The Globe’s Point: Colleges have a problem with racism 

Pittsburgh has a problem with racism. 

That’s true of almost anywhere in the world right now, but it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the systemic issues here in downtown, “our campus,” as marketing so often refers to the city as. 

Systemic oppression against Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) is prevalent in many ways in the city, including but not limited to higher incarceration rates at the Allegheny County Jail, a higher poverty rate and significantly worse quality of life compared to white counterparts, particularly for Black women. 

However, there is a local issue we specifically want to touch on this week regarding racism: racism in the college setting. 

Last week, a University of Pittsburgh Law adjunct professor resigned after using the N-word in a class discussion. Just a little over a month before, tenured professor Gary Shank at Duquesne University used the same racial epithet three times in a single class discussion. Duquesne originally put Shank on paid leave before deciding to fire him on Oct. 7. 

Colleges have a problem with racism. 

Despite the prevailing narrative that universities are liberal safe spaces where diversity and inclusion are paramount, we are now consistently seeing at our neighboring universities that some faculty still believe they can use their position of authority to propagate racist teachings. A white professor attempting to condone the use of the N-word in any context is racist, and the professors who made such an egregious error were, quite honestly, right to lose their jobs. 

So far as we know, this kind of incident thankfully has not happened at Point Park, but we should not take that to mean that could never happen here. We have had our own issues in the past with professors and instructors being insensitive to class material about race and racism, which ultimately led to the development of two separate steering committees just to begin to even address those issues. Students are also required to take a SafeColleges course on diversity. 

However, there is little transparency about what diversity training is offered to faculty, and it currently is not mandatory for faculty. If the incidents at Pitt and Duquesne have taught us anything, it is that we need to push for this to change. It is not enough to hold faculty accountable after a horrible, racist incident in class, we need to actively be educating faculty about those kinds of problematic behaviors so that we as students are never subjected to them. 

Point Park has a problem with racism. And it’s time to deal with it, meaningfully, so that we can create a safer and better environment for all.