Temple's Story: What White Faculty Could Learn from Black Faculty

More than 400 students and community people joined black faculty to protest the racist and anti-Semitic behavior of the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University. The result is the re-installment of Professor Molefi Asante, the founding chair of the doctoral program in African American Studies:


It’s sad that mostly black faculty and the local community seem to understand that of which many white faculty across the nation are afraid: one should always fight against what is wrong. There is no dignity in cowardice.


The antics of this dean included: shoving her finger into Dr. Asante’s face; attempting to fire all the black males who weren’t submissive to her; screaming in the face of faculty members forced to meet with her on trumped up charges of unprofessional conduct and insubordination; fuddling with the discretionary funds of faculty, centers, and institutes; sending spies into the classes of faculty; placing African American studies into receivership for rejecting her candidate for chair; firing the mostly black clerical staff and forcing them to re-apply for their jobs under the condition of snitching on their colleagues regarding their performance; harassing Jewish faculty for not seeking her “written permission” not to teach on Jewish holidays in classes they subsequently made up; and the list goes on.

Congratulations for this victory, African American Studies faculty at Temple University!

There have been volatile administrators such as Dean Teresa Scott Soufas of the College of Liberal Arts and her supporters at Temple at several other colleges and universities. In each instance where the faculty rose up and collectively demanded their resignation, the faculty succeeded (even though some of those administrators had vowed “to punish” those faculty members). As I fought my struggle against this group of bullies last year at Temple, very few white faculty understood the importance of fighting and even actively attempted to sabotage my efforts. The support of black faculty was 100 percent. Jewish Studies: 100 percent. But there were those who had the nerve to recommend an obsequious route, even blaming me for being outraged at not being treated like the other Laura H. Carnell Professors (Temple’s supposedly most distinguish chair) instead of simply exercising outrage and join publicly the struggle to exorcise evil and take on the responsibility of a better future for such an important institution in northern Philadelphia. Part of the struggle that unfolded last week was the very public nature of what was at first my struggle—that I wouldn't, in other words, shut up and play the desired role of "the good Negro." Black people fight not only because we “have to” but also because the degradation we face make asserting dignity—what the-forces-that-be, such as that horrible dean, call “insubordination”—nothing short of holding onto our humanity. What white faculty need to do right now is join black faculty at Temple and create a protest in the thousands demanding accountable leadership and the ousting of the group of thugs that now run that institution.

© Lewis R. Gordon