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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 30, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Open Letter: Faculty disappointed with Blue Sky kickoff

We write to express our very serious concern about aspects of the college’s Blue Sky kick-off event, which had as its focus questions relevant to us all: How do we create meaningful learning opportunities and how should we reshape our learning environment for future generations? Despite the undeniable significance of these questions, many faculty members came away from the event (live or watching the video) deeply troubled. In its guiding assumptions, the event appeared to dismiss and even disparage the idea that a rich and valuable undergraduate education is critically tied to what happens in the classroom, where close, diligent and serious attention to intellectual ideas, problems and texts are the central focus.

Moreover, we were distressed and offended by the fact that one of the guest speakers, Tatiana Sy ’09, was repeatedly called “the savage” by another guest speaker, Chris Burch ’76. To make matters worse, this phrase was picked up and also used by the moderator, Bob Kur ’70. Although Burch and Kur seemed unaware of the racist and sexist implications of referring to Sy, who is African-American, in this way (which, we note, was in no way justified by her prior description of herself as motivated by “a savage hunger” for knowledge while at IC), others in the room were not. We are disheartened and disappointed by the fact that our academic leaders did not intervene and object to this demeaning and highly inappropriate phrase. We also question the choice of putting a white, entrepreneurial billionaire who bragged about his ownership of a resort on an island in Indonesia, which he described as backward and primitive, at the center of a conversation about the future of an Ithaca College education. While President Rochon noted, in his strongly worded statement to The Ithacan on Sept. 8, the importance of ongoing, campuswide “conversations about how we treat each other so that we more closely reflect the community we want to be,” it was our sense that this forum did not reflect that same commitment.

Although this event left us disappointed, we believe that it succeeded, however inadvertently, in making crystal clear the deep necessity of keeping book-learning, intellectual debate and historically informed critiques of power at the center of any immersive learning experience. Such activities, we believe firmly, can and do happen in the classroom, as well as outside of them.

In the spirit of community dialogue, we join with the Student Government Association in calling for a forum in which, in contrast to what we witnessed at the kick-off event, intellectually serious as well as civil conversation about education at IC can occur.

Sincerely,

Carla Golden, Professor, Psychology; Jennifer Germann, Assistant Professor, Art History; Jennifer Jolly, Associate Professor, Art History; Asma Barlas, Professor, Politics; Patricia M. Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Politics; Claire Gleitman, Professor, English; Raj Subramaniam, Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Jonathan Ablard, Associate Professor, History; Patricia Zimmerman, Professor, Screen Studies; Naeem Inayatullah, Professor, Politics; Cathy Lee Crane, Associate Professor, Cinema; Stewart Auyash, Chair and Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Physical Education; Katharine Kittredge, Professor, English; Julia Lapp, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Gustavo Licon, Assistant Professor, Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity; Jeff Claus, Emeritus Professor, Education; Stephen D. Mosher, Professor, Sport Management and Media; Hugh Egan, Professor, English; Jennifer Spitzer, Assistant Professor, English; Derek Adams, Assistant Professor, English; Jerry Mirskin, Associate Professor, Writing; Bhavani Arabandi, Assistant Professor, Sociology; Jason Freitag, Associate Professor, History; L. Leann Kanda, Associate Professor, Biology; Bruce Henderson, Professor, Communication Studies; Vivian Bruce Conger, Associate Professor, Department of History; Matt Klemm, Associate Professor, History; David Turkon, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Mary Beth O’Connor, Assistant Professor, Writing; Dan Breen, Associate Professor and Chair, English; Linda Hanrahan, Associate Professor, Education; Michael A. Malpass, Professor, Anthropology; Charles A. Dana, Professor, Social Sciences; Judith Pena-Shaff, Associate Professor, Psychology; Gladys M. Varona-Lacey, Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Rebecca Plante, Associate Professor, Sociology; Donald Lifton, Associate Professor of Management; Chip Gagnon, Professor, Politics; Michael Stuprich, Associate Professor, English; Teresa A. Michel, Instructor, Education; Jennifer Muller, Assistant Professor, Anthropology; Karin Breuer, Associate Professor, History; Paula Ioanide, Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity; Sarah Grunberg, Lecturer, Sociology; Deborah Rifkin, Associate Professor, Music Theory; Hongwei Guan, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Kelly Dietz, Assistant Professor, Politics; Mary Bentley, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Jonathan Laskowitz, Associate Professor, Sociology; John W. White, Associate Professor, Music Theory; Elisabeth Nonas, Associate Professor, Media Arts, Sciences, and Studies; Tom Shevory, Professor, Politics; Nancy Brcak, Professor, Art History; Donald Beachler, Associate Professor, Politics; Linda Godfrey, Assistant Professor, Writing; Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Professor, Politics; Paula Turkon, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences; Patrice Pastore, Professor, Performance Studies, School of Music; Michael B. Smith, Associate Professor, History/Environmental Studies and Sciences; Paige Morgan, Professor, Music; John Barr, Associate Professor, Computer Science; Mark A. Radice, Professor, Music Theory, History, and Composition; Evgenia Ilieva, Assistant Professor, Politics; Carlos Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Politics; Andrew Utterson, Assistant Professor, Media Arts, Sciences, and Studies; Matthew Holtmeier, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Screen Studies; Sue-Je Gage, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Amy Frith, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Alicia Swords, Associate Professor, Sociology; Barbara Adams, Associate Professor, Writing; Jaime Warburton, Assistant Professor, Writing; Nick Kowalczyk, Associate Professor, Writing; Jason Hamilton, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences; Zenon Wasyliw, Professor, History; Michael Twomey, Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts, English; Hormoz Movassaghi, Professor, Finance and International Business; Matthew Price, Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy; Chris Sinton, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences; Robert Sullivan, Associate Professor, Communication Studies; Rebecca Lesses, Associate Professor, Jewish Studies; Belisa Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity; Mara Baldwin, Gallery Director, Handwerker Gallery; David Kramer, Assistant Professor, English; Nicholas Muellner, Associate Professor, Cinema, Photography, and Media Arts; Deborah Wuest, Professor, Health Promotion and Physical Education; Denise Nuttall, Associate Professor, Anthropology; Leigh Ann Vaughn, Associate Professor, Psychology; Maura Stephens, Associate Director, Park Center for Independent Media; Rachel Wagner, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion; Marlene Barken, Associate Professor, Legal Studies; Joslyn Brenton, Assistant Professor, Sociology; Jack Powers, Associate Professor, Television-Radio; Jean Hardwick, Professor, Biology; Anthony Adornato, Assistant Professor, Journalism; Susan Witherup, Professor, Biology; Gwen Seaquist, Professor, Marketing and Law; Steven Skopik, Professor, Media Arts, Sciences and Studies; Chris Holmes, Assistant Professor, English; Kathryn Caldwell, Assistant Professor, Psychology; Zillah Eisenstein, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Professor Emeritus, Politics; David Salomon, Assistant Professor, Art History; Brendan Murday, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion; Christopher Matusiak, Assistant Professor, English; Beth Ellen Clark Joseph, Professor, Physics and Astronomy; Annette H. Levine, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures; Fae Dremock, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences; James A. Rada, Associate Professor, Journalism; Jennifer Tennant, Assistant Professor, Economics; Paul Geisler, Associate Professor and Director, Athletic Training Education