Responses to Distinguished Scholars and Medhurst Cont.

Eric Grabowsky,

A Debate Challenge (Diversity in the Academy), Part 3

I continue to be grateful to those who have offered feedback on my debate challenge. I stand by my previous thoughts regarding the initial proposition of my debate challenge (Resolved: Diversity in the Academy Should Be Its Most Important Goal). However, so as to navigate toward the possibility of this debate actually happening, I now put forth an alternative proposition: The privilege paradigm eclipses the necessary commonalities of the study and practice of communication. I and others are willing to argue for this proposition–the affirmative side. Please contact me directly and/or post to CRTNET if you are interested in participating in this debate. Thank you! EG

NCA Freedom of Expression Division Statement on Diversity and Inclusion & the DS Award Process

We, the leadership of the Freedom of Expression Division, support recent changes to the selection process for the Distinguished Scholars award and stand in solidarity with our fellow divisions and interest groups who have made similar expressions of support. Our academic community thrives when we have a diversity of ideas to hear and debate. Structural barriers that limit groups of scholars from being heard and recognized perpetuates systems of under-representation and exclusion that damages our community. 

Diversity of thought produced through intentional acts of inclusion can be transformative, thus barriers to substantial inclusion must be systemically challenged and dismantled. We recognize that NCA is taking a step toward transformative inclusion by making such changes. In order to show our own division’s continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will discuss avenues for how to ensure such equity at our 2019 business meeting.

In response to the words published by Dr. Medhurst, we do not believe diversity and merit are oppositional goals. The issue NCA is addressing in these changes are a response to the opposite; there are many scholars from minoritized populations who are deserving of recognition based on their merit, but their scholarship and significant contributions to the field and community have been consistently overlooked. 

Equality is fundamental to meaningful freedom of expression; thus, diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential for ensuring such equality and free expression. Equality cannot be based on antiquated, hegemonic notions of meritocracy. For people to be free to express themselves, as our division believes they should be, there must be clear communication that diverse identities are valued and treated equitably by members of the community. 

So long as false narratives of merit vs. diversity persist, that cannot happen. As such, the Freedom of Expression division rejects such a paradigm as antithetical as to our fundamental beliefs. Therefore, we reiterate our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dr. Kevin Johnson 
Dr. Billie Murray 
Dr. M. Elizabeth Thorpe 
Alvin J. Primack

Statement on Diversity and Inclusion from Officers of the IPC Interest Group of the WSCA – July 2019

As the current officers for the Interpersonal Communication (IPC) Interest Group of the Western States Communication Association (WSCA), we join in solidarity with the scholar activists who have called for and are enacting change related to diversity and inclusion in the National Communication Association Distinguished Scholars program. We support the decision of the NCA Executive Committee to change the process for how DSs are selected; and we offer profound thanks and gratitude for the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual labor that many—including a large number of scholars of color, queer scholars, and intersectional feminists—have contributed to this change. 

We are excited to witness—and look forward to contributing to—other movements that will make for a more-inclusive discipline. In that spirit, we recognize that positive change can only come when people make intentional moves to change structures and open spaces for greater inclusivity. 

It is for that reason that we – in accordance with efforts made by Officers of WSCA and the Resolution on Anti-Discrimination and Diversity passed by WSCA’s Legislative Assembly in 2018 – pledge, as the elected leaders of WSCA’s IPC Interest Group, to do the following:

First, the current officers of the IPC Interest Group will carefully review the current bylaws for the interest group to determine how we can make them more inclusive, especially for people or groups who are currently or who have historically been marginalized in and out of the discipline. As part of this review, we will ensure that our bylaws have explicit statements that affirm inclusivity and diversity in scholarship, teaching, and service opportunities. Moreover, we pledge to ensure that structures and policies related to inclusivity in our bylaws are upheld through the years.

Second, the IPC Interest Group has already been gifted a presidential panel slot to be used for addressing inclusivity in the area of IPC studies at the 2020 WSCA convention. We will ensure that this panel is well organized and well promoted; and we also will ensure that a careful record is kept of the topics and ideas that are presented so that we can transform this discussion and the ideas that emerge into meaningful actions. If you are interested in being a part of this panel, please contact Jimmie Manning at

Third, we have been in the process of creating an IPC Interest Group award that honors individuals who have made contributions to inclusivity and diversity in IPC studies. This important work will continue, and at the IPC Interest Group business meeting at WSCA 2020 we will present the proposal for this award.

