Sunday, September 20, 2015

THE THREE IDEOLOGIES IN AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE



Harry R. Targ

The idea of an “ideology” is a complicated one. For some, ideologies are mere rationalizations of interests and preferences. For others, ideologies are bundles of false, maybe dumb ideas. They can come from religion, popular culture, political parties, or simple principles that are used to explain the universe. 

Perhaps the most useful concept of “ideology” is one that refers to a body of interconnected ideas or a system of thought about how the world works. These ideas often explain the meaning of life, how and why society is organized the way it is, and also how it ought to be organized. However, ideas do not come from the ether. They come from class position and concrete interests, background, social status, and education by family, schools, peer groups, and popular culture. 

What is important about ideologies goes beyond which ones are more accurate than others but how ideological clashes might help explain political conflict. As the long and painful presidential election season unfolds, it is useful to analyze the three competing ideologies that dominate current debate. Each has its adherents. Each represents interests. Each explains how the world works in a different way. And each has a different vision of a better future.

The dominant ideology in the United States today, indeed much of the industrial capitalist world, is “neoliberalism.” Neoliberalism has a long history with roots in the founding of classical capitalist economic theory. “Neo” refers to the contemporary manifestation of the classic tradition. Neoliberalism assumes that humankind is comprised of value-maximizing individuals existing in a competitive, sometimes alien social world. Society is a constellation of competing economic actors, in our own day mostly huge corporations and banks. The ideology claims that corporations and banks engage in economic activity in a market place. Through competition some grow and contribute to society and others are unable to compete. It is through market competition of economic actors that individuals sustain themselves and improve their material conditions.

According to neoliberalism, the fundamental institutions and processes in society are markets that promote competition. Political institutions are constructed to protect and enhance market competition. Political institutions must be limited in power, neoliberalism suggests, such that they do not interfere with the workings of the market. Since the 1970s, proponents of neoliberal ideology have advocated downsizing government (except the military), privatizing public institutions, deregulating how markets work, and liberating the citizenry from controls, constraints, and safety nets. Neoliberal policies are usually called austerity policies.

In the end, society is comprised of atomized individuals and corporate economic actors who pursue their own gain and out of this pursuit, the collective good will emerge. Neoliberal ideology is shared by mainstream Democrats and Republicans, professional economists, most of the media, educational institutions, and popular culture.

A new ideology that has emerged from the recent presidential debate might be called the “virtues of wealth” ideology. This perspective suggests that individuals exist in competitive societies and markets reign supreme. And while this is an historical inevitability and as a practical matter a pretty good way to organize society, sometimes the accumulation of wealth fosters greed, avarice, and stupidity. The political system falls prey to the influence of those with large wealth who seek to buy elections, bribe politicians, and in other ways influence the political process by misusing their resources. The ideology about the virtues of wealth suggests that the corruption of accumulated wealth sometimes leads to the rise of incompetence in public policy. Unless there are appropriately wise guardians, accumulated wealth can lead to bad government. During times of extreme misuse of power, new guardians of the public must emerge to correct the errors of government and the economy. 

The best candidates to reconstruct the state come from those who are independently wealthy and who do not have to rely on a donor class to win elections. They are the disinterested wealthy. And in fact they have the freedom by virtue of their wealth to challenge economic and political elites who rule because they secured financial support from others and gained wealth from participating in government. The virtues of wealth ideology allow its believers to challenge the economic ruling class and political elites in such a way as to appeal to the majority who have no wealth or power and who clearly recognize that they are being lied to by the ruling elite. Finally, deeply embedded in this ideology also is a sense of how wealth proves talent and virtue. Conversely those without wealth and privilege by definition lack virtue. In this way, the virtue of wealth ideology is profoundly racist.   During the current two-year presidential race Donald Trump has emerged as the preeminent expression and promoter of the ideology of the virtuous wealthy.

A third ideology, twenty-first century socialism, emphasizes that the interconnection of global problems--from environmental devastation, to class exploitation and growing economic inequality, to racism, sexism, and homophobia, to authoritarianism, and internal and international violence--are intimately connected to the development of the capitalist system. Twenty-first century socialism sees the concentration and centralization of economic power as the driving force in creating a world order dominated by finance capital, a few hundred multinational corporations, and imperial states. 

