Many thanks to Stephanie, Jess, and Lucien for putting these materials and questions together! I wanted to jot down some of my thinking before we gather for class.
- CLAGS occupies an interesting space, institutionally speaking. It has a longstanding history at the GC, a solid national/international reputation, brings in renowned speakers, and many other markers that show it to be a successful intervention. However, and maybe others in the class know more about this than I do, I believe that it formerly had GC funding that has been terminated in recent years. What does it say that, on one hand, the GC benefits reputationally and intellectually from the work of CLAGS, and yet does not support that work materially?
- I have similar thoughts on the $10M gift from Mellon. Why is it that the same programs that often face cuts during years of budgetary difficulty are also those that are supported by gifts like this one? This gift is a huge support for ethnic studies programs, as well as being a major prestige boost for CUNY. As with CLAGS, there’s an imbalance in reputation/prestige value and budgetary commitment. See for instance this piece in The Nation, esp this portion:
“Austerity at CUNY has devastated academic departments devoted to promoting scholars of color in particular. In 2016, Hunter College effectively closed its Asian Studies department by removing it from the School of Arts and Sciences and replacing it with a smaller institute managed by the provost’s office. The administration decided on this course of action without consulting students or faculty, which sparked controversy.
According to Daniel Vázquez Sanabria, a Brooklyn College student majoring in Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, moves like these direct resources away from entire areas of study. And departments identified as teaching ‘ethnic studies’—a homogenized grouping that students and faculty object to—are often the first to be cut.
’Departments like Puerto Rican [and Latino] studies, Africana Studies, Haitian Studies, and even Dominican Studies have been left to share their space with other departments in order to exist. It is also important to note that even with CUNY having a high percentage of Central American and Mexican students, as well as Asian and Southeast Asian students, it has yet to provide a complete set of courses that cover their histories,’ Sanabria explained. ‘Ethnic studies are highly played down because they are seen as departments that contribute only to the identity of students, rather than their academic life. This is true across all CUNY campuses—including community colleges.’”Skanda Kadirgamar, “These Students Want to Know: Where’s Their Tuition Money Going?”, The Nation
- Adding this excellent Teen Vogue op-ed by GC PhD student Kelsey Chatlosh to the mix, somehow I missed it when it came out: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/cuny-budget-cuts
- Finally, I want to plug Interference Archive as another great resource for digging into histories of protest, organizing, and activism (including many CUNY examples): https://interferencearchive.org/
I’m very appreciative of this question around reputation and material support. This is a dynamic that i have thought about in relation to faculty who are both disposable to and celebrated by the institutions that employ them. Institutional investments play out on multiple levels, but following the money is still a helpful place to begin I think. This Mellon grant came up repeatedly in a recent meeting Kendra and I attended on Ethnic and gender studies at CUNY, and I hope that we can dig into this question as a class tomorrow, and discuss the ways in which philanthropy and organized state abandonment can happen hand in hand.
I think we’ve mentioned it before, but the book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, might be helpful here. https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-revolution-will-not-be-funded
I really need to move that book off my to-read shelf and dig into it. Thanks for the reminder!