Why BGSU needs Carlos Adams

What do you most admire in a professor? Do you like professors who mindlessly list off facts and demand that you regurgitate them on exams? Do you like professors that always play it “safe” and avoid frank discussions of our most hot-button cultural issues?

If you answered “No” to the above questions, then it is imperative that you learn about Carlos Adams. Adams was an Ethnic Studies Instructor at the University from 2004 to 2007. While at the University, he taught a variety of classes in the department, including Introduction to Ethnic Studies, Chicanos in the U.S. and Chicana Feminist Theory. He was a popular, respected, exceptional, award-winning and visionary instructor in our community. He changed many students through his teaching and helped to transform their consciousness. He has helped to lessen racism, sexism and homophobia on campus, all of which are pernicious problems that continue to plague our society.

So what’s the problem, you may ask? On April 30, 2007, the beginning of final exam week for spring semester, Adams was informed that he was not selected for one of five new instructorships in Ethnic Studies. Despite tremendous popularity with his students and stellar teaching evaluations, Adams was told that his services were no longer needed at the University. We believe strongly that Adams was not re-hired because of retaliatory action by the Ethnic Studies Department. Despite three years of committed service to the University community, Adams was unceremoniously given his pink slip and told to find employment elsewhere. That very same evening, the Justice for Adams at the University Ad Hoc Committee was born, and a petition was created for students, faculty, staff, community members and allies to sign in order to demonstrate their support for Adams. To date, almost 500 people have signed the petition, many of them writing moving tributes to the impact that Adams has had on their lives.

Since this miscarriage of justice, our committee has galvanized the community. We have passed out flyers and buttons, appeared on radio and television, held frequent planning meetings, had several rallies on campus, and even interrupted the meeting of the Board of Trustees to make our righteous pleas heard. Why have we gone to so much trouble? Because we believe in Adams and the incredibly positive impact he has made on this campus. We believe without any reservation that the University desperately needs the teaching, scholarship and service of Adams.

Racism and white supremacy are ongoing and pernicious problems at the University and in northwest Ohio. While some improvements have been made in improving the number of students of color here, the number of faculty of color is appallingly low. In addition, diversity is not just a numbers game. We need critical, progressive and activist faculty of color (as well as white allies) who are willing to engage in the struggle to transform the institution and challenge the status quo. Adams is one such dedicated scholar and activist.

In addition, Adams was one of a small number of faculty who regularly showed up at student events, student meetings and student protests. He was student focused and committed to empowering students. This scares the administration, who clearly do not want students involved as key stake-holders and as pivotal decision-makers in the affairs of the University. During a summer meeting with campaign members, a University administrator told those gathered that understanding the exact hierarchy of University administration was not important for undergrads to understand. This comment outraged committee members and signaled to us that students are routinely disempowered, not listened to and disenfranchised on campus. An undergraduate who did a radio show about Adams’ campaign was contacted by several University officials to cease and desist because they were so pronominally uncomfortable with the issue even being discussed on the public airwaves. A recent graduate of the University wrote our e-mail list and penned a scathing letter to members of the campaign trying to discredit our actions and cast doubt upon our findings, including discouraging people from taking part in our rally that took place on June 22.

As you can plainly see, this is an issue which involves the rights of students: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of information and the ability to affect policies which have direct impact upon our lives at the University. We will not be silenced and we will not be crushed by those who attempt to exercise their power with malice and intimidation. Adams has filed a formal grievance with the University to seek a fair and thorough investigation into his case. Our campaign works completely independently of Adams to call attention to his work as an excellent instructor, to foster discussions of race and racism within higher education, and to remind us all of our rights and our responsibility to bravely speak truth to power.

The Justice for Carlos Adams at BGSU Ad Hoc Committee’s Web site is www.justiceforcarlos.org. Send responses to their column to [email protected]