in my field, I felt it crucial to take productivity hours and reflect on the pain that I am sick of swallowing and provide an additional framework for understanding. I am hurting because the result of my experiences on my job were not some critical evaluation from the university. Rather, I found something else. I found a departure, homelessness, and more opportunity to help be a part of repairing what is broken in academia. My pursuits are a reflection of my awareness in a society that sees me as the other. Like Tiffany Martínez asserts, “another element of this invalidation is that as I sit here with teary eyes describing the distress I am too familiar with,” the institution and its agents has “probably forgotten all about it.” I love the academy for what it has the potential to do and some of what it has been able to accomplish. Like Tiffany Martínez, I am not in doubt that I have to continue to fight. Like Tiffany Martínez, I can realize “there are students who will never understand the desolation that follows an underlined “not.”” or faculty being negatively impacted as a result of seeking help on their job. I also am sympathetic towards what it is like for faculty members who do not feel safe to stand up or out for fear of being placed in a kind of custody that is professional and not involved with the legal system. The professional kind of arrest is rendered in order to keep and stay and hold things the way they are. This is what some academics refer to as an institution’s legacy or tradition. I am hurting because as I explain this painful aspect of academic history I know that I am very much a target.

    Like Tiffany Martinez, it is unclear to me how to prove my position to people who will never understand what it is like to be someone like me. But I keep holding on. Tiffany Martínez, keep holding on. Others who are working through these kinds of things, keep holding on. Tell your truth. Be recognized for your truth. Like Tiffany Martínez, I too am “tired and I am exhausted.” Like Tiffany Martínez tells us: “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. Regardless of the fatigue and mending wounds there must be opportunity for forgiveness and learning. There Have Been Too Many Misalignments.

    Rodney A. Brown
    Human.
    See Typos.
    Ask Questions.

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  5. Tiffany, you have written, “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.” You are not weak. You are not unintelligent. You Are not incapable of achieving your success.” I am a college professor who cares, is dedicated and inspires — luiscalmedia.info

    Many professors didn’t forget all about it. They never knew what education was about in the first place. I really hope that my reply here brings over 1000 students to my blog and we, once and for all, make a statement as a community about the mistreatment of college professors to students.

    Maybe we should create a google hangout and broadcast the live feed to millions about the importance of treating students with respect and not looking at college students are customers or anything non-sense like that. I volunteer to defend you and many others.

    Again, “You are not weak. You are not unintelligent. You Are not incapable of achieving your success.”

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  6. Oh boy, 21 years old. Is this the new generation? Too whiny, and I’m not even that much older than you. You need to thicken your skin a bit, and it looks unprofessional that you called someone out all over the internet instead of speaking to them in private. At least your professor confined her supposed humiliation of you to the classroom. You should’ve taken the higher road, and not done the same that was done to you if you really wanted to feel superior.
    Employers do not appreciate employees who make mountains out of mole hills. And this is what college is for, learning and preparation for employment. It is not a place to prove that you are always right. This is something that you would have gotten over. If it cripples you, then you have bigger problems with your self esteem and cannot blame that on other people.You also seem to need a little dose of humility, which is usually a sign of an over-inflated ego. I have been harshly critiqued, and was glad it knocked my ego down a few, for it is very telling of one’s immaturity. Employers look for people who can take some constructive criticism, and will not tolerate those who cry if they can’t handle it. Seems like you seek some recognition and praise already, and only an undergraduate?
    Life is humiliating, hurtful, and so very hard. You need to get used to it. If I could maybe guess what your professor should have conveyed better, it would be that the word you used is too old. I have a hard time respecting someone who uses this word because it really sounds like they are tossing in “smart language” just for the sake of it, and it seems to have the opposite effect. Couldn’t you have been more creative with your language? Do great latina writers feel the need to conform to stuffy overused pretentious language? You don’t have to use so called academic words to write a good academic paper. I don’t think your professor had the time to coddle you with such detailed critique though. Your use of “blue pen” and “ocean” in your blog post also makes it seem like you are trying to be poetic, but you give up after that. If writing is truly your passion, it does need work. You cannot expect to be perfect at 21 years of age, can you? Good writing flows, and the reader is not distracted with the writer’s personal insecurities, or dare I say, pomposity. Was it really necessary to pick this fight? It is a tiny dot in comparison to those that had to fight to even attend school just because of their race. Do you think you could do what they did if this little thing hurts your feelings? You are exhausted because you are battling with yourself over preconceived racism. If the professor truly is racist, that is her own problem. You should not take it so personally, and should not expect someone to change their ways. You only needed to deal with that person for what, 4 months? By the way, this is a sociology class, and the way your story was scooped up by the media makes me wonder if this is some weird sociological experiment. If academia will never love you, I’m sure mainstream journalism will.

