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Black Scholars: Christopher Metzler on the Challenges for Black Scholarship

by on June 24, 2009

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

Institutions of higher education are supposed to be the place where the free market place of ideas takes hold. In fact, the basis for tenure has always been that academics should not be punished for speaking out. The theory is that such speaking out is protected even when university administration does not agree with the content of that speech. However, these same institutions are also political fiefdoms where tenure has been used and will continue to be used to punish those with whom the members of the promotion and tenure committee do not agree. In other words, academic freedom is only free when one agrees with those in power. All junior faculty understand very quickly that the definition of “scholarship” is a moving target and that if they wish tenure, they better move with the target. The hypocrisy of the promotion and tenure process (and I use the word process lightly) is that too many faculty are more about politics and less about scholarship. So, they play the game to get tenure and then when some of them get it, they punish the ideas of others they find unpopular by denying them tenure.

Progressive Black scholars find ourselves in a particular pickle. On the one hand, we want to advance ideas that look critically at the academy and simply not accept the status quo. On the other, if we are too progressive, then we will be Boyced. That is, we will be fired from predominately white institutions that will reduce our entire scholarly career to a warm bucket of spit. Of course I am not suggesting that all predominately white institutions will Boyce progressive Black scholars. I am suggesting that too many can and do.

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