Author Archives: Dennis Torres

Spring 21 summed up

There have been many moments of self-doubt throughout the semester. Constantly questioning my belonging and worthiness of being within academic spaces. Hence, me feeling uneasy and confused at times……..

I’m grateful for the radical honesty that all have spoken within our virtual learning community. It helped me tremendously with looking deeper and connecting to the texts/concepts. Overall, feeling gratitude and hopeful……………

Week 11 – Decolonizing Academia

Why might Rodríguez make the structural/style choices that we see in the reading?

Rodriguez’s structural and style choices directly opposes normative ways of knowing, writing, and research within academia.  She goes onto explain as to how future academics are given the “writing norms” and “behaviours” to ensure assimilation into the institution at-large.  Thus, disseminating the same colonial paradigms onto the next generation of scholars.   Deconstructing common high-ed practices that add to this process such as grading, syllabi, research work and conferences allows for both faculty and students to begin pushing past decolonizing theory, and into the field of praxis.

Her writing feels like a poem at times, that uses personal anecdotes regarding sexuality, class, and ethnicity to establish a readers positionality to her own struggles of oppression and pain within academia.  She goes onto state, “Living in the margins of vocabulary explicitly smells like disobedience” which is why I connect her writings as a form of intellectual activism as well. 

Rodriguez has provided us with various forms to express de-colonialism. Below is my own completed fill in the blanks for politics of assessment:

A is for Advantages

B is for Benefactors

C is for Contained

D is for Defenseless

F is for Fcuked

What importance does funding have in the non-traditional sense? Does it matter where funding originates?

The recent skyrocketing of LatinX students within academia has led to the investment in more culturally inclusive pedagogy.  Many institutions of higher learning (IHL) have also begun recruiting prospective low-income Hispanic students in order to apply for the designation of Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and all of the funding opportunities associated with it.  This not only opens an institution up to funding opportunities, but to their donors way of thinking and framing of success.  Lumina Podcast–“Living up to the Designation”  described the DOE’s vision for HSI’s in terms of evidence-based practices and other empirical goals.  I’m cautious of the term “evidence-based” within learning due to its association with more western experimental based science and traditional students. As Rivera and Nadal mentioned past researchers having overlooked and harmed marginalized groups such as LGBTQ communities by pathologizing sexual orientation and gender identities.  This leads me to ask myself,  how useful is it to judge an HSI program based on traditional forms of student success (i.e. graduation, persistence, etc.)?

Like many at my college, I was oblivious of our very own HSI designation until a program manager came directly into my office asking for help with recruitment efforts.  Since this particular program is funded by an HSI- STEM grant there are very specific requirements for accessing tutoring services, which can be viewed as exclusionary to other marginalized student groups.   This may further explain Garcia & Dwyer’s description of how some students find the HSI term exclusionary. Until now, I’ve never put much thought into how exactly do I as a staff member create a sense of belonging for Hispanic and other student groups within my own department? 

After searching the   CUNY Digital History Archive , I came across the below picture of a student sit-down at Hostos for increased campus funding.  The caption stated that the student veterans club was a central component to the Hostos Unidos movement and leadership that fought to establish their second ever campus building.  Regardless of funding this is the type of Hispanic student veteran resiliency that I choose to celebrate within my own office:

Punitive University

A punitive university takes pride in turning learning opportunities into punishments for its students, faculty and staff.  Public safety is highly visible throughout the campuses’ green space.  Any deviation from normalcy is punished. Not only are very public spaces, such as the classrooms, lounges, and departmental offices policed, but so is the concept of knowledge.  Knowledge produced by local groups, street-scholars and quotidian intellectuals hold little significance within the campuses’ learning communities.  Individuals that speak truth to power or the people are automatically met with resistance.  Groups learn how to just “fit in” without instruction on how to analyze, critique, or change the system.  

Newly emerging ethnic and LGTBQ+ studies are automatically placed within more traditional anthropology or sociology departments.  Individuals rarely ever question this placement; in fact it seems completely logical due an unquestioned hierarchy amongst the academic fields. Whenever questioned, a litany of  labor and budget restraints are spit fired, like a machine gun by divisional deans & department chairs to reinforce austerity norms.  These newly forming academic programs aren’t able to remain connected to their communities of origin while developing into well regarding fields.  Finally, they’ve grown so far apart that the people can no longer access nor understand the jargon found in its academic journals.

Week 7: Systems & Structures – Blog Prompt

How pervasive is white supremacist culture (WSC) within higher education?  Does WSC even exist within academia?  

