Minneapolis, MN – In early November, Shannon Gibney, an English Professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), was given an official letter of reprimand by the college’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Lois Bollman after two white male students interrupted a discussion on structural racism in her Intro to Mass Communication class. The two white students said they felt uncomfortable and “singled out” for being white. After class they, along with another white male student, issued a formal complaint of racial discrimination with MCTC’s Office of Legal Affairs.
The Vice President of Academic Affairs Bollman responded to their complaints by issuing a formal disciplinary letter accusing Gibney of creating a “hostile learning environment” and mandating she attend two one-on-one sessions with the Executive Director of Diversity. While 53% of MCTC students are non-white, Gibney is one of the few Black female professors there. MCTC is already embroiled in controversy, which includes several MCTC faculty and staff of color leaving in recent years, as well as complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging workplace discrimination.
According to Matt Boynton, a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Minnesota, “SDS stands with Professor Gibney and against structural racism in Minnesota’s colleges and universities. MCTC’s talk of ‘diversity’ and other buzzwords is meaningless if Black professors are the ones being disciplined and forced to attend ‘diversity sessions’ because a few white students feel uncomfortable discussing structural racism. MCTC should move towards genuine ‘diversity’ by hiring more faculty of color and recognizing also that ‘diversity’ is not enough. To address the root causes of racial and national oppression in the U.S. today, there needs to be dramatic changes made to the political, economic and social structures of our society.”