UCL states that it was established to 'open up education in England for the first time to students of any race, class or religion.' Unfortunately, with regards to race, the university has not evidenced the same aspiration for its academic staff. The relegation of Black academics to perpetual short-term contracts and constant threat of redundancy is, and has been for some time, a national dilemma—as reflected by Parliament in its minutes of evidence, pointing to a case from UCL.
Dr. Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman is one of those academics. In his nine short months as a Research Associate in Philosophy of ‘Race’, he has contributed more to the progress of UCL as an equitable, 21st century community of scholars than most professors who have been here more than a decade. As the Department of Philosophy has recently given lectureships to individuals who had yet to obtain PhDs and has hired four lecturers this year, it is implausible that no permanent place exists for the crucial work in which Dr. Coleman is currently engaged.
We, the undersigned stakeholders in the UCL community and concerned parties-at-large, insist that Professors Michael Arthur (Provost), Jonathan Wolff (Dean of Faculty of Arts & Humanities) and José Zalabardo (Head of Department, Philosophy) intervene to create a permanent, tenure-track position in the Department of Philosophy for Dr. Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman before the end of his contract on 30 September 2014.--Petition, "Keep Your Black Academics." [HT: Justin Smith]
Exerting external pressure on a university to influence its hiring decisions is a delicate matter, particularly, as is usually the case, when one doesn't have all of the relevant information. Still, I'm signing this petition in order to signal to those to whom it is directed, first of all, my agreement with its drafters that there is a grave problem of lack of diversity within philosophy in the UK, and, second of all, that Professor Coleman is an exceptional philosopher: a gifted and inspiring thinker and communicator. He'll be making history somewhere or other, and it is in UCL's interest to ensure that he does it there.--Justin Smith.
The distinguished scholar, Justin Smith, alerted me to this petition (which he signed with the explanation provided above). I am familiar with petitions to save people's existing jobs, but this is the first that I am aware of that tries to pressure a university in order to "create a permanent, tenure-track position" for a particular candidate. The sponsor(s) of the petitions are anonymous, going by "black students."*
Nearly all Anglophone and European philosophy departments don't do better than UCL [=University College London] when it comes to the number of appointed "Black academics." The situation is dismal. Anything that puts the (harsh) spotlight on this disgraceful situation ought to be applauded. But, human nature being what it is, we prefer such a spotlight on others, not ourselves. A bit of additional reflection suggests that our self-interest and principles match up: outsiders shouldn't interfere with our contextually sensitive, hiring decisions (which involve our expert judgments). After all, when the spotlight is gone, we are stuck with a lifetime colleague.
Unless, of course, when outsiders intervene...successfully.