State University of New York at Binghamton is again embroiled in a campus controversy. We previously discussed a major free speech ruling against the University for its pattern of discriminating against conservative speakers on campus. Recently, Professor Ana Maria Candela was called out on conservative sites like Campus Reform for her stated policy of “progressive stacking” where “non-white folks” would be given priority or preference in class discussions. The university declared the policy (used by other faculty members around the country) to be a violation of university rules.
Professor Candela teaches sociology at the school but a check this morning found her bio removed.
In her syllabus was the course “Social Change – Introduction to Sociology,” Candela tells students that she would be applying “progressive stacking” during classroom discussions:
“This means that we try to give priority to non-white folks, to women, and to shy and quiet people who rarely raise their hands. “It also means that if you are white, male, or someone privileged by the racial and gender structures of our society to have your voice easily voiced and heard, we will often ask you to hold off on your questions or comments to give others priority and will come back to you a bit later or at another time.”
Candela also offered a curious authority on what she expected from classroom participation: Mao. She noted that Mao is “famous for having once said, ‘No investigation, no right to speak.’” He, of course, was also infamous for killing millions, purging intellectuals, and destroying core freedoms, including freedom of speech and association. Mao also said “To read too many books is harmful.”
Candela acknowledges that the quote may seem a “bit harsh” but “helps to convey the idea that speaking, during class discussions, should be based on having done your investigative work.”
This is not the first time that Mao has popped up as a paragon for learning.
White and male students raised objections that class participation is considered in their grades and the policy would interfere with their not only expressing their views but asking questions. Students also objected that Candela shows open bias against the United States in class and equates capitalism with slavery.
There is no need for such division of students by race and gender if the interest is to guarantee participation of all students. Most of us strive in class to allow different students to speak. Indeed, it is a common practice to exhaust all of the hands before returning to any given student.
Professor Candela’s effort to divide the class by race and gender for preferential treatment led the university to conduct a rare review of a syllabus. That always raises concerns over academic freedom. We recently discussed such a syllabus dispute at the University of Washington.
On this occasion, the university declared the policy to be in violation of the faculty manual. Notably, however, it did not expressly call this a policy that is discriminatory against white or male students:
“The Faculty Staff Handbook outlines principles of effective teaching, which include valuing and encouraging student feedback, encouraging appropriate faculty-student interaction, and respecting the diverse talents and learning styles of students. The syllabus statement you have brought to our attention clearly violates those principles. The faculty member has updated their syllabus, removing the section in question, and is now in compliance with the Faculty Staff Handbook.”