The ideology of twenty-first century socialism, while recognizing the historic rise to power of global capitalism also recognizes that capitalism generates growing resistance and creates demands for change. The magnitude of resistance varies from epoch to epoch, but it is clear that the totality of what is called history is comprised of the drive to hegemony contradicted by resistance to it. Those who resist engage in education, organization, and agitation to create human unity. 

According to this third ideology, societies are constituted by communities and the presupposition that being human means being part of communities of activity. The belief in community is fundamentally opposed to the neoliberal conceptualization that the basic units of societies, atomized individuals, can only survive by acting independently of others. The vision of twenty-first century socialism is based on the proposition that work should be organized cooperatively and the wealth produced by society should be shared equitably by everyone who helps produce it. Class exploitation, racism, sexism, and homophobia are antithetical to the core of this ideology.

The twenty-first century socialist ideology assumes that building human solidarity, working together to create grassroots forms of production and distribution, and struggling for the political empowerment of the people offer the possibility for further human development. Paradoxically more people in the United States and around the world share the ideology of twenty-first century socialism than the other two but currently appear to be the weakest politically of the three ideologies. How to realize the vision embedded in this ideology is the human project of our time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

EXPERIMENTS IN STEM EDUCATION: TWO HIGH SCHOOL MODELS



Harry Targ

Manufacturing Connect represents a partnership between Chicago Public Schools, local manufacturers, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and the Austin community. Manufacturing Connect is recognized as promising practice for career pathway education and training linked to in-demand careers in manufacturing and related fields. http://www.mfgren.org/signature-programs/austin-polytech-career-program/

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Thursday (June 18) announced the university’s plan to open the new STEM-focused charter school in downtown Indianapolis with the possibility of eventually expanding to cities where Purdue has statewide polytechnic centers. The high school curriculum will mirror the transformed Purdue Polytechnic Institute on the West Lafayette campus and serve as a pipeline to the institute. (Purdue News, “Purdue Polytechnic High School to Provide STEM Pipeline,”  June 18, 2015).

Manufacturing Connect in Chicago

The Austin community on the west side of Chicago has experienced industrial decline for years. Once a center of manufacturing, particularly candy, it has become a deindustrialized area of urban decay. A realtor’s website (Area Vibes) estimated that in 2012 household income in the neighborhood was only $35, 847, median earnings for male residents was $28, 486, female residents $25,152. The unemployment rate was 13 per cent. Income per capita was 42.4 percent less than the Chicago average. As recently as the 1960s, the Austin community, currently about 98,000 residents, was mostly white. Now about 95 per cent of the population is African American and Latino.

Austin High School, the neighborhood’s educational anchor, was once a distinguished Chicago high school. The original high school closed in 2007 and was reconfigured as three smaller high schools in 2010.  A grassroots workers organization, Manufacturing Renaissance (MR), contracted with the Chicago Public Schools to establish an educational program at the new Austin Polytech High School. Called Manufacturing Connect (MC) the program educates local young people for skilled jobs and in college preparatory engineering and scientific fields. MC has created a program of instruction, “a career and technical education program,” that is separate from other programs offered by the new high school complex but remains under the authority of the Chicago Public Schools, its appointed principal, and teachers who are members  of the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1.

The Manufacturing Renaissance MC program is based upon the proposition that manufacturing employment is still vital to the economies of the country and the metropolitan Chicago area. MC indicates that there is more demand for technically-trained workers, college-educated and/or skilled in trades, than high schools and universities are producing. Therefore Manufacturing Renaissance over the last decade has worked to build a coalition of partner organizations who have an interest in revitalizing public education, manufacturing, and neighborhoods such as Austin in Chicago. They believe that stimulating economic growth, and giving young people hope, requires renewed programs of education. The MC program is the first of many MR is creating in urban areas to make education relevant to twenty-first century manufacturing, communities, and youth.

Purdue Polytech in Indianapolis

Purdue University is creating a new high school program for under-served youth in the city of Indianapolis. The Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School that will be open in August, 2017 represents another example of developing education to meet the needs of young people and the larger economy. Some of the features of the Purdue project parallel the Austin example but other elements are unfortunately missing.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced that the new STEM-focused charter school in Indianapolis will educate inner-city students in a curriculum that might lead to admission to Purdue University. “Our two basic objectives are to offer an alternative learning environment designed to better prepare students for today’s workplace and to increase significantly the unacceptably low number of Indianapolis Public School students who are qualified to succeed at Purdue.” (Purdue News, June 18, 2015).

