BRING DOWN THE IVORY TOWER

By condemning Saida Grundy, Boston University abandons the teachings of alum Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Boston University, an elite higher-education research institute in Boston, Massachusetts, boasts such esteemed alumni of color as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., actress Uzo Aduba, congressional representative Barbara Jordan, and Miss Universe Olivia Culpo. It has also recently found itself in the news—thanks to a complete disregard for at least maintaining the illusion of caring about Black students.

On April 25, an article was published in The Boston Globe concerning the lack of diversity on Boston-area campuses:

[The] subject of racial diversity surfaced on one local campus this week with news that BU plans to shutter its African Presidential Center, prompting the center’s director, Charles Stith, to charge that the school lacks commitment to issues concerning Black people.

The article oddly boasts that Boston University now has a 4.6% rate of Black students incoming next year. Though things further devolve from there:

“The data shows important progress,” said Jean Morrison, BU’s provost and chief academic officer. The challenge, Morrison and other administrators say, is that the pool of academically qualified Black students is slim…

Boston University’s chief academic officer thinks there aren’t enough qualified Black students in America’s high schools. That’s kind of an issue, to say the least.

As a Boston University alumna, it has me (and other alumni and current students) asking #AmIEnough?

Then, when it seems Boston University could not get further from Dr. King’s message and legacy, we have the issue of its racially homogenous faculty:

Critics also point to the low representation of Black full-time faculty at BU, which has risen less than one percent over the past three decades and now stands at 2.8 percent. Overall, 7.4 percent of BU faculty are considered members of under-represented minority groups. Among local large private colleges, only Boston College had a smaller percentage of minority faculty.

This brings us to the case of Dr. Saida Grundy. According to Fox News, Nick Pappas, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, found some of Dr. Grundy’s tweets, and then republished them to a blog, SoCawledge. The tweets circulated between area students, eventually finding their way to Boston University. Students allegedly complained. The university publicly condemned Grundy’s remarks.

My question is: Nick Pappas, who are you?

Let’s talk about how deeply engrained the proclivity to protect white fragility is at Boston University. First, a student—not even enrolled at BU—makes this statement about a professor:

“You have to teach college-aged white males eventually, no? … This seems like you are unqualified to grade their work as you clearly demonstrate some kind of special bias against them.”

Again. Who. Are. You?

Your main concern is the fragility of the college-aged white male ego? Her opinion makes her unqualified to grade their work? So the other 97% non-Black professors at Boston University, are they grading Black students’ work inaccurately? Are they unqualified?

Somebody out there might be thinking, “Why write an article on it? Why tweet? Why create the hashtag #ISupportSaida?” Well, myself along with other Boston University alumni and current students have tried other methods. We’ve gone to the dean of students, Kenneth Elmore. In his own words, “I have tried—for a long time – to stay out of the conversations on races.” Why a Black dean of students would want to stay out of race conversations in today’s discursive climate is beyond me.

We’ve also tried running for office in the student government. We had a Black student body president. Not president of the Black Student Union–the whole of Boston University’s student government. Nothing helped. So here we are: essentially “cyber-bullying” Boston University into acting like they have some sense.

The Fox News piece quotes unnamed Boston University alumni, but even a cursory search of Twitter and Facebook shows mainly brown and Black students defending Grundy’s freedom of speech, and asserting that we won’t stand for this sort of discrimination.

A few white students becoming upset because Dr. Grundy accurately expressed that white masculinity is a problem in America’s colleges, and that white men are a “problem population,” is quite possibly the most appropriate example of irony. A few white students are upset that their bubbles were burst, and for five seconds they were forced to think about their race and privilege—and Boston University instantly condemns a Black woman for provoking this discomfort. For making them think critically.

In a statement, Boston University representative Colin Riley said, “The University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements”. Which, for those tuning in at home, is hilarious, considering that Boston University’s provost likes to make sweeping generalizations about Black academic prowess. The difference between her and Grundy is that the former is not a Black woman.

The Fox screed ends with this little gem of bigotry:

“I’m not surprised that Boston University is hiring a racist to teach African-American Studies,” David Horowitz, author of Reforming our Univerisities, told FoxNews.com. “Anti-white racism is rampant in Black Studies programs.”

As I write, another Boston University alum has alerted me to a Saida Grundy parody account on Twitter, featuring remarks like:

For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to take Grundy’s critics seriously. And, as the above tweets demonstrate, to say the backlash is “not about race or gender” is to ignore the facts. A Black woman professor is being attacked because of her words and opinions. Because she expressed a truth about racism. And while she fights for her constitutional right of free speech, faceless white men, “unnamed sources” are threatening to withdraw financial support of the university if she is not fired. That is racism—the suppression of voices that question white supremacy. Her point has been proven.

To my fellow Boston University alumni: Hold our alma mater accountable, or demand that they tear down every memorial to Dr. King, and close the Howard Thurman Center. Don’t parade my Black heroes around while actively allowing racist practices to continue. We push back because we care.

Send your comments to:

The Office of the Provost, Boston University
1 Silber Way, 8th Floor
Boston, MA 02215

P: 617-353-2230
F: 617-353-6580
E: provost@bu.edu

A version of this post was originally published on Lauren Chanel’s Kinja blog. You can follow her on Twitter at @MichelleHux. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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