Fourth, we will immediately begin investigating the possibility of expanding the IPC Interest Group to include family communication as part of its title and mission. As several scholars have noted throughout the years, family communication studies—even though strongly tied to IPC studies—has traditionally been more inclusive in terms of the theories, methods, bodies, and ideas it represents. Expanding the interest group to include family communication scholars/research could be a good first step to encouraging the representation of marginalized voices in our interest group and promoting diverse ideas and approaches to scholarship and teaching. 

To this end, another IPC panel session at WSCA 2020 will be dedicated to exploring this possible name and mission change. If you are interested in being a part of this panel, please contact Allison Thorson at

Fifth, and finally, we all pledge to be more mindful and to act to help make IPC studies be a more inclusive enterprise, not only in the WSCA but on our campuses, in our professional organizations, and across the larger community of our discipline.

Falon Kartch, California State University, Fresno – Secretary
Jimmie Manning, University of Nevada, Reno – Vice Chair
Tara McManus, University of Nevada, Las Vegas – Website Editor
Melissa Tafoya, La Sierra University – Immediate Past Chair
Allison Thorson, University of San Francisco – Chair and 2019-2020 Program Planner

Bill Balthrop,

A Sad Farewell

I am writing this statement with reluctance and regret, but I have made the difficult—and unfortunate but necessary, I think—decision to withdraw any further support from NCA.  That means, I will be resigning from the Association, cease participating in conferences, and no longer serving on the editorial boards of journals sponsored by NCA.  

Leaving NCA is a difficult decision, but it is one that my own sense of ethics demands.  Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed what could have been a positive step forward (despite some procedural issues which I believe were handled very badly) turn into something about which I am profoundly ashamed.  I have seen colleagues attacked, reputations seriously damaged, and no spirit of generosity in accepting apologies that were offered.  

And, of course, when commitments were expressed to be more proactive in promoting issues of diversity, those were dismissed as “too little” and “too late.”  I am perhaps most devastated that diversity itself—resonating with sentiments of inclusion, appreciation of difference, justice, equality, forgiveness, and reconciliation—has become “weaponized” to the point where it operates in ways that seem contrary to these lofty aspirations.

I also realize that there is a certain kind of “privilege” that I am participating in by even sharing these thoughts.  I have no doubt that some will read them in precisely that way; and, about that, I can do nothing.  I leave NCA committed to be even more proactive in promoting diversity in the future than I have been—and should have been—in the past, although I will seek other venues for those actions.  

But I have studied communication and engaged in political action long enough to realize that real allies can be lost by insisting on a purity of commitment and that potential allies will not respond well to vitriol and attack.  Bullying is a terrible and dangerous thing and I have seen far too much of it in the past few weeks.

But for perhaps a few others—people I have worked with in various capacities throughout my personal and professional life, people across the full spectrum of this Association whom I have come to appreciate and value enormously—perhaps you will read this in a more generous frame of mind.  It is for these colleagues that I believe I have an obligation to explain, however imperfectly, this decision.

Leaving NCA is something that I thought I would never have considered.  As a 45 year member and as someone who invested both time and commitment to the Association in a variety of ways,  I am saddened to have reached this end point.  But it is true that there is a “time to break silence.”  And there is a time to take leave.


Bill Balthrop
NCA Past President

David Cisneros,

Comment on NCA

In light of the emails yesterday resigning from the organization (from scholars whose work I respect), I just wanted to publicly share my own very different perspective on and support for NCA. Obviously, I cannot speak to the personal experiences of those who posted yesterday, but I have personally never been more proud to be a member of NCA. 

I have already directly expressed my support to NCA leadership on their changes regarding the Distinguished Scholars selection process, but I do so here publicly now. The Executive Committee made the right decision, and the Distinguished Scholars were wrong. Many of them retracted their signatures and now support the changes. 

Furthermore, I have been heartened and excited to read the public statements by the NCA President and other officers reaffirming NCA’s support for diversity, equity, and social justice within the field and the organization. It has also been wonderful to see all the powerful statements and concrete steps announced by the divisions and caucuses of NCA. 

Though not a participant in the “spectacle” of social media, I have found the public statements and the conversations I’ve had to be challenging but also enlightening. I have seen no threats or violence and have experienced a very vibrant climate of discussion. I have learned a great deal from my colleagues from across the field. 

