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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Letter to the Editor

Re: “Our administration’s treatment of Africana Studies is not anti-racist: it’s racist” (Opinions, Oct. 31, 2022).
The Oct. 31 Opinions piece includes a retired faculty member’s recollection that “years ago, an older administration leadership began picking on Africana Studies and actually put them under receivership [. . .] Well, the guy they picked to lead Africana Studies was a white man with no connection to the department and subject matter at all, who didn’t get along with anyone in the department and who eventually was forced to leave the position.”
In 2016, I was one of two UMass Boston faculty members on a four-person committee appointed to the Africana Studies department’s AQUAD— a review process all academic departments undergo every seven years. After the review, the late David Terkla, then Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, appointed me the department’s interim chair. Contrary to the article’s depiction, I am a Black woman tenured in the English department as an African American literature specialist. My Harlem Renaissance undergraduate course, AFR/AMST/ENGL 352L, has been cross-listed in Africana Studies as well as English and American Studies ever since I created it almost twenty years ago. Regrettably, I was unable to accomplish much during my term as interim chair, but I consider the hiring of Professor Keith Jones into the department a valuable and lasting achievement.
When I resigned as interim chair at the end of the spring 2017 semester to become the editor of a scholarly journal, David Terkla himself stepped in. The following year, he authorized faculty searches that recruited three tenure-stream hires, which included a new chair. Before the 2021-22 academic year, two of those professors resigned and the third left Africana Studies for another department.
I hope you and the author will review the piece, which the Faculty and Staff Union’s communications committee chose to email to its entire membership. The article misgendered and mis-raced me to the point of unrecognizability and replaced me with a more sensational figure—a white, male, unqualified administrative stooge—in a story about racism. It also perpetuated the damaging, but all-too-common, practice of maligning Black women’s reputations and expertise or erasing us from the record. That mistake can be corrected. My concern is that the author trusted misleading information. Faculty members, both current and former, are responsible for not abusing students’ trust or exploiting their labor to serve our own agendas.
Thank you for your work as journalists. I admire The Mass Media’s commitment to anti-racism, and I hope my writing to you affirms that.
Sincerely,
Susan Tomlinson (she/her/hers)
Associate Professor of English
[email protected]