The program is a result of collaboration between a Purdue College,  the Polytechnic Institute; the city of Indianapolis; and USA Funds, a business organized philanthropic foundation. The school start-up funds are being administered by EmployIndy, a “local workforce investment board.” Purdue faculty, primarily from the newly created Polytechnic Institute (formerly the College of Technology) will develop the curriculum. The program will involve “project-based learning focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with a connection between those subjects and real-world challenges.” 

Strengths of the Manufacturing Connect Program

Both programs will bring twenty-first century educational opportunities to urban youth. However, there are several unique strengths of the MC program in terms of educational philosophy and implementation. First the Chicago program has the support, political and monetary, of Chicago manufacturers, the Chicago School Board, and the Chicago Teachers Union. As Dan Swinney (MR Director) wrote: “Austin Polytech is intentionally a public school.”

Second, Austin Polytech was conceived of as an institution that would help rebuild the neighborhood. A thriving school would anchor social networks for young people, stimulate the revitalization of local businesses, and train a work force which could return to the community. 

Third, the MC project relies on the city, the business community, and the teachers union. It regards the teaching staff as a valuable component of the educational process that can give experience and direction to educating neighborhood youth.

Fourth, the training in scientific and engineering skills is calibrated to meet the needs of industry and business in the Austin neighborhood. The MC project is based on the real employment needs of the local economy.

Finally, the MC project is based on the fundamental proposition that the United States economy  will grow or stagnate based on its adaptation to twenty-first century manufacturing. MR believes that to see the U.S. economy as a “post-industrial” economy is to misread the existing context of production and the vital necessities of any modern society. Many jobs may be occasioned by twenty-first century needs, such as developing the skills and mobilizing the resources for a green jobs agenda, but they will still require manufacturing and craft skills. Students trained at Austin Polytech will be trained to fulfill the needs of the new economy, particularly in their own community.

Manufacturing Connect is an example of a more broad-based and meaningful educational program than Purdue Polytech because MC is based on a public/ private partnership; it relies on teachers and their organizations; and it concentrates on educating youth with the hope that they will help develop and serve their communities.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Impacts of 9/11s (reposted from September 1, 2011)



Harry Targ

9/11 in Chile

On the bright and sunny morning of September 11, 1973, aircraft bombed targets in Valparaiso, Chile, and moved on to the capital, Santiago. Following a well-orchestrated plan, tanks rolled into the capital city, occupied the central square, and fired on the Presidential palace. Inside that building, President Salvador Allende broadcast a final address to his people and fatally shot himself as soldiers entered his quarters.

Thousands of Allende supporters were rounded up and held in the city’s soccer stadium and many, including renowned folk singer Victor Jara, were tortured and killed. For the next fifteen years, Chilean workers were stripped of their right to form unions, political parties and elections were eliminated, and the junta led by General Augusto Pinochet ruled with an iron fist all but ignored outside the country until Chileans began to mobilize to protest his scheme to become President for life.

9/11 in the United States

Of course, 9/11/01 was different. The United States was attacked by foreign terrorists, approximately 3,000 citizens and residents were killed at the World Trade Center, over a rural area in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. People all over the world expressed their sorrow and sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 attacks as the American people experienced shock and dismay.

But then everything began to change. Within days of the terrorist attacks, members of President Bush’s cabinet began to advocate a military assault on Iraq, a longstanding target of the Washington militarists of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Now is the time, they said, to take out Saddam Hussein, seize control of Iraqi oil fields, and reestablish United States control over the largest share of the oil fields of the Persian Gulf region. Cooler heads prevailed for a time, however. We cannot attack Iraq, critics said, because Iraq had nothing to do with the crimes in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

So it was decided that a war would be waged on Afghanistan, because the headquarters of the shadowy organization Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, was said to be in that country. On October 6, 2001, that war was initiated and still goes on although Bin Laden has been killed.

Shortly after launching the war on Afghanistan, the neo-cons in the Bush administration began a campaign to convince the American people that we needed to make war on Iraq. Lies were articulated that the Iraqi dictator was really behind the global terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. He had weapons of mass destruction. He was part of a global Islamic fundamentalist cabal. At last, despite evidence to the contrary, the mobilization of millions of Americans against war, growing global resentment against the Bush Doctrine justifying preemptive wars, the United States attacked Iraq in March, 2003. That war too still goes on.