Certainly, It is difficult to hear about the experiences of hurt, marginalization, “oppressive actions,” and even “violence” that our colleagues face and my/our complicity in them, but I am glad that we have the opportunity to hear these experiences and to change our practices. Rather than seeing diversity “weaponized” (whatever that means), I have seen the hard work of our colleagues lead to broader efforts to address diversity and equity not just in NCA but also RSA and ICA. 

I am not ashamed of NCA or the ongoing collective efforts to recommit ourselves to equity and social justice, nor am I ashamed that this specific controversy over the Distinguished Scholars has led to a much broader conversation and recommitment to address issues of inequity and structural marginalization within the field. Respectfully, I am glad that, rather than resigning, many folks, including NCA’s leaders, are redoubling their efforts to these commitments.


David Cisneros
NCA Member

Rod Carveth,

A modest proposal

It is indeed unfortunate to lose Carole Blair and Bill Balthrop as NCA members given all the exemplary service both have provided to NCA. I completely understand their decision, having wrestled with it myself over the last three weeks. The two-weeks long l’affaire des savants distingués that played out on CRTNET was often cringeworthy, and was not NCA’s finest hour.

I totally agree that because of the lack of diversity among the Distinguished Scholars, a change in the selection process is a necessary move. I also agree that Dr. Medhurst’s rather awkward wording about how to balance the need for diversity with the need for intellectual rigor could be perceived as suggesting the two concepts were mutually exclusive, and, as such, hurtful to many members of NCA. That was also important to discuss.

The continual ad hominem attack on the Distinguished Scholars in general, and two of them in particular, was not warranted, however. Each day for two weeks, one NCA group after another weighed in. After the first week, this process seemed to be virtue-signaling at best, piling on at worst.

NCA is better than that.

Because I believe NCA is better than that, I am not following the path of Dr. Blair and Dr. Balthrop in leaving NCA. Rather, I would like to propose an effort that can more quickly rectify the lack of diversity among the Distinguished Scholars.

In the late 1960s, Major League Baseball (MLB) decided that there were dozens of former Negro League baseball players who were not in the Hall of Fame because they had been denied admission into the major leagues until 1946. To correct the problem, MLB had a committee select those former Negro League players who would otherwise have qualified for admission to the Hall. It was not a perfect system, but it was a good step.

The most recent statistics show that of those who indicated their race or ethnicity, about 27% of those with doctorates were people of color. So, there should be about 21 Scholars who are people of color – 20 more than there are now. In addition, those numbers don’t reflect those who identify as other than heterosexual in terms of sexual orientation or those with disabilities. 

I would propose that NCA immediately form a committee that would examine those NCA scholars who qualify to be Distinguished Scholars, but who otherwise have not been selected because of a faulty selection process, to be evaluated for selection. That process would help to correct an historical wrong. More importantly, the representation of the Distinguished Scholars would better reflect the representation of the membership of NCA.

Paul E. Mabrey III,

Communication Center Journal Statement about NCA Practices for Diversity and Inclusion

While not officially a unit or publication of the National Communication Association, we members of the Communication Center Journal leadership are aware of the controversies surrounding the Distinguished Scholar selection process. We wish to share our support of and call for institutional changes to the National Communication Association to make the organization, its members, awards, policies, culture, publications, and climate more diverse and inclusive. We also wish to express solidarity with those who have and continue to do labor to make our communities more hospitable for and encouraging of difference. 

Importantly, we recognize that struggles for diversity and inclusion are not just external or out there, but continue within our own Communication Center community. Our centers or labs are integral cites for the acknowledgement, acceptance, and promotion of difference as we provide communication support to peers and colleagues; hire, train, and mentor undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, and faculty; model ethical and inclusive communication practices to our campus and surrounding communities; and disseminate information, programming, and research about communication centers, communication education, and the field of communication studies.

As a publication dedicated to the dissemination and communication of research around communication centers, speaking labs, communication education, and so much more, we remain steadfastly committed to the interrogation of our own practices which may help or hurt diversity to flourish on our pages, in our editorial review process, through our recruitment and mentoring of editors and scholars, and the relationships, knowledge, and practice we help cultivate. 

To this end, we are actively formulating plans to begin a more formal and transparent conversation on how we can ensure that the journal, editorial board, and review process is inclusive and intentionally seeks out the diversity represented throughout the Communication Center and adjacent communities. It is our hope that as the current journal leadership team and editorial board transitions out and we welcome new ones, this moment of disruption and change offers us a chance to make present and public these commitments.

Again, thank you to those who perform the visible and invisible labor of defending, protecting, and promoting inclusive and diverse communities. We support you and join in your unending work.


