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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    DeRussy Plays Bad Politics with Race Issue

    SUNY Trustee Candace de Russy’#146;s recent attack on black studies and women’#146;sstudies grossly misrepresents these programs. Whatever her intention, her assaulton these programs does a serious injustice to their faculty and students, evenas it undermines the air of free inquiry and informed debate on which a universitydepends.

    De Russy’#146;s suggestion that these programs exist to give a home to facultywho fail to qualify for appointment in traditional disciplines is false. AtStony Brook, the faculty members in both programs hold appointments in a basicdiscipline, such as history, philosophy, or political science.

    De Russy’#146;s claim that these programs are ‘therapeutic’ in naturerather than legitimate curricula is also false. The curriculum in Women’#146;sStudies at Stony Brook focuses on the skills of reading, writing, and criticalthinking. It requires students to develop historical depth, as well as a globalperspective.

    Students in this curriculum develop the critical perspective and engagementwith history that John Dewey associates with good citizenship, while acquiringskills that are essential to success. Our students enjoy a rich sense of communityand look to one another for support as members of a team and we encourage this.

    While de Russy accuses scholars in black studies and women’#146;s studies of’divisive bias,’ it is, in fact, de Russy who seems anxious to subordinatecurriculum to a political agenda. To study ‘Western’ history and culturewithout taking a global perspective is just to do history badly. How can I understandthe history of the South without talking about Africa? Through this spuriousdistinction between the West and the rest, de Russy and her collaborators attemptto discredit academic work in history and the humanities, so as to legitimizetheir own efforts to dictate curricula.

    Finally, the charge that black studies and women’#146;s studies are ‘anti-American’is particularly loathsome. When her remarks were criticized, de Russy was quickto invoke ‘free speech.’ She was criticized, not for speaking hermind, but for uniformed and irresponsible comments.

    By labeling scholarship in black studies and women’#146;s studies as ‘anti-American,’de Russy’#146;s own remarks have the effect of intimidating and repressing speech.

    How could the study of heroic visionaries like Martin Luther King or SusanB. Anthony be ‘anti-American?’ How could studying those movementsthrough which America began to live up to the greatness of its own idea of equalityand opportunity for all be ‘anti-American?’

    How could teaching students to be critical, check sources, and think for themselvesbe ‘anti-American?’ Does de Russy know so little of the founding documentsand history of this country that she views questioning our leaders, holdingthem accountable, and even dissenting from their views as ‘anti-American?’

    De Russy’#146;s uninformed statements about these programs intimidate, divide,and do a serious injustice to its faculty and students. Such irresponsible anddamaging rhetoric is surely inconsistent with a trustee’#146;s duty to carefor the mission and values of the State University.

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