MACALESTER MUST RESPECT ACADEMIC FREEDOM, RENEW DR. WANG'S CONTRACT & STOP DISCRIMINATION!

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We, alumni, academics, poets, writers, artists, and supporters of Dr. Ping Wang are outraged to learn that the Macalester College administration is once again attacking one of their most widely respected scholars, Dr. Ping Wang. Dr. Wang is an internationally renowned poet, photographer, installation artist, and activist for peace and justice. But, instead of showering her with accolades, administrations at Macalester are using egregious and unsubstantiated allegations to justify disciplining and, ultimately, dismissing Dr. Wang without due process.

Dr. Ping Wang left China thirty-three years ago for New York University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. She has since published fourteen books and won an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, the Lannan, Bush, McKnight, Eugene Kayden Best Book in Humanity, Minnesota, Asian American Studies and AWP Book Awards. She has installed and performed hundreds of solo multi-media shows around the world for her Kinship of Rivers Project. Her work has inspired people around the world and enriched the tapestry of American literature and culture. In 2005, Macalester President Rosenberg praised Dr. Wang in his tenure congratulation letter that she had “already accomplished more than a lifetime’s work” and “brings honor to Macalester”. In Macalester Today, 2007, the college praised her as a “cultural shape-shifter.” In 2014, she was awarded an "immigrant of distinction." Professor Wang is the most sought-after professor on campus. Many of her students have become prominent poets, writers, artists, professors, and activists. She has expanded the creative writing emphasis at Macalester from a one-woman operation into a vibrant program with four Full-Time Employee (FTE) professors and many visiting instructors. Her classes have long waiting lists. Students take her classes repeatedly, with perfect attendance. They have praised her as “embodying Macalester values of service to society, multiculturalism, and intellectualism” and “the only faculty member who made the 1st generation, POC, WOC, LGTBQ, and international students feel welcome in the English Department.”

Even with this exemplary record, starting in January 2019, the administration began launching constant attacks on Dr. Wang’s academic freedom through institutionalized defamation, i.e., misinformation, false allegation, using administrative power to coerce students into their informants and extract false evidence. They tried to coerce the independently elected Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC) to discipline Dr. Wang. Defying the Administration’s intention, FPC invited Dr. Wang for a collegial conversation, “to hear her side of the story.” Before the meeting, they had already lauded her teaching and gave her their full support on her academic freedom. After the conversation, they cleared Dr. Wang of all the “concerns” made against her by the Administration, telling her “there is no charge” against her. Still, the Administration continued to troll Dr. Wang on social media and banned her from the campus as part of their relentless attacks and retaliation. Attempting to fend off the attacks while maintaining her academic freedom to teach and protect her students, Dr. Wang repeated her requests for a peaceful resolution through mediation, as required by a 2013 Settlement she has with Macalester. But the Administration told her and her students to go “seek mental health help.” Then they threatened her with a $90,000 fine for invoking mediation and threatened to demote her rank, reduce her salary, strip her of her teaching and service duties. Most alarmingly, they refused to renew her tenure contract, which expires in August 2019. 

Tenure is a sacred feature and insurance of academic freedom for quality education. It must be protected from unilateral administrative power. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “A tenured appointment is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.” Even then, it should require utmost care and consideration when it comes to disciplining and dismissing a tenured professor, especially one who has contributed as much as Dr. Wang, a tenured, full professor with twenty years of outstanding teaching, publishing, and service at Macalester College!

Disturbed by the fact that Macalester has no grievance committee to check the administration’s unabated power, The American Association of University Professors has urged Macalester College administration to reverse all the horrific violations of academic freedom and due process in its handling of Dr. Wang’s case. It also urges the administration to renew her tenure contract as soon as possible!

Macalester students and alumni have repeatedly advocated for Dr. Wang and urged the administration to adhere to its mission of diversity and justice. In the words of one alumnus, “The College's treatment of Professor Wang Ping runs counter to all the values the college claims, and I cannot continue to offer the institution my financial support. The receipt I get every month as a thank you for my sustaining gift includes the following statement: ‘We are grateful for your partnership in shaping the student experience. Your sustaining support means students leave here equipped to make a more compassionate and thoughtful world.’ I can only think of a few professors I had at Macalester who worked harder to make a ‘more compassionate and thoughtful world’ than Dr. Wang…Her demotion is a threat to academic freedom and, just as importantly, a wound to the community Macalester's leadership, alumni, and promotional materials so frequently laud.”