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    1. Seriously?

      What if this were YOUR child. Do you not espouse people to stand up for themselves? No one should be falsely accused in public.

      Perhaps you need to contemplate your own insecurities as to why you cannot respond from a place of love and compassion.

      Shameful.

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      1. Why should someone’s perceived “injustice” be granted our sympathy or compassion? I fully understand that for many people their perception is often their reality, but that’s a burden they bear and one that is often caused by their own insecurities. In my opinion, the young lady has shown that she is incapable of receiving criticism and instead, lashes out with the proverbial “race card”. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t warrant my “sympathy” or “compassion”. In fact, it warrants my pity.

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    2. A world that humiliates other people is not a true form of societal expectations. She is 21 years old and needs encouragement from elders not discouragement, no matter what she looks like. Sounds like racial prejudice is the norm in your world. I’ll end here.

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    3. I totally disagree with you, Rebecca. Life is good! and we should not let anybody limit our potential to be the best. When you do not like something, is your right to stand up and shout it out!, hence respect her point of view.

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    4. “At least your professor confined her supposed humiliation of you to the classroom.” That was such a hateful remark. So you’re saying that the professor was doing the right thing when humiliating her based on a word she used, while she should not be able to share this experience online? So you are implying the professor will be humiliated by having his actions shared online, right? If he did nothing wrong, there should be no humiliation, so in a way you are actually agreeing that the professor’s actions were wrong. But then you go on a long rant about how the word is old and then criticize her writing further. Jesus, why are people so hateful these days. Unbelievable really.

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    5. You know someone with extremely tough skin is allowed to have an opinion. While I’m “lucky” enough to be white, I have still been discriminated against. And saying to someone tough cookies is exactly what is wrong with today’s society. YOU weren’t there. YOU weren’t embarrassed in front of an ENTIRE class room of your “peers” SIMPLY for the use of a common word like HENCE.

      Rebecca, there is not fight being picked; and, if there is one, it was started by CLOSED MINDED professor who made this assumption. It must be nice to live in your world and PRETEND that events like this are “just a learning experience” of someone who is “too whiny.”

      As I aspire to be a teacher, this is NOT the environment that should be fostered in the classroom. If a teacher has LEGITIMATE concerns about plagiarism, it should be addressed privately. Yet here YOU are, condoning the VICTIM. It’s always victim blaming here; especially when it concerns a woman. And from another woman, nonetheless.

      You want to sit here and dissect here supposed love for media, as if that was her sole reason for posting it, but what does sociology say about the fact that you took how long to write a scathing reply to something you felt she should “get over” or is “too whiny.”

      Just because it’s a “tiny dot” compared to other events, does not mean that others should IGNORE the dot. You want to talk about getting the big picture, maybe you need to take a couple of steps back. I pray that if and when my daughters pursue college they are not burdened with female counterparts with your mindset.

      I have overcome a LOT of stepping stones, and yes, it has molded me into the person I am today. That doesn’t mean I deserved to get those obstacles and that doesn’t mean I should not be allowed to make a platform of those obstacles. For example, I was abused physically and emotionally as a child, does that mean that I should not speak out against those issues (which are near and dear to my heart) simply because I was not sexually abused?

      Take a few more math courses and hope your logic and reasoning skills get a bit stronger.

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  8. Re-blogged on https://future-of-learning.blog.

    I would like to think that I would never treat a learner in my own class in this manner. However, it would be more honest for me to recognize that, as a teacher, I, too, have jumped to erroneous conclusions. I’ve always tried to discern and address my own misapprehensions and unfair behaviors, but I know that I have also failed on occasion to repair or address some of my hurtful and unjust acts. In spite of my self-professed flaws, there is one truth that and can affirm absolutely: It is always counterproductive and unjustified to humiliate or ridicule a learner. In. All. Circumstances. Always. […] I’m so sorry that this incident happened to you, Tiffany. I hope that you will please take strength in the following. I find your courage in talking about this incident — with equanimity and grace (in spite of your hurt) — an admirable and inspiring act. Thank you.

