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The lecture, “Listening to the Outside Voice Within,” was one part of a series put on for Black Awareness Month. Professor Polly McLean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Professor Deborah Hollis from the Library Administration discussed their experiences of coming to the CU campus as black women.
McLean said the statistics demonstrate a diversity gap with professors on the CU campus.
“Five percent of 1.2 million instructors in the U.S. are African-American,” McLean said. “Twenty-nine out of 1,100 professors on the CU campus are identified (African-American) and there are ten black women, nine of which teach regularly.”
One of the guests at the lecture was L. Kaifa Roland, a professor in the anthropology department.
“This is very enlightening,” Roland said. “I didn’t know I was one of ten.”
Being one of ten black women teaching on campus can be felt in the classroom, McLean said.
“When I walk into a classroom, they do not see a female first,” McLean said. “They see black first.”
Professor Brenda Allen, of the department of continuing education made comments on a taped interview.
“A white male student on the first day of class comes up to me with a drop slip,” Allen said. “When I asked him why he was dropping the class he said, ‘I have already taken my ethnic studies requirement.’”
Allen was not even teaching an ethnic studies course, but the student assumed she was because of the color of her skin.
McLean also said that if there is a diversity problem people turn to them for help.
“If a white professor thinks there is a diversity problem on campus,” McLean said. “they will find a person (of color) to have them work as a team to fix it.”
McLean said Afro-American studies on campus do not address the problem.
“Scholars are interested in studying rather than improving black culture,” McLean said.
During the seminar, McLean reflected on a time when she went to receive an award. A white professor who was receiving the same award was called up using the title doctor. When McLean was called up to receive her award the speaker announced, “Polly come up here,” even though McLean herself has a doctoral degree.
Perception, McLean said, contributed to that mistake.
“The perception that we are black and female means we are educationally inferior,” McLean said. “On the flip side, they expect less of us, so do we end up expecting less of ourselves?”
McLean said she survives the racism and ignorance with humor, and by figuring out the unwritten rules on campus.
Another of the lecturers, Derek Wilson, who works at the Cultural Unity Student Center, spoke on the problem with black history and awareness.
“There seems to be this notion that black history is just for black folk,” Wilson said. “People know its Black History Month but assume it is just for them (blacks).”
Black Awareness Month will continue through the month of February and there will be many seminars and films on the CU campus.
To view the lecture schedule go to: www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/cma/events.htm