After receiving the official threat of “severe disciplinary actions” based on false allegations, and learning that the administration had pushed her students to greater levels of anxiety and depression to gather “evidence,” Dr. Wang realizes she must act to stop the blatant, systemic discrimination and retaliation against her and her students. In June 2019, she filed a complaint with the EEOC against Macalester for unfair treatment.

The public has not remained silent when witnessing Dr. Wang under such relentless and vicious attacks! Supporters have taken to social media to express their anger about Dr. Wang’s treatment. Almost 200 poets, writers, artists, alumni, and professors, including many Pulitzer and National Book winners and internationally renowned artists, have added their names to a private petition against the wrongful and discriminatory claims against Dr. Wang. Under the pressure of the public uproar and outrage, the administration finally agreed to mediate, but still refuse to renew her 2019-20 contract, still use the false allegations as part of the mediation content to force her out of the college, and still threaten to terminate her tenure without due process.

Asian American and immigrant scholars, especially women and LGBTQ, don’t fare well at Macalester. Dr. Wang is one of the many who have been discriminated against, retaliated and persecuted by this administration. This goes with the statistics of the national trend in American academia. The most talented and accomplished WOC and LGBTQ and immigrants get destroyed from chronic discrimination and aggression. Macalester needs to reform. 

As alumni, faculty, poets, writers, artists, and supporters of Dr. Wang, we demand that Macalester College:

  1. Renew Dr. Wang’s contract, with a salary equal to her white colleagues, by  merits, rank, and seniority, prior to the mediation;
  2. Drop all false allegations against Dr. Wang, prior to the mediation;
  3. Stop using administrative power to defame Dr. Wang with false allegations;
  4. Stop violating her First Amendment rights by monitoring her social media activities with institutional power. This includes punitive measures such as banning her from the campus, demoting her rank and cutting her salary;
  5. Stop violating Macalester faculty handbooks, AAUP guidelines, and EEOC, State and Federal human rights departments, and finally FERPA, which guarantees students’ safe environment to learn and experience;
  6. Mediate with Dr. Wang in good faith, with a mediator and mediation date agreed to by both sides;
  7. Macalester should pay for the mediation fee and Dr. Wang’s legal fees accrued since January 2019, since the administration initiated all the harassment and aggressions.
  8. Ensure, through a neutral third party with annual evaluations, that Dr. Wang will be treated fairly at Macalester and no further retaliation will be taken against her or her students. 

Under the current political climate where immigrants and women of color are being threatened on a regular basis and being stripped of their human rights, we urge administration at Macalester College to remain on the path of justice, as declared in your mission statement. You can do this by honoring Dr. Wang Ping’s academic freedom and her incredible contributions to Macalester communities as a mentor, researcher, and activist to students of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, international and first generations. We urge Macalester administration to follow due process as required by AAUP, Macalester’s own faculty handbook, and EEOC. Ignoring these demands will set a shameful precedent and harm the academic community, students and the greater public good – that educational institutions are called on to serve and uphold.

Despite all this, Macalester College encouraged an attack on Professor Wang's academic freedom and seized on the dispute to pursue disciplinary action without due process. As a result, Professor Wang is no longer with Macalester as the only woman of color and immigrant teaching poetry in a second language at the rank of full professor in U.S. academia. “The college will be worse off without her,” wrote Mac students.

See below for related documents we have acquired via the Information Freedom Act.

Related links

  1. Dr. Wang’s spring 2019 syllabus “Migration, Immigration & Home,” for which she was accused of “appropriation, racism and voyeurism.”
  2. Timeline
  3. 2019 Private Petition and names for Dr. Wang
  4. Anonymous Class Evolutions for Dr. Wang's teaching Spring 2019
  5. Class Reflections for Dr. Wang’s teaching 2018-19
  6. Students/alumni support letters for Dr. Wang
  7. Wang Ping CV
  8. Wang’s website
  9. Wang’s Kinship of Rivers 
  10. Wang’s Facebook
  11. Macalester Weekly Op-ed: by Daniel Soto
  12. GoFundMe Help Poet Wang Ping Defend Freedom of Speech!