    – Robert

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  9. Reblogged this on Learning, Education, Certifications, Credentials? and commented:
    As I think about my own learning (where I had immense benefit as a valued and supported and loved member of an economically and socially privileged family) and as I think about ways to foster and sustain teaching that encourages learners and helps them uncover and affirm their own cognitive strengths, their passions, their own version of critical engagement with the work, their own wrestling with new ideas and patterns of information… my hope is that teachers simply will not proceed as Tiffany Martinez’s professor did with her. Jumping to conclusions and shaming, particularly in ways that further marginalize and undercut folks who may not have much support or encouragement and who face obstacles in the academic world. This is just plain wrong. I’d like to think that I’d never treat a learner in my own class in this manner, but I must recognize that, as a teacher, I, too, have jumped to erroneous conclusions. I’m so sorry that this happened, Tiffany, and I find your courage in talking about this incident with equanimity and grace (in spite of your hurt) an admirable and inspiring act. Thank you.

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  10. Yes. Academia needs work.
    If it’s any consolation, the professors that make belittling their game do it for all sorts of reasons: too short, too fat, black, white, woman, man, old, young, too good looking – whatever suits their fancy for that day. Back in the day I wrote a letter to the dean about how I thought some of my classmates were discriminated against – different classmates for different reasons. All it did at the time was land me in the department head’s office getting a lecture on “why would I go to the dean?” (So that was a good lesson on chain of command.)
    Fast forward a couple of light years to when I got the wild hair to go back to college and learned first hand what it’s like to be one of the classmates I had defended in my youth. I’m old, old, old and academia doesn’t like it. But you know what? I don’t really care. I read an old (ha ha – but still relevant) article earlier this week on Linked In about not being sorry to employers for being a mom. The applications are endless. I’m old. Sorry, I’m not sorry. I’m a mom. Sorry, I’m not sorry. I’m a woman. Sorry, I’m not sorry. My clothes aren’t in style. Sorry I’m not sorry. Need I go on?
    I’m exhausted too. Many of us are. Life is difficult.
    Life is also beautiful … and that’s what lifts me up and gets me through.

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  11. Wow. So shocking – what a disappointing reaction from your professor, who clearly does not understand your aptitude as a student and writer, and is obviously doing an awful pedagogical job. I hope this experience will not taint your entire view of academia in the UK as a whole, but it will also light your fire to continue talking about this important bias in our universities where racism, sexism and homophobia certainly exists. Thank you for taking the time to write your blog post and give us your insight.

    I gave a short talk to my academic group last year on inequality in academia, and the research I did for that talk unearthed some nasty statistics regarding pay gap, employability and cite-ability of different genders and ethnicities. It seems from your explanation that you are certainly right to assume a racist motivation of your professor for targeting your paper for plagiarism with no apparent evidence from Turnitin but based on one word? It’s insane. Your faculty should have procedures in place to deal with such events, so if I were you I would first, as soon as possible, organise a meeting with said professor to confront them in the most calm and professional way and ask 1. why it is they assumed plagiarism in your report? 2. why they assume you are incapable of using the word ‘hence’ and 3. why they chose to approach you with their accusation in front of an entire class? If they cannot give you a valid explanation, apology, and promise of an apology to you in front of your entire class, I suggest you speak to your personal tutor, head of year, or programme coordinator to ask for assistance in resolving this issue which should definitely be grounds for disciplinary action against your dusty old ignorant professor.

    With love from a fellow academic-in-training

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  12. Good write up, I must commend but it’s important you know that whatever happens “life goes on” and considering your aspiration this is probably the beginning of such harrowing experience. So brace up. Wish you best of luck in your academic endeavors.

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  13. Tiffany, I am happy to hear your story. You write very well and should not listen to those people. I got my Master’s Degree in US, however, I have speech problems and I do make a lot of English grammar mistakes due traumatic situations that affected my communication abilities.
    I have been working in a television production company for the last three years and I am the only person that is not American. Unfortunately, people make fun of my English every day. Sometimes, It upsets me, but I am trying my best to focus on my career. My goal is to apply for a PhD program next year and I have been working very hard to be accepted in the program.
    A lot of times, these kind of people are those that envious us. They wish they were eager and brave like you. I wish all you the best.

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  14. Tiffany,

    I understand your concern with racism in 2016, and it is a serious problem that I hope we can defeat as a country and a global population. People are not perfect and this is a problem. However, people like you, posting an exaggerated story about how your professor “accused” you of plagiarism with an innocent little note on your paper is also another serious issue with this world. While the note may be true, I sincerely doubt his reaction in front of your class is near what actually happened!! Why must people be so offended by every little thing in 2016.

