A Minneapolis community college educator was reprimanded recently for bringing up the topic of racism with her students during her communications class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
After a presentation on structural racism, three white students filed a complaint against their English instructor, Shannon Gibney, after they questioned whether or not racism should be discussed.
“I was in the middle of leading a discussion on this—actually I was in the middle of speaking, when a young White man in the class interrupted me,” Gibney said.
“Why do we have to talk about this in every class,” she said the student asked.
In a 15-minute YouTube video interview, Gibney said she was shocked and remained calm while one of the students who posed the question became defensive and took the topic personally.
“I tried to explain in a reasonable manner…..that this is unfortunately the content of 21st century America,” she said.
According to Gibney, two additional White male students chimed in and said, “I don’t get this either. Like, people are trying to say that White men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”
She said she assured her students that the discussion on racism was “not a personal attack.”
In the video obtained by the AFRO Gibney said she told the students “if you are really upset, feel free to go to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.”
The students took Gibney’s advice and filed the complaint and she was called to an investigatory meeting with her union representative, administrators and school attorney.
She said she received a reprimand from Lois Bollman, MCTC vice-president for academic affairs after the investigation.
In a statement obtained by the Huffington Post, Minneapolis Community and Technical College spokeswoman Dawn Skelly said, “The college has taken no steps to prohibit faculty members from teaching about racism, including structural racism.”
“MCTC has never disciplined a faculty member for teaching or discussing structural racism. Conversations about race, class and power are important and regular parts of many classes at MCTC and have been for years,” she said.
Gibney said she is not seeking legal council, however she would be issuing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—stating that this was a case of workplace discrimination.
There are 13,874 students enrolled at MCTC. More than half of the student body is non-white. One in four of the school’s employees are minorities and “of the eight new full-time faculty hires the college made for fall 2012, six people are of color,” according to college officials.