Beyond the Bubble

Samuel Wolf

English department boycott gains national attention

On Oct. 30, a group of student activists called for a boycott of the English department, citing a curriculum that they saw as insufficiently attentive to ethnic literature and a culture that they viewed as toxic for some faculty of color. In the past week, the boycott has attracted national attention, largely from right-wing news sites. Two sites that focus their coverage on higher education, The College Fix and Inside Higher Ed, reported on the petition; both sites also mentioned numerous controversies from last spring, including College Council’s debate over funding for Black Previews. On Monday, Reason Magazine, which bears the motto “Free Minds and Free Markets,” published an article citing both the petition and a verbal altercation that took place last April between Chair and Professor of English Katie Kent ’88 and Professor of American Studies Dorothy Wang. Most notably, Breitbart News, a national right-wing news outlet, published two articles on the boycott, one of which garnered over 1,000 comments. 

Berkshire County NAACP hosts annual fundraiser

The Berkshire County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted a fundraiser on Saturday at the Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, with ticket prices ranging from $75 to $100. The proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward providing higher education or professional development scholarships to black students from Berkshire County, and the fundraiser set the goal of raising $1,000 each for ten students. This year, the College had a sizeable presence at the fundraiser, with students, faculty and representatives from the Center for Learning in Action in attendance. Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker, a kidney specialist and community activist, keynoted the event. In 2016, she spearheaded Ashes to Ashes, a performance piece that memorialized black Americans who were lynched during the Jim Crow era. The fundraiser is an annual event, and in most years it constitutes the largest gathering hosted by the Berkshire County NAACP. 

Massachusetts nears gender parity in higher education

In 2019, Massachusetts colleges made significant strides toward gender parity in top leadership roles, which would make higher education the first Massachusetts sector to reach parity. Half of the 14 new college presidents appointed during the 2019 academic year were women, according to a study published on Nov. 4. In addition, women now constitute 48 percent of provosts and 55 percent of deans and other senior leadership roles. Nevertheless, the study stressed that full parity has not yet been reached. One-third of all Massachusetts colleges, or fifteen institutions, have never had a female president, and another 28 percent have boards that are at least 70 percent male.