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University of Colorado Accused of Pushing Out Four Female Faculty of Color

An online document accuses the university of creating a toxic environment in the School of Education that caused four tenure-track female professors to leave their jobs. There were 52 faculty in the School of Education in 2020, 18 of whom were people of color.

A document circulating online accuses the University of Colorado Boulder of fostering a racist climate in the School of Education and causing four female tenure-track faculty of color to leave their jobs.

The document was written by two Black female graduate students in the School of Education, Karia White and another who remained anonymous. The writers conducted their own alternative interviews with some of the former female faculty members who cited enduring public attacks about their persons and scholarship; harassment; bullying; gossiping; and more.

The four faculty members were not identified.

"The University of Colorado Boulder has a continual history of rampant and unbridled antiblackness," the document read. "The systematic bullying, denigration and surveillance of women of color faculty, and Black women faculty, in particular, was excessive, obvious and undeniable."

Kathy Schultz, dean and professor in the CU Boulder School of Education, confirmed four female faculty members of color left the School of Education by August but said she can't comment on why they resigned.

"We believe in upholding privacy laws, so I can't comment on personnel matters," Schultz said. "I can say the faculty who left chose to leave the School of Education."

According to data from the CU Boulder Office of Data Analytics, there were 52 total faculty in the School of Education in 2020, 18 of which were people of color. In 2022, there were 56 faculty and 19 were people of color. There's no official data for 2023 yet, Schultz said, but there are approximately 52 total faculty and 15 faculty of color employed right now at the School of Education.

Schultz said almost all institutions of higher education have a historic legacy of racism and antiblackness, including CU Boulder. However, she said, the university is taking deliberate steps to improve and be a leader in that space.

"At the same time, we know we have a lot of work to do and are working hard to foster and anti-racist environment and to repair the harm," Schultz said.

'Institutional Disrespect and Disregard'

According to the online document, by summer of 2023 the four women of color had been "pushed out" of their jobs, defining a pushout as the "intentional removal" of faculty by "microaggressions, everyday violences, gossiping, surveillance" and more.

The authors also conducted interviews with faculty, staff and students about their own experiences in the School of Education for the document and continue to conduct those interviews.

"We bore witness and were made privy to countless examples of institutional disrespect and disregard against the women of color faculty in both formal and informal settings," the document read.

The document claimed that in addition to public attacks, harassment and bullying, the four women experienced downplaying of their achievements and commitments to students. Their personal social media accounts were under surveillance, it said, confirmed by Google search histories and inappropriate comments made by other faculty.

The former faculty were "deemed intimidating, un-collegial, unfriendly and unprofessional," the document said, even when navigating academic climates with professionalism.

Some of the women also noted that they "felt deceived due to unmanageable workloads, unprofessionalism in faculty meetings, and visible power dynamics between leadership and faculty," the document said. It said they also were interrupted and dismissed frequently by colleagues.

The document also said certain faculty noted "suicidal ideation" and "physical and mental deterioration" from their time in the School of Education.

"I want to emphasize that the departure of these four women of color deeply concerns us," Schultz said, later adding, "There are very specific reasons the faculty have told us for leaving and we are trying to address those."

Schultz said the School of Education has held exit interviews with three of the four women and is working to schedule an interview with the fourth.

Based on the feedback from the exit interviews, Schultz said, the School of Education is looking to ensure teaching loads are equitable, improve communication for policy and practices and develop ideas about how to provide more support for faculty across race, class and gender lines. Schultz said they're also working to bolster research supports, among other efforts.

'Hope For a Better Future'

The writers of the document called it a shadow report, noting that "shadow reports present alternative framings to what an conventionally authoritative entity might submit for their own protection." It also serves as a letter and a virtual town hall where readers can add their name, affiliation and comments.

There are more than 200 professors, students, alumni, politicians, community members and others who have signed the document since it was created on Monday. Signatures and statements continue to be added to the document every hour.

CU Boulder undergraduate student Madison Pyle, who signed the letter, said she stands in solidarity with all students and faculty of color who are fighting for equal opportunities and treatment as their white peers.

"I have been a witness to microaggressions and bullying in CU Boulder and can also say the women of color faculty I have encountered here have been the most inspirational and motivating people on this campus who do not get enough credit," Pyle said.

The document said the care and support provided by faculty of color are what sustains all students, and specifically students of color.

"The loss of not one but four women of color leaves an abyss and cavern in our scholarship and our community," the document said.

CU Boulder Academic Program Manager Simon Garcia wrote in the document that as an alum and faculty member, change can only take place within an intersectional and inclusive space that focuses on restorative justice.

"CU Boulder is hostile to people of color, and that has only worsened in the current socio political climate, and action must be taken," Garcia said. "Much love to the community and to those affected, and I sincerely hope for a better future."

Hope Blinne, a CU Boulder alum, Boulder resident and student teacher, wrote it's crucial to get diverse voices into the field.

"Boulder has always wanted to be seen as this bastion of progressiveness while continuing to harm our BIPOC communities," Blinne said. "We need to do better and be better."

Michael Levet, assistant professor at the College of Charleston and CU Boulder alum, wrote that he fully supports the demands in the letter.

"I stand with the faculty members who were forced to resign, as well as the BIPOC community at CU Boulder that continues to be harmed by toxic individuals, ineffectual policies and administrators who avoid dealing with — or worse, double down on — these issues," Levet said.

A Call to Action

The document called on the School of Education to stop forming task forces, book clubs, sensitivity training and committees, saying those avenues are typically utilized but aren't effective.

"The answer cannot be found in new appointments, interview committees, or Town Halls," the document read. "It is located in the serious regard and critical engagement of our responsibilities in what has transpired."

The document outlines 12 demands for the university, starting with a formal written apology to the four women of color faculty. It also demands financial reparation, installment of culturally competent and adaptable curriculum, remedying discrepancies in workload and adding students to hiring committees.

It also calls for funding of student of color initiatives, research, task forces, symposiums, conference stipends and more. Until additional funding for new initiatives can be found, the document calls for a considerable portion of the budget be reallocated to the Center for Native and Indigenous Studies, the Center for African and African American Studies, the Latin American Studies Center and additional centers that already center the research and support mechanisms of students.

The document also demands implementation of a common area where ideas, connection and mentorship can happen without abuse and for a transformation of grading policies, which produce unequal outcomes for students of color.

It also demanded in-person accountability forums for progress checks in the School of Education and that there be mechanisms in place to address racist incidents and process for a quick response. Those that file the report should not be made responsible to address these issues after their initial report, the letter said, and it demands a consistent set aside time in department meetings for student feedback and for the reports to be handled in a timely and professional manner.

Schultz said everyone in the leadership team at the School of Education has read the letter and is taking it very seriously.

"We know we have a lot of work to do with retaining faculty of color, and this letter points that out to us," Schultz said. "We as a school and leadership team will take those demands very seriously."'

(c)2023 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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