Russell Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief
Kim Cuny, Managing Editor
Paul E. Mabrey III, Book Review Editor

Philip Backlund,


Dear colleagues,

I read with dismay the posts from Carole Blair and Bill Balthorp.  I have known both of them for quite a long time as tireless supporters and leaders of NCA.  Both are past presidents and both have spent countless hours improving our association.  To read that they are withdrawing from the organization they have served so long is sad.  If anything positive is to come out of their articulate statements, I hope it is some serious soul-searching on the part of NCA and its members. 

Keith Erickson,

Re: CRTNET: Announcements, Queries, and Discussions #17233

Bravo to Carole Blair and Bill Balthrop! I thought I stood alone in observing the childish prattle positioned as a “revolution” or “social justice” in NCA. I found it profoundly embarrassing for some of our finest scholars to grovel before the membership for the apparent sin of being a better scholar than the rest of us. I suppose the next association to attack is MENSA and its restrictive IQ tests. The “straw” that broke my back was the claim by two interest groups  that the association was founded on racist assumptions. What tripe! I have been a member of SCA and NCA for 54 years. Largely wonderful experiences.  

To suggest that racism is structurally inherent in NCA is preposterous, a shameful accusation. But then I haven’t looked under every rock in search of a grievance. It is disturbing to see so many of the association’s membership compete for “Holier than Thou” ribbons, especially those housed and tenured in largely  white, exclusionary institutions. Where was your social crusader application when we advertised for new faculty? Were we too integrated for you? Not privileged enough? Can’t practice what you preach? Too many cry babies for my taste. Carole and Bill, count me with you. I have resigned my Life membership. “So long, It was nice knowing you…”

Richard Vatz,

Integrity and Courage

To Colleagues Carole Blair and Bill Balthrop: 

Some of us have your principles but not your tremendous courage.  What difficult decisions those must have been.  They certainly were brilliantly articulated.

Your personal actions are no surprise, given your historical exquisite personal and academic excellence in the NCA and beyond.

I, for one, am proud to be your colleague.

Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas,

Resigning a parting shot to a growing moment

Recently two Past NCA presidents have resigned. But before they resigned they took parting accusatory shots at colleagues who have really done nothing but called out hypocritical pledges they and some of their colleagues who hold the same views made to a  true diversity that is sorely needed in our association. I am one of those people they accused. I am proud to be one that calls to question how meritocracy and privilege can be selective, our scholars of color whose works that have enlightened and built up this Association for decades can be  inexplicably ignored by their distinguished peers. 

Lately I’ve been a part of a large group of colleagues on social media who are not asking for pledges, litmus tests or blood oaths to diversity.  Even if we were, in truth they would end up being nothing but meaningless mantras. From our students ( rising scholars), new scholars, to well published ones we are simply calling for this: if you’re going to be about it, be about it. No more just talk. Do the work. I anticipate we will see a rush of  similar lofty pronouncements of resignations, standing on faux righteous indignation against people  ( the “new bullies” ) who simply want to stop the exclusivity in our Association. Great.  

Please leave quietly and remember the title of an old gospel hymn I grow up singing when you ponder your  career long efforts to advance and appreciate the works of our scholars of color: “May the Work I’ve Done Speak for Me.”

Christopher Poulos,

Re: CRTNET: Announcements, Queries, and Discussions #17233

In response to the resignations from NCA today, I can only say that I’m dismayed at the thinness of the skins of other (powerful, influential) white scholars in response to serious and urgent (if sometimes deeply pained) calls for accountability and pleas to expand inclusion rather than contract it. It’s clearly a sign of our times when powerful people so easily cave and bow out when the going gets tough, instead of engaging serious dialogue on important issues. 

Nobody (not Buber, certainly not Levinas—well, really, not anyone) ever said dialogue would be easy. Life is messy. Listening is hard. Pain is harder. Conflict is tough going. 

But if I believe anything, it’s that communication—when we commit to really working it—can change the world. 

Diversity has been weaponized? You can’t be serious. 

I’m not one to use current catch phrases generally, but I sort of want to say, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” And, uh, listen to the pain. And then: Use your power to act. 

Or, if you prefer, take your ball and bat and go home to lick your superficial wounds.

Ragan Fox,

Blacklists, litmus tests, and loyalty oaths, oh my!

I’ve made many of these observations as Facebook posts and responses but I want to give them a permanent and public home on CRT-NET. I’m responding to claims different people have made on CRT-NET over the past couple of days. 

