Kendra Preston Leonard

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More #AMSSOWHITE and how to help anonymously

On June 23, AMS President Ellen Harris sent a message to the membership announcing the formation of a new committee to deal with racism at the AMS.

I should note that I have been the AMS liaison to the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, which advocates for adjunct and other non-TT scholars’ and instructors’ rights, for the last three years. My term ends in November, when Deborah Heckert will take my place.

I replied:

“Dear Ellen,

I appreciate the efforts you and the other board members of the AMS are making in regard to issues concerning race in the Society. I am worried, however, that the open meeting in Vancouver to discuss this will not truly be open to all members. I am speaking of two groups in particular: those who cannot afford to attend the conference, and those who feel that speaking at or even attending the meeting will jeopardize their chances of obtaining employment in our discipline. I have already been contacted by several graduate students and adjuncts who have said that they do not feel safe attending or participating in the meeting. These problems effectively disenfranchise many members of the AMS. I am wondering, therefore, if the AMS would be amenable to using one of the many available platforms for allowing real-time discussion during the open session, so that those not attending in person and/or those who need to be anonymous are able to take part in what I’m sure will be a very important discussion. Since the open meeting is being scheduled so far in advance, there should be ample time to select and test software that would allow all members full access to the meeting.

Many thanks for your consideration. 

Best,

Kendra”

This morning (June 24, 2016), Ellen replied:

Dear Kendra,- I am currently away from the office for a few days, but I didn’t want days to pass before responding. I hope you will excuse a brief iPhone response. We are very interested in broadening the conversation, not just during the all too brief 90 minute meeting but before and after. The co-chairs are already working on this. In the meantime, I would welcome any comments sent to me, and I will forward these anonymously to the committee if anyone so desired. I also want to remind you that we have had an anonymous email portal on our website (at ‘contact us’ in the upper right hand corner) for some time.It is very underutilized. So all this will evolve, and we will keep the membership informed. Thank you again for your concerns.

Cheers,- Ellen

Sent from my iPhone”

I responded:

Dear Ellen, Since the committee is not to meet until after the 90 minute meeting at AMS, that meeting serves as a springboard for the entire endeavor. As such, it should include as many voices as possible, especially those of the scholars most affected by institutional racism and who fear retribution if they speak publicly without anonymity. Not allowing for their participation seems to me to continue the very practices the new committee should be against.

Kendra”

Friends and colleagues, please use the anonymous comment form at the AMS site and be heard on the issue of access to this important meeting, to speak out against institutional racism, and, perhaps most importantly, to make suggestions that will help improve the AMS and our discipline in this arena.