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Trouble in the (Truly) Ivory Tower

I regret to inform you that the University of Michigan (at which I pursued my graduate studies) has yet again refused to grant tenure to a more-than-qualified woman of color. I remember struggles around this problem back in the 90s and I’m dismayed to find that the problem is ongoing. Luckily, the outrage over the decision has provoked the University to reconsider the decision and there’s something we can do to help.

books by Andrea Smith

The scholar in question this time is Andrea Smith, the director of Native American Studies at Michigan and the co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. Author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide and co-editor of the two INCITE! anthologies, The Color of Violence and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (all of which I strongly recommend), Smith is a formidable intellect as well as an indefatigable activist. She has published 15 articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and has been a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

A scholar and activist who is always building and crossing bridges, Andrea Smith consented to speak at the 2007 Inadmissible Comparisons conference sponsored by United Poultry Concerns and Lantern Books. Her presentation entitled “Animal Exploitation, Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy” was probably the most thought-provoking and useful conference presentation I’ve ever heard. That’s right, both intellectual and practical. Mindful that she was speaking to an audience of animal activists, Smith included within her presentation a remarkably concise summary of the struggles around race, sex, and class that have led to useful changes in organizing strategies in other movements. She also allowed animal activists to view their attitudes and tactics through the eyes of potential allies. (Lucky you, if you missed the conference, you can get at DVD of that presentation using this form.)

I noticed during that presentation that Andrea Smith has the skill and artistry to talk about smart and often quite complex ideas in a matter-of-fact manner that everybody can understand. In her contributions to discussions, she raised sometimes quite challenging ideas in a way that proved thought rather than defensive reaction. That tells me that, in addition to meeting the scholarly obligations for tenure, Andrea Smith is also a great teacher.

For all of these reasons, I hope that some SuperWeed readers will join me in writing to the University of Michigan Provost, Vice-Provost, and President (email addresses and talking points here) to urge that Professor Andrea Smith be granted tenure, as recommended by the American Culture program. Your letter will be particularly useful if you are affiliated with a college or university or with a non-profit organization that has made use of Andrea Smith’s ideas. Certainly, if you’ve read Andrea Smith’s work (and you should) and found it to be useful to your scholarly or activist work, you should write to say so.

Since actual letters on paper often have more force than email messages, you might want to go the extra mile and actually print and mail your letter. If so,

President Mary Sue Coleman
Office of the President
2074 Fleming Administration Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340

Teresa Sullivan
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
3075 Fleming Administration Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340

Letters need to be in by 31 March. You can find all the information you need in this statement by supportive students and faculty and this action alert. You can find more tips for letter writing here. If you want to read more about Andrea Smith, check out this blog entry by feminist scholar and activist Suzanne Pharr, who writes:

In the progressive movement, Andy is often considered to be without intellectual peer. Not only does she have what we admiringly call “a BIG brain,” but she is an activist, always working with others to put political analysis into political action. It is an extraordinarily combination. The analysis Andy gives us is never based on her opinions or feelings but is always carefully researched, framed, and delivered in ways that can directly affect how we go about making social change. Andy is one of the major teachers in my 68 year old life.

Send copies of any letters you write to TenureForAndreaSmith (at)

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