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Student Column

Posted By Robyn Adams (ICA Student Member), Tuesday, August 4, 2020

For this month’s student column, the SECAC would like to feature the voice of one of ICA's student members, Robyn Adams .

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Despite the substantial "likes" and supportive comments I received upon posting my experience as a Black woman in higher education, I can't help but to think about the word: politics. These are the same politics that place the experiences of other Black scholars into a hashtag for consumption, commodification, and, of course, content. Politics created a 20-year divide between the last Black woman in our department's doctoral program and me. 

The politics that I’m referring to are the activities related to making decisions or other forms of power relations between people. These politics within academic institutions actively (even if unintentionally) discourage the diversity of knowledge and encourage racial/ethnic homogeneity within our graduate programs. If we want to improve this institutional disparity, we must abolish the politics that gatekeep marginalized scholars from starting and finishing their graduate programs. One of these activities include GRE requirements for graduate applicants. Makers of the GRE, ETS, reports that "disparities in performance among underrepresented groups still exist." Most graduate programs still utilize an applicants' GRE scores to make acceptance decisions, despite research findings of bias between test-takers of dominant and non-dominant racial/ethnic and class groups, and the lack of correlations between the test's scores and graduate school success (Hall, O'Connell, and Cook 2017; Moneta-Koehler et al., 2017).

Second, there is a long epistemological battle that exists within the history of our field. I was told early on in my graduate training about the career protection of quantitative research over qualitative. However, these epistemological suggestions and confinements promote further knowledge disparities within our graduate programs, and activities such as this suggest a dominant epistemological approach that is more valuable than the other. Thus, the production and circulation of knowledge is political. Chakravartty, Kuo, Grubbs, and Mcllwain (2018) tackled these exact politics in #CommunicationSoWhite, highlighting the pervasive racial and epistemological inequities within communication. For example, only 14% of articles in the top communication journals were first-authored by non-White scholars in 30 years. 

Last, Chakravartty and colleagues addressed a question posed by an anonymous reviewer: "why would White scholars listen?" They responded with years' worth of historical reasons for why White scholars should listen, yet I find myself scrolling through countless #BlackInTheIvory tweets that show otherwise. However, as the communication scholars and creators of #BlackInTheIvory, Joy Melody Woods and Shardé M. Davis, mentioned, "we want radical, structural change.” This radical, structural change starts with improving the racial compositions of our educational programs and the experiences of non-White scholars in these programs.

Thus, we should check and challenge our politics at all levels of academia. The politics that prevent non-White scholars from advancing within these programs are the same politics that keep non-White scholars from being granted tenure. These politics don't stop the day we receive our doctoral degrees but are present within our programs' institutional fabrics. I refuse to let the politics within our institutions cause another 20-year divide between me and the next Black woman in my department. 


Also, fed up.

Tags:  August 2020 

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