“I am a Caucasian cisgender female and first-generation college student from Appalachia who is of Scottish, British, and Norwegian heritage. I am married to a cisgender male, and we are middle class. While I did not ‘ask’ for the many privileges in my life: I have benefitted from them and will continue to benefit from them whether I like it or not.” At the end of her statement, Duncan Lane apologizes to students for the “inexcusable horrors within our shared history.”
The site Campus Reform further quotes Lane as saying
“This is injustice. I am and will continue to work on a daily basis to be antiracist and confront the innate racism within myself that is the reality and history of white people. I want to be better: Every day. I will transform: Every day. This work terrifies me: Every day. I invite my white students to join me on this journey. And to my students of color: I apologize for the inexcusable horrors within our shared history.”
The statement is reminiscent of other such declarations discussed earlier on this site. Last year, we discussed the controversy over the acting Northwestern Law Dean declaring publicly to “I am James Speta and I am a racist.” He was followed by Emily Mullin, executive director of major gifts, who announced, “I am a racist and a gatekeeper of white supremacy. I will work to be better.” Other faculty have been more accusatory of others like the Brandeis dean who declared “all whites are racist.”
Such statements reflect deep-seated political and social views from faculty. Those views may be deeply insulting for students or other faculty. However, I believe that they are still protected speech and reflect intellectual views protected under academic freedom.
The concern that I have is the inconsistent treatment of such controversies where conservative or contrarian faculty are given little accommodation, including a recent case at St. Joseph’s University. A conservative North Carolina professor faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views. He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.” That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide just days before his last day as a professor.
Professor Lane is expressing her views of racism, including her own bias or privilege. Students can decide whether they wish to take her class in light of such views and whether they suggest a countervailing bias. I see nothing in the statement that suggests that Professor Lane would be biased against white students. These statements are tied to how academics view systemic racism and the bias that comes from personal privilege. Those statements should be protected — as should countervailing statements — from faculty.