A Task Force of Her Own: Interview with Refuse the Silence’s Morgane Richardson

Morgane Richardson

Morgane Richardson has a mission to change higher education for women of color as we know it.

A 2008 graduate of Middlebury College, Richardson started her work supporting women of color as an activist and mentor on campus. Throughout her college years, she made herself available to women of color as they navigated issues of race, class, and gender. Determined to change the campus climate, she also sat on Middlebury’s Task Force on the Status of Women, which continued the work of earlier task forces on issues of gender at the college from 1990 and 1997 respectively. The original 1990 report, which came to be called the “Gender Report,” was “undertaken in the aftermath of an incident in which a mutilated female mannequin was hanged from the front of a fraternity house during a party at the close of the 1987-88 school year.”

Upon graduating, Richardson became inspired to change the climate for women of color at elite liberal arts colleges, institutions whose histories of tradition and privilege generate cultures of racism, sexism, and homophobia, leaving women of color erased from the conversation, both academically and socially.  Today, Richardson is collecting the stories of women of color at elite liberal arts colleges to create an anthology made up of narratives, letters, essays and videos, which will be titled Refuse the Silence. These stories will be used to design a set of actions that will be sent to leading college presidents and administrators to create the kind of change we’ve long been waiting for. Continue reading

Summer Reading Picks Criticized by Conservative “Watchdogs”

In an effort to engage students in a shared reading experience on today's most pressing issues, colleges across the country are assigning summer reading.

I recently wrote a summer reading post for Care2 listing ten must-read books on issues of education and diversity.  One of the comments I received was not typical of all the responses, but certainly echoed the current national backlash against addressing diversity and inclusion in schools and colleges:

Sounds like the bs from the far left progressives, esp. when I hear the prefix ‘trans’ . . . lets [sic] stick to teaching the kids solid basics. This country is becoming more stupid each year and the teachers are to blame.

Sadly, myopic attitudes—whether they be racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, or transphobic, like the one above—about diversity in our schools have become the norm when attacking inclusive education. From Arizona’s banning of ethnic studies to Texas textbooks eliminating the word “slavery” for the term “Triangle Trade,” education is suffering from hateful slings and arrows.

To add further insult to our work as educators, a new study, “Beach Books: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside of Class?,” from the National Association of Scholars “found that 70 percent of the summer reading books assigned to incoming college freshmen in the U.S. show a liberal bias and are not academically challenging.” Continue reading

“Leading Ably from Difference”: Honoring President Ruth Simmons on Presidents’ Day

Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons

Each year on Presidents’ Day, we examine the narrative of US presidential history.  While important, it also seems worthy to expand the conversation to consider the various ways in which one can assume the office of a president, especially if that president is a woman.

Last fall, a Forbes article reported that the American Council on Education indicates that 23% of college presidents are women. While Americans know we have never had a woman President, how many of us know that half of the eight Ivy League universities are headed by a woman?  Harvard is led by Drew Gilpin Faust, Princeton by Shirley Tilghman, the University of Pennsylvania by Amy Gutmann, and Brown by Ruth J. Simmons.  How many of us look to these women as models of leadership for issues that are important to us, especially as educators? Continue reading