Over the last decade, U.S. military budgets have tripled, thousands of U.S. soldiers have died or sustained irreparable injuries, and an estimated one million Afghan and Iraqi people, mostly civilians, have died. Meanwhile the United States has maintained over 700 military installations around the world, declared the great land and sea area around the globe at the equator the “arc of instability,” and engaged in direct violence or encouraged others to do so, from Colombia to Honduras in the Western Hemisphere, to Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa, to Israel, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria and Libya in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, to Pakistan, and Afghanistan in East Asia. Presidents Bush and Obama have declared that United States military overreach to be in the national interest of the country and to serve the humanitarian interest of the world. Now the U.S. program includes the use of computer operated aircraft, drones, that can target and kill anywhere based on decisions from command headquarters half way around the globe.

Meanwhile at home, the Patriot Act has extended the prerogatives of government to launch a program claiming to be essential to protect the people from domestic terrorists: spying on Americans; incarcerating people from virtually anywhere deemed to be a security threat; and establishing a political climate that intimidates critics of United States foreign policy.

Domestically, the decade since 9/11 has been characterized by sustained assaults on the basic living standards of the bottom 90 percent of the population in terms of wealth and income. Unemployment has risen dramatically. Job growth has ground to a halt. Health care benefits have declined while costs skyrocket. Virtually every public institution in America, except the military, is being threatened by budget cuts: education, libraries, public health facilities, highways and bridges, fire and police protection, environmental quality.

Support for war overseas and at home is stoked by a so-called “war on terrorism” and an anti-government ideology, made popular earlier by the Reagan administration that lionizes Adam Smith’s claims that only the market can satisfy human needs. Following 9/11, the “beast,” government, has been starved even more resulting in increased demand on workers and institutions with reduced resources, offering “proof” that government never works.

Not all have had to sacrifice during this ten-year “war on terror” and its attendant domestic programs. The rich have gotten richer while the income and wealth of 90 percent of the population have experienced economic stagnation or decline. Media monopolization has facilitated the rise of a strata of pundits who simplify and distort the meaning of events since 9/11 by claiming that war is necessary; the terrorist threat is a growing global threat; as a nation and individually we need to arm ourselves; and subliminally it is people of color who constitute the threat to security and well-being.

Where Do We Go From Here

So the United States 9/11 event was not the first. The Chilean 9/11 preceded the U.S. one by 28 years. Its people experienced a brutal military coup. And in the United States mass murder was committed by 19 terrorists. But in both cases the 9/11 event was followed by violence, threats to democracy, and economic shifts from the vast majority of the population to the wealthy and political/military elites. In both cases, draconian economic policies and constraints of civil and political rights were defined as required by threats to the “homeland.”

As the ten-year anniversary of the U.S. 9/11 is remembered, it is critical to reflect upon how the murder of 3,000 citizens and residents was defined as an opening salvo in a perpetual “war on terrorism:” how this war trumps traditional civil liberties afforded by the constitution; how this war must be waged at whatever cost to the lives and economic resources of the country; and, as with the Cold War, military spending must take priority over every other activity for which the government has a role. 9/11/73 caused the Chilean people pain and suffering that they are still working to overcome 28 years later. Unless the American people mobilize to challenge the policies, foreign and domestic, that were justified by the tragedy of 9/11, the United States will continue to move down a similar path the Chilean people traveled after their 9/11.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

WORKERS AND THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS




Harry Targ

The massive atrocities of World War II led nations to commit themselves permanently to the protection of basic rights for all human beings. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of the wartime President, Franklin Roosevelt, worked diligently with leaders from around the world to develop a document, to articulate a set of principles, which would bind humankind to never carry out acts of mass murder again. In addition, the document also committed nations to work to end most forms of pain and suffering.

Over 60 years ago, on December 10, 1948, delegates from the United Nations General Assembly signed the document which they called “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It consisted of a preamble proclaiming that all signatories recognize "the inherent dignity" and "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" as the "foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." The preamble declared the commitment of the signatories to the creation of a world “…in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want…”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights consisted of thirty articles, with varying degrees of elaboration. The first 21 articles refer primarily to civil and political rights. They prohibit discrimination, persecution for the holding of various political beliefs, slavery, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention. Persons have the right to speak their mind, travel, reside anywhere, a fair trial if charged with crimes, own property, form a family, and in the main to hold the rights of citizenship including universal and equal suffrage in his or her country.

