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November 25, 2013

MCTC Response to Concerns about Classroom Discussions of Race and Privilege

There has been a great deal of attention in recent days to issues around classroom discussions at MCTC and the effect that difficult conversations about race can have in the classroom, just as in society at large. Although we cannot comment on specific personnel matters, we want to clarify some of the misperceptions that have resulted from the recent media attention.

The college has taken no steps to prohibit faculty members from teaching about racism, including structural racism. MCTC has never disciplined a faculty member for teaching or discussing structural racism. Conversations about race, class and power are important and regular parts of many classes at MCTC and have been for years.

At MCTC, we believe it is essential for our faculty to actively engage students in respectful discussions in the classroom regardless of topic and to create an atmosphere in which students may ask questions as an important part of the classroom experience. Questions from students in classroom discussions are an essential part of the learning process. We expect that faculty will have the professional skills to lead difficult conversations in their classrooms and will teach in a way that helps students understand issues, even when students feel uncomfortable or disagree with particular ideas. We also expect that students act appropriately in the classroom; a student who does not do so may be subject to removal by the faculty member.

We want to stress to all of our students, staff, faculty and community members that MCTC remains deeply committed to promoting an understanding of the important issue of racism in all its forms. We acknowledge that we must work hard to eradicate the effects of historical and institutional racism. We understand that privilege often shields members of the majority from the realities and experiences of people of color and that the college environment provides an opportunity to learn more deeply about all of these issues.

Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, we are unable to comment on private personnel matters unless permission is granted by the employee. These laws prohibit us from discussing the specifics of pending complaints, even if individuals concerned choose to disclose their involvement in the process. Information about complaints against employees remains private until all of the employee’s appeal rights are exhausted. Even when information provided by a student or employee about a complaint or disciplinary matter is not accurate or complete, the law prohibits us from responding to specific employment situations until a final disposition has been reached. Violations of student and employee privacy are subject to monetary and other penalties under the law.

While we must continue to abide by the requirements of state and federal law with regard to specific matters, we invite continued discussions regarding issues of race, racism, and power, and their role in our society.

Click here to read this statement as a .pdf.