Race & Ethnicity


From: leigh_binford@uconn.edu
Subject: Racism and Academia
Date: Fri, 13 May 94 01:00:12 PDT

In Spring of 1993, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut conducted a search for a senior medical anthropologist. By a slim margin (5-4), the faculty majority selected Dr. Soheir Morsy, a distinguished woman of color who later (in November 1993) won the Rudolf Virchow prize awarded by the Society for Medical Anthropology at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Members of the losing faction immediately began a vicious campaign against Dr. Morsy's candidacy. The Dean of Liberal Arts and Science intervened and stalled the search before Dr. Morsy was offered a contract. Two of the majority faculty then filled an affirmative action complaint with the University's Office of Affirmative Action. Then ensued a six month wait while Affirmative Action ostensibly carried out its investigation.

In November 1994 Dean Romano called the faculty to a meeting, where he informed us of his decision. At that meeting, the Affirmative Action officer reported that despite the fact that the office had not completed the investigation (!), her finding was that the previous search be called off and a new search begun. Dean Romano then ordered the Department to form a new search committee that would include people from departments other than Anthropology as well as off campus representatives. This committee would write a new job description and would have the responsibility of drawing up the short list and selecting the candidate to whom the job would be offered. In one fell swoop, Dean Romano arbitrarily disenfranchised the Department of Anthropology.

The new Search Committee was chosen largely from among those people who torpedoed Dr. Morsy's candidacy the previous year. Needless to say, the currently short-listed candidates include no people of color. Every indication is that the Committee will recommend that the job be offered to a white male.

President Harry Hartley claims that the University of Connecticut is devoted to multiculturalism and diversity, but the devotion seems to hit a brick wall when it comes to hiring qualified minority faculty. What does diversity mean if it does not involve increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of both the faculty and student body. Historically, anthropologists have buttered their bread through the microscopic scrutiny of the lives and customs of nonwhite others. Indeed, in Mexico, anthropologists are often referred tongue-in-cheek as antropofagos (cannibals). If ethnic and racial diversity is to become a reality, it should begin in Departments of Anthropology. We (the majority faculty) call on the academic community to write to Pres. Harry Hartley, Gulley Hall, The University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT (06269).

PROTEST the following:

  1. The blatant chicanery of the Office of Affirmative Action in issuing a finding before having completed its investigation.
  2. The Dean's blatant interference in internal departmental affairs, and his authoritarian restructuring of Anthropology Department search procedures.
  3. The Department Head's weak (or nonexistent) leadership in not maintaining control of his "troops"

DEMAND the following:

  1. Censorship of Dean Antonio Romano (Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  2. Restoration of previous search procedures (selection of the candidate through democratic vote of the departmental majority) until such time as a different procedure be elected by members of the department.
  3. That the current search be terminated and a new search undertaken that will actively solicit applications from minority faculty. The ideal solution, of course, would be a restoration of Dr. Morsy's status as the department's choice for the position.

If you wish additional information about this case, please write to:

Dr. Leigh Binford
870 Storrs Rd.
Mansfield, CT 06268

Please do not send e-mail to the above account as it is not an e-mail address. If the "Organization" field above does not state "University of Connecticut, Anthropology Department", it is my mistake (I am unable to modify that with my newsreader). I am posting to a news server at Yale University because one is not available at the University of Connecticut (which, if the "Org" entry is wrong, explains the problem).

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