Faculty reactions to the teach-in

The teach-in provided a unique opportunity for students, faculty and staff to come together and openly discuss issues of discrimination within New College. “From my perspective, the biggest problem is there is a lack of diversity on campus,” Assistant Professor of Physical Chemistry Steven Shipman said. “The student population is pretty homogenous; the faculty population is pretty homogeneous as well; the staff actually probably has the most diversity of any of the groups on campus.”

Faculty voted unanimously on having the college shut down for the day, highlighting the scale of these issues. “It’s not just a student life issue anymore — it’s an issue that concerns the whole college,” Professor of Physics George Ruppeiner said. “We’ve got real problems here that we hear about from students that the institution has never addressed. And it may be that this idea that the students can run their own community and everyone can do whatever they want isn’t working so well. That’s what I’ve sort of come away with.”

Ruppeiner and Shipman both suggested a greater involvement with student life on the part of faculty and administration in order to increase awareness of acts of discrimination. “A lot of the unfortunate stuff that happened was pretty invisible to faculty, because a lot of it is on the other side of campus,” Shipman said. “To be honest, faculty are pretty divorced from the student life on campus.”

According to Shipman, faculty involvement is necessary to remedy issues of intolerance on campus. “This is a problem that’s continued for years, longer than the typical student time at New College,” Shipman said. “There’s something institutional, maybe not necessarily encouraging it, but maybe not discouraging it as much as it could be, and so for that you need to involve people who are here on long time scales, and those are the faculty, the staff and the administrators.”

Professor of Philosophy Aron Edidin (‘year) said there is a role for faculty in continuing the discussions launched by the teach-in. “There is the role of trying to make sure that our classrooms are inclusive,” Edidin said. “The role can include including material in the contents of classes which are relevant … There’s the opportunity even when something isn’t a part of the regular curriculum in the class to introduce it as an issue in class discussions … Another [role] is just to anticipate and be involved in the  sorts of activities that are led by students or by Student Affairs staff. …There have been occasions especially in response to major events in which the faculty has passed statements as a group which have been publicized to the community, so that’s yet another … role that the faculty can have as a group.”

Faculty are among those concerned with finding solutions to the problems. “I think there should be a speech code,” Ruppeiner said. “I was shocked to read that students were flying a Confederate flag …. I just don’t think there’s any room at this college for that kind of thing and further, I think the faculty, the administration, I think they should say that. There are some egregious things, some egregious displays, that should just outright be barred.”

Edidin, Ruppeiner and Shipman all said they hoped that the discussions borne out of the teach-in will continue.  “There hasn’t been an on-going feature of the college which creates a context to responding to things when they come up,” Edidin said. “So what I hope for more than anything else is something regular, something that’s going on from week to week or from month to month.”

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