The politics of faux victimization are spiraling out of control at a community college in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where several white students, their black professor and irritated administrators have one-upped each other with complaints, reprimands and now a lawsuit.
The trouble began in English professor Shannon Gibney’s Introduction to Mass Communications class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Though the class ostensibly has little to do with race, Gibney considers herself an activist on racial issues, and frequently invokes white privilege and oppression during class time, according to her students. (She has previously taught classes on race and gender.)
Recently, several white students announced that they had had enough with Gibney’s incessant racial screed. They interrupted her during a lecture, and said, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?” according to Gibney’s account of the incident, which was recorded by the City College News.
Gibney felt put on the spot, but told the students not to take matters personally.
“We are not talking about all white people, or you white people in general,” she told them. “We are talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this failed to provide comfort to the white students. Next, Gibney invited them to file a racial harassment complaint with the college if they were so offended.
So they did.
Last week, the college reprimanded Gibney and accused of her creating a hostile work environment for white students.
According to Gibney, she received the following reprimand from Lois Bollman, vice president of academic affairs:
“Shannon, I find it troubling that the manner in which you led a discussion on the very important topic of structural racism alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about the subject… Your actions in targeting select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment.”
This is not the first time that Gibney’s penchant for stirring the racial pot has raised eyebrows. She was investigated by the college on two previous occasions. On one of those occasions, she suggested to the student newspaper that circulation was slipping because it did not have enough minority staff members. On another, she was accused of discriminating in favor of minority candidates for a job at the college, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The college said that it did not reprimand Gibney in the manner she claimed but declined to comment on the matter in general.
Gibney called MCTC’s investigations into her behavior “attacks on me by white males.”
“As a vocal black female younger looking… faculty member here, unfortunately this is no the first time,” she said. “I’ve actually had multiple verbal and institutional attacks on me by white males, whether they were students, faculty, administration or staff.”
Gibney and six other MCTC faculty members have filed a class action lawsuit against MCTC that alleges the college is a discriminatory workplace for people of color.
She did not respond to a request for comment.
Gibney received mostly positive reviews on ratemyprofessor.com, although many students — even those who enjoyed her class — said she brings up race way too much.
“I thought I was taking english, not racism 101,” wrote one student.