Chicago, IL - Feb. 6, the center of campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) rang with voices. "Tenure for Professor Johnson now!" called out 100 protesters. The group, made up of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and whites, was calling on the administration to grant tenure to a Black professor.
"We demand Dr. Valerie Johnson be given tenure," said Kip Bordelon, from the student group Diversity in Demand (DiD). He went on, "We demand UIC hire five African-American professors," to replace five that have recently left. The mostly student demonstration also called for 12 more African-American and Latino professors in Liberal Arts and Sciences within a year.
Bordelon finished with a third demand for the reinstatement of the Minority Faculty Research Fund. This is a fund that had been in place to help retain the professors, but was recently cut by top bureaucrats at the campus.
Jason Lukasik, another member of DiD, said, "This campus is supposed to have an 'Urban Mission'- to aid the working class people of Chicago. But only 2% of the faculty are African-American, and only 4% are Latino." The student body is almost 10% African-American and 14% Latino.
Tenure means job security for college teachers. At UIC, the number of tenured Black professors has been going down in recent years. Despite UIC's claim that it is committed to diversity, the number of Black students is half what it was 20 years ago. Almost 50% of white students graduate from UIC - less than 40% of Black students do.
'No Institutional Racism'
Feb. 6, DiD met with Stanley Fish, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They went there to ask Fish for support for Professor Valerie Johnson. They told him that she was an excellent teacher for students of all races and nationalities, and a mentor to African-American students.
Fish was outright rude to the students. He dismissed their arguments, telling them they were "ignorant" on matters of tenure for faculty. His position was, according to Kevin Morrisette of DiD, "Fish wants us [students] to stick with diversity in general and not on diversity in faculty."
Fish went on to say that UIC had no institutional racism. If this were true, there would be equality - the numbers of African American and Latino professors would be about the same percent as there are in Chicago. The same would be true of the student body; and the graduation rate would be equal - the percent of African-Americans and Latinos finishing UIC would be the same as whites.
For Fish to make such a statement just shows the truth in the old line from Malcolm X. Malcolm said, "A liberal is a man who goes to a lynching and can see both sides of the issue."
According to Kip Bordelon, DiD will continue to mobilize students and community support to demand that UIC keep its word - hire and retain minority faculty.