We, the African-American-studies faculty at Northwestern University, reject the amateurish attack by Ms. Riley on our graduate students, and, by extension, on the black-studies academic enterprise, including those in other disciplines who contribute to black-studies scholarship. We stand in defense of academic freedom that promotes inquiry into the wide range of human experiences, political perspectives, and policy histories.
To write such disparaging comments about young scholars and their expressions of intellectual curiosity is cowardly, uninformed, irresponsible, repugnant, and contrary to the mission of higher education. We are barely one generation removed from when African-American students were completely denied entry into many colleges and universities in this country. This kind of distasteful attack on the current generation of black students represents the unfortunate and unacceptable manifestation of contemporary forms of exclusion. We strongly and righteously condemn such regressive tactics to stifle young people’s educational pursuits.
We are dismayed that The Chronicle of Higher Education would risk its journalistic reputation by publishing such an ad hominem attack on the work in progress of graduate students. Sadly, The Chronicle distracted attention away from the original article, “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering into the Future’: A New Generation of Ph.D.’s Advance the Discipline,” which afforded the discipline the serious attention it deserves.
Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Sandra Richards, Mary Pattillo, Darlene Clark Hine, Dwight McBride, E. Patrick Johnson, Richard Iton, Sylvester Johnson, Barnor Hesse, Michelle Wright, Martha Biondi, Alexander Weheliye, Nitasha Sharma, John Marquez, Sherwin Bryant, and Tracy Vaughn-Manley