The remaining nine articles address what may be called social and economic rights. These include rights to basic social security in accordance with the resources of the state in which the persons reside; rights to adequate leisure and holidays with pay; an adequate standard of living so that individuals and families have sufficient food, clothing, shelter, and medical care; and education, free at least at the primary levels. In addition, these nine articles guarantee a vibrant cultural life in the community, the right to enjoy and participate in the arts, and to benefit from scientific achievements.

While each article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a rich and vivid portrait of what must be achieved for all humankind, no article speaks to our time more than Article 23. It is one of the longer articles, identifying four basic principles:

*Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

*Everyone, without discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

*Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself (or herself) and his (her) family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary by other means of social protection.

*Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his (her) interests.

Using the language of our day, the principles embedded in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights constitute a bedrock vision inspiring the global 99 percent to rise up against their exploiters from Cairo to Madison, to Wall Street, to cities and towns all over the world. The global political economy is broken. The dominant mode of production, capitalism, increasingly cannot provide work, fair remuneration, rights of workers to speak their mind and organize their own associations, and the provision of a comfortable way of life all because the value of what they produce is expropriated by the top 1 percent of global society.

Data about the world and data about the United States make it clear that there has been a thirty year trajectory in the direction opposite to the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Global inequality is growing. The rights and abilities of workers to form unions are shrinking. Standards of living of most of humankind are declining. The ability of most workers everywhere to acquire secure jobs is declining. Globally there has been a quantum shift from agricultural, manufacturing, and service employment to the informal sector, oftentimes “street hustling.” Scholars write about a new “precariat,” suggesting both the increase in proletarianization of work and its increasing precariousness.

And in the end, anti-worker politics in the United States, like anti-worker politics virtually everywhere around the globe, violate the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially its precious Article 23. The workers’ agenda is fundamentally the human rights agenda.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

ACTION, NOT STUDIES, NEEDED TO ADDRESS RACISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION



Harry Targ

The Office of the Provost [of Purdue University] recently established the Diversity Transformation Award, which challenges faculty to create research projects that improve recruitment, retention and overall success among underrepresented minority students and faculty, such as African-Americans, Hispanics, or people with disabilities. (Taya Flores, “Purdue Invests $1M into Diversity,” Journal and Courier, August 29, 2015).

The newspaper article cited above did not indicate whether or not the current  administration was aware of the efforts at Purdue that had been carried out in the past to address issues of recruitment and retention of faculty and students of color. In addition, the article did not refer to the extensive published research literature that has investigated strengths and weaknesses of policies many universities and colleges have adopted in the past. The subsequent posting on a Purdue website provided a more detailed and nuanced description of the research and programs that may be funded including brief mention of extending or adapting current programs of research and action. 

However, there is no mention of the many efforts that have been taken at Purdue University in the past to increase recruitment and retention of students, faculty of color, and staff nor does the article allude to prior extensive experiments and research at universities comparable to Purdue University. The Diversity Transformation Award Program (DTAP) might revisit and assess prior policy and research programs as part of the University’s commitment to diversifying the academic community. Selected examples are described below.

In the late 1980s, then Vice-President of Purdue University and Dean of the Graduate School Robert Ringel assembled a group of some forty faculty members from various colleges and programs in the university to address recruitment and retention of African American graduate and undergraduate students. These faculty members reflected the same lack of diversity that existed among the student body, undergraduate and graduate, in the university at-large. However, for all their limitations they were chosen by Vice-President Ringel because of their interest in promoting diversity. Those who participated enthusiastically endorsed the effort.

The faculty committee decided to create sub-committees to address recruitment and retention. Each sub-committee surveyed existing research, interviewed students, and developed a series of recommendations for the Vice-President to consider. Prior to this mobilization of faculty, Ringel had already established a program that invited college seniors from historically Black colleges to visit campus to consider pursuing graduate work at Purdue University. The projects initiated by Vice-President Ringel motivated faculty to give their time and expertise to making Purdue University, a public institution, as diverse a campus community as existed in the state of Indiana.

Several years later, Judith Gappa, University Vice-President for Human Relations, distributed a report authored with Myra D. Mason, Director of the Diversity Resource Office, entitled “From Barriers to Bridges: The Purdue University Plan for Enhancing Diversity.” The report was based on student surveys and focus-groups as well as data gathered about existing programs of action concerning recruitment and retention around the campus. The report listed a variety of successes in the pursuit of diversifying the student body and educational programs. 

