Penn Controversy Looks At “Progressive Stacking” After Controversial Tweet By Grad Student

45879D2000000578-5002884-image-m-83_1508551815896It is called “progressive stacking,” a technique where teachers give priority to students according to race or gender.  The technique is being hotly debated at the University of Pennsylvania after Grad student Stephanie McKellop tweeted about how she only reluctantly will call on a white male after giving preference to various groups based on their gender or race.  While many find stacking to be a form of discrimination, some academics have rallied to the side of McKellop in favor of such techniques.

Here is the tweet that started the controversy:

According to news reports, professors and graduate students from Notre Dame, Auburn and the State University of New York have stepped forward to support McKellop despite her stated resistance to calling on white males.

When people objected that McKellop was intentionally avoiding students based on their race and gender, she called such critics “Nazis” and blasted Penn for failing to rush to her side in defending such discriminatory practices.

She added that as a teacher “YOU get to control social setting” and “flip” the social barriers to speaking.

The university was understandably alarmed that McKellop was actively avoiding the participation of white or males.  Steven J. Fluharty, dean of Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, said in a written statement:

“The university’s policies prohibiting discrimination are intended to reinforce our commitment to equity and inclusion . . . We are looking into the current matter involving a graduate-student teaching assistant to ensure that our students were not subjected to discriminatory practices in the classroom and to ensure that all of our students feel heard and equally engaged. Contrary to some reports, the graduate student has not been removed from the program, and we have and will continue to respect and protect the graduate student’s right to due process.”

McKellop was irate that the university would force her to treat males or white equally in classrooms.  She announced:

“Hi Friends, the University of Pennsylvania is issuing a press release condemning me and my teaching practices. It comes out tomorrow.  Because this involves calling on Black students more readily than white men, the white nationalists and Nazis were very upset.”

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article University of Arizona Nolan Cabrera insisted that progressive stacking is merely seeking out the voices of minority students — giving them priority among various hands raised in a class.  It is “an acknowledgment that traditional pedagogical techniques have silenced marginal voices.”  However, even if one were to accept that approach, McKellop shows how such manipulation of class participation easily becomes a form of discrimination.  Most academics strive to maintain an environment where everyone can speak as opposed to stack participation to address social patterns or bias.  Each student must be treated equally — not de-prioritized due to his association with a racial or gender group.  While there are an array of social ills outside of the classroom, we maintain an equality of thought and status as a basic component of higher education.  Moreover, our students come to our schools to be treated equally — not to find themselves the ongoing social experiment of people like McKellop.

What do you think?