Grant Dr. Aimee Bahng the tenure she rightly deserves --#fight4facultyofcolor @Dartmouth
We, the undersigned scholars from around the nation and concerned community members, petition President Phil Hanlon, Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities Barbara Will, Provost Carolyn Dever, Dean of Faculty Michael Mastanduno, and members of the Committee Advisory to the President (John Carey, Kathryn Cottingham, Gerd Gemunden, Amy Lawrence, Nina Pavcnik, and Ross Virginia) to request that you reconsider the denial of tenure for Assistant Professor Aimee Bahng and that you grant her appeal for tenure--as recommended in a unanimous decision by the Department of English at Dartmouth College and as supported by a number of senior scholars from across the nation, as the steady stream of letters coming into your offices demonstrates.
Aimee Bahng has been an Assistant Professor of English at Dartmouth College since 2009. Dr. Bahng’s scholarship connects Asian American literary studies, speculative fiction and finance, technology, and post-humanist inquiry.
We are dismayed and disappointed to hear of her tenure denial, especially against the unanimous recommendation of the Department of English. Dr. Bahng has an excellent record of achievement in research, teaching, and service. As one of the top young scholars in the fields of American Studies and English, Dr. Bahng consistently produces timely, sophisticated, and original scholarship that examines race, gender, and nationality in U.S. American literature—Asian American literature in particular. It is difficult not to see her tenure denial as Dartmouth’s judgment on the field itself.
Dr. Bahng is one of the authors of Speculate This! (Duke 2013), under the anonymous collective pseudonym, Uncertain Commons. This provocative manifesto advocates for practices of “affirmative speculation” over and against contemporary forms of speculation, which quantify and contain risk to generate financial profit for a privileged few. Dr. Bahng’s second book Migrant Futures: Decolonizing Speculation in Financial Times (in press also at Duke University Press, an internationally renowned university press that consistently publishes the most innovative scholarship in cultural studies). This text examines narratives of futurity across a range of platforms--from subaltern science fiction to the financial speculations of the 1%. Dr. Bahng’s third book project, tentatively titled Transpacific Ecologies, looks to the Pacific--the body of water, the islands, and their human and non-human denizens, as well as the nation-states and corporations that parlay across it--for narratives that help us think beyond a terrestrial-centric human history and toward a more diverse conceptualization of environmental futures.
On the pulse of current events and best practices in experiential learning, Dr. Bahng is one of the founding members of the Ferguson Teaching Collective, which offers the "10 Weeks, 10 Professors: #BlackLivesMatter” class. This class examines race, violence, and inequality through current events and throughout history. Dr. Bahng is also central to the student-led movement for establishing Asian American Studies at Dartmouth. Because of a lack of faculty expertise in the field of Asian American Studies at the college, Dr. Bahng took on the extra burden of advising and mentoring the majority of students eager to study and conduct research in Asian American Studies, both within and beyond the Humanities. With Dr. Bahng’s pending departure from Dartmouth, it is difficult to imagine how the college will seek to establish a sustainable Asian American Studies program. This decision will have rippling effects on Dartmouth’s ability to attract scholarship and talent in posted positions.
Dr. Bahng’s tenure denial is one among many cases that demonstrate the proliferation of unconscious bias in the tenure review process at--but not limited to--institutions like Dartmouth. Dr. Bahng’s case offers another example of how Asian American women are among the least likely to be granted tenure, despite their excellence in research, teaching, and service (see scholarship by Dr. Shirley Hune, Dr. June Junn, and the anthologies Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia and the forthcoming Written/Unwritten: Diversity and the Hidden Truths of Tenure).
Furthermore, among all other Ivy League institutions, Dartmouth has the least faculty diversity. According to the January 2016 Annual Report on Faculty Diversity, the Office of Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives recognizes that many are skeptical of Dartmouth’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. According to Dartmouth’s 2015 Fact Book, 85% of tenured faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences are white, while 64% are male. Fewer than 5% are Asian American. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of the 2015 entering class are Asian American. We are concerned that the impression this leaves is that Dartmouth has deemed Asian Americans worthy of being taught, but not of teaching. In conflict with Dartmouth’s goals of increasing underrepresented minority faculty to 25% (currently at 16%) of tenure track faculty by 2020, Dr. Bahng’s tenure decision is just another example of how the college continues to tout its dedication to “Inclusive Excellence” but fails to take tangible steps to ensure that junior faculty of color receive adequate institutional support. In the last fifteen years, 36 faculty of color have departed the institution—for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to tenure denial and poor campus racial climate. Many of these faculty have since earned tenure at other prestigious institutions, so it is difficult to say that these faculty of color did not meet a “bar of excellence.”
In short, the tenure denial of Dr. Aimee Bahng is an outrage felt not only by the Dartmouth community and the community within Asian American Studies and English but by people across academe concerned about the lack of support for faculty of color across all institutions.
We urge you, in the strongest terms possible, to grant Dr. Bahng the tenure she rightly deserves.
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