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The University Failed Its Community, but also Don't Show Blackface in Class, That's Just Obvious
Posted by: Singapore/Fling 02:22 pm EDT 10/16/21
In reply to: re: Showing Olivier’s “Othello” in class. - BruceinIthaca 01:05 pm EDT 10/16/21

This is ultimately a failing of the university to instruct its teachers in how to engage with students around potentially sensitive material, and to set boundaries. The school that I work at has put a good deal of effort into creating dialogue around why material is chosen and in asking students how they wish to engage with material that they might find unduly disturbing... and the result tends to be that everyone is happy because the conversation gives us space to be heard and to have agency. University of Michigan is failing its students and its faculty.

That being said, no one who is alive in this country should be surprised that you can't show blackface in class unless you have done a great deal of groundwork and community agreements around that material - and even then, you should only be doing it if you are investigating blackface itself. There are many many films of "Othello" that feature a Black man in the part, and they would all serve the function of showing the students the play. Sheng has lived in this country long enough to know what is and is not appropriate, and if he doesn't, then he shouldn't be teaching a class to undergraduates.

This is jaw droppingly stupid on his part, as was his response. And from what I've seen in my own department meetings, his defensiveness and complete obliviousness is not uncommon among teachers of his generation. If he and others in the same boat are not willing to learn, then they need to step aside and let younger people teach and care for these students.
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Previous: People are indeed asking for him to be educated, not punished - Singapore/Fling 02:17 pm EDT 10/17/21
Next: re: Showing Olivier’s “Othello” in class. - whereismikeyfl 01:23 pm EDT 10/16/21
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