Please feel free to significantly shorten responses this week. Approximately 200 words or less:

  1.  White Supremacy Culture – 
  2. More Than One Pandemic – 
  3. Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates outraged at arrest at his home- 
    1.  (opt.)
  4. Yale’s diversity promises

  1. Who Should Own Photos of Slaves? The Descendants, not Harvard, a Lawsuit Says – 


  1. Ruth Wilson Gilmore on CUNY’s potential role in abolition (only minutes 46 to 52) 

7. Simon Says –

Reaction # 6 – Unspoken University

            Higher-ed institutions have relied on superficial constructs of success when assessing both systems of inclusivity and academic scholarship.  Semesterly enrollment numbers of black and brown students usually serve as a litmus test of general diversity and equity efforts.  As several readings have mentioned, it’s going to take a deeper cultural change across faculty, staff, and administrators to make meaningful changes within campus spaces.  Colleges usually place a great deal of value in earning institutional designations, such as “America’s Top Colleges”, “Hispanic Serving Institution” or “Military Friendly” which are connected to some form of media publication (e.g. Forbes).  Substantial amounts of perspective students are taught by guidance, educational, and vocational counselors to seek out these designations because it means they’re a “good” school.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again publications engaging in unethical “pay-to-play” practices that divvy out institutional prestige and recognition which are then later arbitrarily factored into graduate committee member entrance determinations.  Should institutions stop engaging in prestige surveys due to the adverse impact that is has on alumni of public institutions applying to graduate programs?

            Another superficial assessment of academic scholarship has been demonstrated with the valuing of well marketed peer-reviewed journals.  Professors are being assessed by the number of journal articles, citations, and journal recognition in the process of securing job permanence (i.e. tenure).  In alignment with questioning the established status quo, can we reformulate a newer concept of tenure?  Would it be possible to create an innovative concept that places less emphasis on the “publish-or-perish” sentiment?  I envision a form of job permanence for faculty members that isn’t punitive, but supportive of avant-garde teaching and research.  I’d also like to question as to how the countless number of CUNY’s tech systems; CUNYFirst, Portal, DegreeWorks, EAB, Blackboard, Cloud Virtual Desktop,  Academic Commons,  Alert, Smart, etc., etc.,………….impacts the process of vibrant scholarship?

Diversity Ethnography – D. Torres

Ahmed used qualitative empirical research methods, such as structured interviews and textual analysis of institutional artifacts (i.e. policies) to better understand diversity practices.  Her overall ethnographic research design employed a black feminist theory towards analyzing systems of power, prestige, and privilege impacting higher education diversity efforts at research and institutional levels.  Ahmed’s positionality to higher education and diversity efforts required that she re-adjust herself  to  look “at” university diversity efforts instead of “from” points of view.

There’s a direct pathway towards applying similar methods in order to better understand CUNY’s military-veteran related institutional practices.  As a staff member looking at CUNY’s policies, I would use my insider knowledge to speak to faculty and staff that directly or indirectly interact with military-veteran specific policies.  This would assist in the triangulation of overall efforts pertaining to the support of its 3,000 veterans and military connected student population.  Inductive reasoning leads one to believe that following paper around campus would span across both academic and non-academic related departments. Thus leading to interviews specifically with University Director of Veterans’ Affairs and campus program directors.  A snowball sampling method would assist in the identification of additional interviews due the lack of organizational uniformity across the CUNY campuses. Applying a critical ethnographic approach would address the status quo and hegemony of student veteran research practices.

Check-in Survey (Dennis)

  1. What barriers exist for you in our class right now?

None pertaining to this specific course come to mind at the moment.  General pandemic related barriers, such as work stress and time-management are a constant for me now across all courses.

  1. What *all* do you envision us being capable of, together, in this class going forward in the semester?

Applying critical pedagogy to identify privileged knowledge and values across campuses.

  1. What course content questions do you have so far (i.e., questions about the readings)?

The role of city and state governments within public higher education?

  1. What course process questions do you have so far?

When should we be revisiting final project ideas?

D. Torres Reaction #3 – “Keeping higer-ed in the family”

            Powerful social groups have long relied on the prominent status associated with institutions to reinforce social norms and traditions.  Institutions specifically within the  economy, government, and academic fields are viewed by the public with high levels of trustworthiness due to the endless number of social welfare related mission statements.  Unfortunately, instead elite decision makers within these respective fields have actively and passively created knowledge that perpetuates unjust power relations that further social inequalities.  The prestige of private higher-education institutions has specifically been used by powerful leaders as a mechanism in service to the generation of  heteronormative – male, and euro-centric narratives.  An example provided by the readings has been the case study of the highly regarded Harvard University, which has educated world renowned business, military, and political leaders (e.g. M.Bloomberg, M. Zuckerberg, etc.).   

            Top tier one research institutions such as Harvard University have been able to amass large endowments from their world-famous alumni and benefactors.  The incorporation of donor endowment money into higher-ed business models has led to the special consideration of “legacy” applicants into admission criteria’s across America.  This has not only ensured that wealthy white males have been accepted into top tier universities for a hundred years but has also created a homogeneous faculty and administration within the higher-education landscape.  According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics “76 percent of all college and university faculty members were white” in 2019.  My very own research text Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches just so happens to be written by the male father son duo J. David Creswell and John W. Creswell.  This is just an anecdotal example of how high-ed keep it in the family.

            It will take years of aggressive diversity, equity, and inclusion policies in order to deal with the long-term effects of historically guaranteeing elite groups access to the highest levels of education.  Educational fund-raising policies pertaining to private donors, gifting, and endowments need to be analyzed to determine additional  governmental safe-guards.  It’s also necessary to directly address the financial gaps that fund raising monies are being used for to ensure that gaps in resources between public and private institutions aren’t further widened.