MCTC instructor appeals reprimand over race discussion

Gibney (Facebook)

A couple of updates to the structural racism debate at Minneapolis Community and Technical College:

First, instructor Shannon Gibney has filed an appeal of the administrative reprimand she received over how she handled a heated discussion with three white male students.

You may recall that a top campus official wrote Gibney that she’d created a hostile learning environment for the students, a characterization disputed by faculty union president Barbara Hager.

Hager, Gibney and a campus spokeswoman said they could not comment on what actually happened in the classroom — either because of privacy restrictions or because the case is under appeal.

An emailed statement from MCTC said campus officials “want to ensure that students, faculty and staff from all cultures and backgrounds feel welcomed and have an appropriate learning environment.”

It also said:

“We train our employees to ensure that these critical conversations around issues of diversity are constructive and lead to understanding.”

But Hager told me faculty have tried for several years to get such training — and that what has been on offer has been inadequate at best.

“[Faculty] are frustrated. They don’t know how to respectfully approach the racial differences between themselves and other faculty and between themselves and students.”

That said, Hager wasn’t sure whether the training itself would have prevented the confrontation.

And she said the MCTC administration should have handled the dispute in a less formal fashion right after the students filed the complaint:

“I wish that the administration had gotten the chief diversity officer, the students, the faculty member in the same room so they could have talked about the situation rather than making it into a legalistic moment — make it into a learning moment.”

In a second update, a former City College News (CCN) editor  told City Pages of an exchange he’d had with Gibney back in 2009.