    Chill out Tiffany,
    Daniel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Daniel, a really interesting post. When I read it my immediate reaction was to think you were doing exactly what you were “accusing” TM of. ‘Exagerating’, ‘easily offended’.
      TM is simply telling her story from her perspective. If it reflects badly on your world get over it. But also reflect on that world. What part do you play in it? You wish to see racism defeated. Great. How do you play your part? You seem concerned that people see racism where there is none. How do you manage that? I for one find it really difficult if not impossible. I have been indoctrinated into racism from an early age. It doesn’t matter how much I now know ‘race’ to be a pseudo scientific invention it still permeates my thinking and my behaviours. I am increasingly of the believe there are no ‘racism free’ spaces on the planet except perhaps amongst toddlers who have yet to be taught racism. I suppose ditto the above for sexism too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just had a discussion with a student who received a D in his writing class because, he believed, the professor was a racist.

        The truth is that people respond to him as they do because he is a jerk, not because they are racists, and he received a D because he writes badly and doesn’t follow instructions. But being a jerk, he doesn’t listen, so will never get that.

        From the student’s description above, the instructor did some wrong things (like calling out the student publicly), but at the same time, you don’t really know what happened until you get the instructor’s point of view too.

        It’s possible the instructor’s words were not meant as an accusation of plagiarism, but simply that the student was being overly imitative, but if that is what the instructor said, I still think it was incorrect: judging from this blog, the student is capable of writing very well.

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    2. I assume you’re a troll, but if you are actually whitesplaining or mansplaining, (whichever suits you best. I’m making no assumption about your race buuuut….you’re probably white) this was a pretty blatant accusation of plagiarism. Anyway, I don’t want to feed you too much dear troll, so that is all I have to say about this to you.

      Like

      1. Not sure who you’re responding to, but I’m not white, and I’ve been teaching writing for fifteen years. I’ve learned from experience that when some professors say “these are not your words,” they mean, “you’re trying to sound like someone else.” When other professors say, “these are not your words,” they mean, “you’re plagiarizing, or dishonestly copying someone else’s writing.” The same phrase can mean at least two different things.

        This isn’t “whitesplaining” or “mansplaining,” especially since I said “It’s possible that…” and offered more than one way to interpret these words (one of which was indeed as an accusation of plagiarism). I don’t claim to actually -know- what was meant — that is what you are doing.

        The smart thing for any student to do is to go to the instructor first, talk about how you felt, ask what was meant, and if that doesn’t resolve the situation, go to the chair, then the Dean, then the VPAA or Provost, then the President, then the Board, and at the least describe the incident in detail in your course evaluation.

        But speaking also as someone who is part of that chain of managing student complaints and having done quite a bit of that in the last week, I also know that no one really knows what happened until they talk to other students in the class and the instructor as well. You want to see some mansplaining? Okay — here’s some: it’s not smart to hear just one side of a story and think you know what’s going on. Wait until someone accuses you of something.

        All of that being said, I still think it was wrong for the instructor to say that publicly.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. The professor absolutely accused her of plagiarism. It is not a question of how offended she felt. Plagiarism can cause her to fail the class, and failing the class can cause her to fail to graduate. It’s a big deal. It’s not your place to tell her to “chill out.” She has been accused of the most serious academic offense there is. As a professor who teaches second-language students, I sometimes do accuse students of plagiarism. And it is a big deal. I file an Academic Dishonesty form, and the report can keep them from getting a scholarship or keep them from getting a recommendation to a 4-year school or grad school. It’s not your place to make light of what happened. It is a serious matter, and if she has been falsely accused, she definitely needs to stand up for herself. And you need to recognize prejudice when you see it and hear it reported to you, not undermine the person’s perception of what actually happened.

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      1. It’s not clear to me that the quoted words were an accusation of plagiarism. I’m curious how the student followed up within the institution — at least to this date now.

        Like

      2. Nah, never mind — I just reread the blog, and I take my previous comments back. If the student is reporting the interaction accurately, she was being publicly accused of plagiarism. That’s wrong even if the student committed plagiarism.

        The institution should have a process for this, and the student can complain about the process not being followed.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow! What an amazing and thoughtful blog!
    As a student I can relate to how debilitating it feels when a senior academic belittles you, especially when you hope to achieve what they have achieved. It leaves a bitter tast in the mouth and makes you resent the system you are working in when you realise that it allows people like this to excel.
    It is both shocking and extremely disapointing that things like this still happen today.

    Liked by 3 people

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