Rosenblum, Sheu & Xue: Dartmouth Left Us Unprepared

To nurture true diversity, equity and inclusion, Dartmouth must fund and formally recognize the Race, Migration, and Sexuality Consortium as its own center.

by Amanda Rosenblum , Kimberly Sheu and Ariel Xue | 5/24/21 2:00am

We are a group of alumni-affiliated group leaders, many with a decade of experience leading diverse alumni communities including the Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association, Dartmouth’s LGBTQIA+ Alumni Association and Women of Dartmouth. But our Dartmouth education did not leave us prepared to address what we’ve seen in the last two months alone: the mass murder of eight people at a FedEx facility, four of them Sikh; the killings of eight in Atlanta, six of them Asian women; the police shootings of Mah’Khia Bryant, Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo; voter suppression and anti-transgender youth bills; and the murders of trans women of color. The problems we as a society face are interconnected, inseparable and built into the foundations of this country. Yet, Dartmouth treats anti-racist, decolonial teaching and queer studies as siloed and optional fields of study, allowing students to graduate without ever having exposure to these essential educational tenets. 

Dartmouth must embrace anti-racist, decolonial teaching and queer studies as core parts of the Dartmouth experience in order to prepare students for “responsible leadership,” as its mission states. The College must also address systemic failures at the institutional level that have resulted in the marginalization and deprioritization of queer faculty and faculty of color teaching in the areas of race, migration, and sexuality, and prevented the advancement of curricular reform. The Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality, founded in 2019, is critical to the College’s ability to meet these goals. Dartmouth must formally recognize RMS as its own center and endow RMS with permanent funding. 

RMS has already changed the fabric of the College in just two years: 55 faculty members are associated with the consortium — including nearly all new faculty of color hired in the 2020-2021 fiscal year — and RMS has already supported 81 undergraduate fellows and scholars. RMS also has 11 postdoctoral collective members, who will become the future professors teaching anti-racist, decolonial pedagogy. RMS’ multi-level mentorship is critical to faculty retention and student success. RMS has an interdisciplinary Race, Migration, and Sexuality minor in the final stages of approval, and this spring, it ran the RMS-Leslie Humanities Institute, bringing to campus luminaries in decolonial and anti-racist teaching and research from across the nation. RMS brings national visibility and profile for our College’s research and intellectual commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by emphasizing revolutionary approaches to our curriculum. 

Despite its critical work, RMS has not yet been recognized as a Center by the College, meaning that it has no institutional recognition, has no stable source of funding and relies almost entirely on volunteer faculty labor. To date, RMS has existed on discretionary funding from the Dean of the Faculty for Arts and Sciences, but RMS does not have the long-term committed funding it needs to be sustainable in the long term. 

To this end, although we are deeply energized by new initiatives including the launch of the Tribal Service and Solutions Project, the Institute for Black Intellectual and Cultural Life Gift Fund, and a recent $20 million dollar gift for “a cohort of six early-career faculty members in the STEM disciplines,” these long overdue initiatives cannot be viewed as replacements for the type of intersectional center that has existed at fellow Ivy League schools like Yale University and Princeton University since 1997 and 1998, respectively. College President Phil Hanlon and Provost Joseph Helble must immediately commit to concrete actions to support RMS and recognize RMS as an institutional priority. Otherwise, we risk being the very last institution in the Ivy League without an interdisciplinary race and sexuality studies center — a development that would reflect rather poorly on an institution that as recently as January committed itself to making its campus anti-racist. 

A RMS Center would advance all of these goals and more by: attracting faculty who specialize in teaching in race, migration and sexuality by faculty experts in the field who are already working together as a collective, providing a transdisciplinary home base for queer faculty and faculty of color who specialize in the study of racial injustice, systemic racism and institutional equity, and expanding the representation of faculty and staff who identify as queer or people of color in leadership positions. It would also provide a place for anyone in the Dartmouth community to learn about and address their own internal biases. RMS fits squarely into Dartmouth’s publicly professed goals of establishing curricular and co-curricular programming around cross-cultural communication and of increasing retention of queer faculty and faculty of color — goals that are still embarrassingly described as “in progress” or “ongoing” on the College’s website. In some cases, the status of key institutional diversity goals set by the College have not been updated since 2017.

A 2017 report on faculty diversity commissioned by the College reported that 83% of faculty of color surveyed stated that they had contemplated leaving Dartmouth, citing “lack of a sense of belonging” more often than any other answer choice provided. A RMS Center would help address this worrying fact, helping reverse the current cycle of hiring promising queer faculty and faculty of color, failing to adequately support them and watching them leave for other elite universities. Under the aegis of an institutionally recognized, well-resourced center, senior faculty could mentor their up-and-coming peers without having to provide that labor for free. Recruitment and retention of queer faculty and faculty of color teaching in the areas of race, migration, and sexuality must involve place-making and meaningful ties that RMS is already providing for those who do not easily find community in their home departments or the Upper Valley. 

Furthermore, RMS is an interdisciplinary hub that will provide a home for emerging and experimental curricular areas that are not easily housed in departments or programs, as well as an intellectual and supportive community for all faculty, students and alumni interested in comparative race and ethnic studies. For example, RMS could be the site for a new Asian American Studies minor, which the College has failed to establish for over 20 years. 

What the College does with RMS at this juncture is a clear signal of its priorities. Dartmouth must answer the question of why, in this moment — when queer communities and communities of color continue to be subjected to repeated racist, misogynistic and anti-queer violence — has the College not yet recognized RMS or endowed it with permanent funding? We call on Dartmouth to make lasting structural changes to address systemic failures to prioritize queer faculty and faculty of color engaging in anti-racist, decolonial, and queer scholarship, starting with recognizing RMS as a center and endowing it with funding. 

Kimberly Sheu ’07 is co-chair of the Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association (DAPAAA) and a former member of The Dartmouth staff. Ariel Xue ’08 is the immediate past chair of DAPAAA. Amanda Rosenblum ’07 is global vice-chair of Women of Dartmouth and vice-president of DGALA. 

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