In an anonymous letter addressed to the Pomona College Department of Sociology and outgoing president David Oxtoby, 128 students, alumni, and “allies” called for the termination of a professor for her “dubious reputation, her hyper-criminalization of Black men, and hyper-sexualization of Black women.” Professor Alice Goffman received considerable controversy for her book “On The Run,” which documented her observations of a poor black neighborhood in West Philadelphia.
The letter states the following justification for terminating Dr. Goffman:
Alice Goffman’s qualitative research methods have been criticized heavily by numerous scholars in the field of sociology. Her methods have endangered her research participants, encouraged the hyper-policing of Black communities, and continue to perpetuate anti-Blackness. Goffman’s research has been critiqued by Dr. Victor Rios as being a “fatalistic, sensationalist narrative” which “is positioned to reify stereotypes like those of the ghetto and its non compos mentis residents.” Moreover, a New York Times article further describes the controversy surrounding Goffman’s work. The article states, “In May, an unsigned, 60-page, single-spaced document was emailed from a throwaway address to hundreds of sociologists, detailing a series of claims casting doubt on the veracity of events as Goffman described them.” Additionally, hiring white faculty who engage in voyeuristic, unethical research and who are not mindful of their positionality as outsiders to the communities they study reinforces harmful narratives about people of color. This practice is detrimental to Pomona’s goal of supporting students of color; we condemn the harm Goffman’s research has caused Black communities. It is especially troubling that Goffman’s publications have been critiqued as racist, sensationalist and unethical. If no action is taken, the Sociology Department will knowingly provide Goffman with a platform to promote harmful research methods in Sociology 51: Introduction to Sociology, Sociology 102: Qualitative Research Methods and other courses.
The letter also demanded a meeting with the faculty hiring committee to express outrage that Dr. Goffman passed through their procedures and was given an opportunity to teach at one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the United States. They further suggested that students who are appointed to the faculty hiring committee “should be selected by peers and representative of the demographics and needs of fellow Sociology students.”
The Pomona College students and alumni who penned this letter are continuing their trend of policing the ideas that are promulgated on campus. Not only do these ingrates want to control who gets invited onto campus to present their differing viewpoints, but they also wish to set standards of what ideas should be taught to the entire student body. This kind of insanity is worse than McCarthyism; it goes back to the intellectual purges that occurred in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
This is what our institutions of higher education have become; the Claremont Colleges continue to be center stage as the objectively worst colleges to attend for anyone who wishes to pursue a classically liberal education as the respective founders of the colleges intended they would become.