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U. of Iowa groups demand black professors be given priority to teach some literature classes

An open letter to the University of Iowa president on behalf of student groups that interact with the school’s English department demands that black professors be given priority to teach certain literature classes.

“Black professors should be given priority to teach African-American literature courses, if they so choose,” the letter reads, adding, “In addition, BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) professors should be given priority to teach literature focused on the struggles of BIPOC, if they so choose.”

The letter is cosigned by a number of student groups, including leadership from Black Art; Real Stories, earthwords, The English Society, Fools Magazine, and VERVE Magazine/Ed of Campus. The letter has garnered more than 400 signatures.

The letter is addressed to Iowa President Bruce Harreld and the offices of the university Dean and Provost. The university declined a request to comment by The College Fix.

In addition, the letter demands white professors undergo diversity training, which “must be led by someone from outside of the University to prevent spreading biases.”

“Faculty must be cognizant of their racial privileges and biases to actively eliminate these within the classroom,” the letter reads.

The letter demands the white faculty be trained in:

“Coverage of addressing the consequences of triggering material within the classroom to protect BIPOC students;”

“Coverage of racist, exploitative, offensive, and appropriative language/behavior in and out of the classroom;” and

“Coverage of what microaggressions, racial gaslighting, and white privilege are and how to eradicate them from campus.”

These new student demands come in the wake of nationwide demonstrations protesting the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis, Minn. police.

Following Floyd’s death, Harreld issued a statement supporting the protests, saying the “anger, sadness, and fear felt by our community, and specifically Black communities across our nation, over the killing of George Floyd are justified.”

“This is not a new phenomenon and the Black community is, we are sure, exhausted from the constant trauma and pain of being the recipients of mistreatment by those who are tasked with serving and protecting communities—the police,” said Harreld.

Later, Harreld and other campus leaders condemned the Iowa City Police Department after officers used flash bangs and tear gas to disperse a crowd engaged in protest. Among the reforms Harreld suggested was establishing “specific training and operational requirements for the UIDPS within the campus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan.”

But the groups sending the letter to Harreld have other demands. They urge the university to prioritize the retention of faculty of color “by funding cluster hiring and target-of-opportunity hiring to build communities among current and incoming Black faculty.”

Target of Opportunity programs typically allow a university to identify and hire individuals of color outside of the normal cumbersome hiring process. Such programs are sponsored at other schools like the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon.

“Cluster hiring would require that more than one minority is hired at once in order to avoid feelings of isolation or overload, as well as hiring a group of people from all levels who can adapt to different disciplines,” the letter reads.

The College Fix contacted a number of the letter’s cosigners for comment. None responded.

MORE: University of Iowa still hiring for new diversity VP after promised $16.6 million in coronavirus relief

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.