It also referred to shortcomings such as inadequate funding for programs addressing diversity. Perhaps the most serious remaining issue cited was that of the 647 students surveyed: “…most do not believe the West Lafayette campus has yet achieved a positive climate for diversity. Black students experience a predominantly white campus differently from other groups; many minority students often feel isolated in the community. There is a need to recruit and hire larger numbers of minority faculty and staff” (Purdue News, “Purdue Diversity Report Completed,” September 8, 1997).

In 1997, Janice Eddy, an expert on creating environments in organizations that are sensitive to diverse work force populations, was hired to inform faculty, staff, and students about issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. She organized multicultural forums that were held across the campus, but primarily in the Colleges of Engineering, Science, and Agriculture, involving faculty, students, and staff. The goals of the two-day forums were to develop “cultural competence” and to create an environment of “inclusion and diversity.” The project was based on the assumption that preparing faculty and staff to engage in a more culturally diverse world was a necessary first step in providing for a tolerant and welcoming campus atmosphere for students. 

Eddy in collaboration with Barbara Benedict Bunker studied the impacts of the Purdue program, reporting on their results in “Innovations in Inclusion: The Purdue Faculty and Staff Diversity Story, 1997-2008” (Purdue Press, 2009). The publication chronicles the efforts to implement multicultural forums around campus and provides some assessments of successes and failures.

In 2009, the Black Cultural Center presented the first showing of an hour-long documentary “Black Purdue.” The first half-hour documented institutionalized racism at Purdue University from its foundation in 1869 until the late 1960s. It highlighted the 1969 Black student protests that demanded respect, a Black Cultural Center, and an education for the entire campus that reflected the history, values, and culture of the diverse population of the country. The second half of the video described various mentoring programs and student success stories of graduates in engineering, science, business, and liberal arts (You Tube, Black Purdue Documentary Film).

Purdue’s struggles with its racist past, student protest, and efforts to develop programs to increase recruitment and retention of faculty and students were paralleled by similar experiences at colleges and universities everywhere. Research based articles in education, the social sciences, and the teaching of science and engineering, suggest the enormous efforts that educational institutions have engaged in to overcome the history of racism in America. 

Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, and J. Luke Wood published an article “Faculty of Color in Academe: What 20 Years of Literature Tells Us,” Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2008, Vol. 1, No. 3. In it, the authors summarized results of 252 research-based publications by 300 authors that studied the causes and possible remedies for the under-representation (just 17 percent of full-time faculty) of minority faculty. The authors pointed out that “from 1988 to 2007 there was a continued rise in publications addressing the issue of the low representation of faculty of color.” The survey “documents supports, challenges, and recommendations to address barriers and build on successes.” It  was designed to review many years of scholarship to inform “researchers and practitioners” who were interested in better understanding recruiting and retaining faculty of color and developing policies to achieve these goals.  

The documentary film referred to above, various protests, and anecdotal evidence from racial incidents over the years suggest that racism has been and is a problem on the campus of Purdue University. Data indicates that faculty, staff, and students of color remain below the proportions of people of color in the state of Indiana. In the society at large, income and wealth inequality disproportionately disadvantages African-Americans and Latinos. 

Given the record of programs and studies of recruitment and retention of African Americans at Purdue University and the knowledge that is available from studies of programs at comparable universities, new ones will be enriched by building on knowledge of past research and action; not entirely starting over.

Also, new programs at Purdue might draw upon the experiences and wisdom of minority students already at Purdue. The video, “Black Purdue,” made it clear that much of the positive change that has occurred on the campus since the 1960s has resulted from the passionate, articulate, and courageous protests of students of that generation.

In sum, participants in the Diversity Transformation Award Program (DTAP) at Purdue University should reflect on the history of racism on the campus and the many efforts, some mentioned above, that were pursued to address it. The DTAP briefly mentioned consulting existing literature and studying programs of action carried out elsewhere. These efforts should be prioritized. In addition, Diversity and Inclusion administrators might compare historic efforts at Purdue University and elsewhere to recruit and retain women faculty and students to develop programs of action in reference to under-represented minorities.

In the end deliberations might lead to the conclusion that putting resources in the hands of those who need it, prospective students and faculty, might be a more effective first step in creating a more representative campus community. New programs and research projects may then usefully follow commitments of support to Indiana students and new faculty.