First, how does one “resign” from a professional organization? How does one resign from a past position of leadership? When a Manchester (pro-Prop 8) hotel hosted the San Diego NCA, I didn’t “resign.” I just didn’t go. Resignation reeks of self-importance. The Manchester debacle is an example of ACTUAL, LIVED oppression that has material, embodied consequences. I’m not shocked that people invested in inaction believe symbolic resignations are meaningful. As others have masterfully pointed out, these “resignations” are little more than NCA white flight. 

Second, one person claimed people responding to structural racism in our discipline are virtue signaling. How can one suggest the camp mobilizing and inciting change is VIRTUE SIGNALLING, but then trumpet a small group of scholars SYMBOLICALLY resigning from lifetime memberships and PAST leadership roles? Virtue signaling is, by definition, an expression of virtue over action. The Distinguished Scholars claiming they WANT to recognize people of color (but don’t) exemplifies virtue signaling. “Resigning” from an NCA lifetime membership is also virtue signaling.

Next, I doubt any scholar on the margins is shocked or moved by some of the predictable public statements that have emerged on CRT-NET over the past couple of days. Many of these posts are designed to trigger, gaslight, and invert perceptions of power’s flow/direction. Scholars of color and LGBTQ academics are often on an island in their department. We’ve seen these conversations repeatedly play out on a micro level. 

A senior colleague in our department says something outrageous that either directly or indirectly implicates a scholar on the margins. Maybe, for example, they boast about giving a trans scholar FULL CONSDIERATION at their journal. (Golf clap.) The so-called “diversity hire” responds. The senior colleague rants and raves. His cheeks turn crimson and white bubbles pop in the corners of his mouth. Everyone in the meeting sits in silence. They’ve seen this tantrum before. A scholar on the margins is left horrified by the quiet. One or two colleagues approach days later and behind closed doors to say, “Sorry, that’s just (insert gaslighter) being (insert gaslighter).” 

Bulldozing may work in the micro-dynamics of a department where scholars on the margins are isolated and bullied into silence; but those tactics look transparent and embarrassing on a national stage. For many engaged in or celebrating NCA’s current white flight, this may be the first time they’ve been held accountable for the way they wield power. Accountability might feel like oppression but it’s not. To remind you, this controversy was initially about a group of scholars—90.4% white–upset that they’re no longer able to exclusively replicate their self-appointed excellence/whiteness. Responding to such a BLATANT example of invisible-hand discrimination is NOT oppression. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest. 

Finally, what’s most troubling to me about some of the posts I’ve read is how easy it is for many white, heterosexual academicians to disregard the thoughts and genius of scholars on the margins. Take, for example, Dr. Blair’s recent entry, where she claims people have misjudged the motives of her colleagues. Dr. Dutta and I anticipated this “not my intention” refrain weeks ago and carefully explained that racism is about consequence, not intention/motive ( 

Dr. Blair goes on to argue that WE “vilify” and “revel in our wins”; WE “blacklist”; WE make “loyalty oaths” and “litmus tests”; and WE have “poisoned the association’s climate.” Need I remind everyone that this conversation has centered around the Distinguished Scholars, a group SOLELY tasked with reproducing its own distinction? “Litmus test,” “loyalty oath” and “reveling in wins” are terms I’d associate with the DS’s history of whiteness—not the group responding to structural racism. This is Gaslighting 101. 

An intellectually honest scholar can’t operate from a position where inaction is the only response to racism, sexism, and homophobia and then trumpet their FABULOUS INTENTIONS/MOTIVES. Such blatant disregard for thoughtful entries that precede Dr. Blair’s message demonstrates how easy it is for people in power to ignore people of color and sexual minorities. 

Whiteness and heterosexuality are so cherished that even people who TEACH argumentation feel like they don’t have to acknowledge, let alone respond, to researched, expertly argued claims against white supremacy and heteronormativity. This dismissal of our ideas is reflected in the DS’s composition, regardless of motive. 

Richard West,

Discussion post

I read, with genuine sadness, the comments by two of NCA’s past leaders who are resigning from the Association.  Carole and Bill remain among the two most candid NCA colleagues I’ve met since I joined in 1983. I have respected both of them over the years, served with Carole on the EC, and know that they would never write what they wrote without considerable thought and conviction.  

And, it’s difficult for me to ignore what I will call “regrettable irony” of Dr. Blair agreeing to be part of a 2019 NCA convention program titled: “Raising Your Voice: Becoming a Leader in NCA,” focusing on, among other things, mentorship.  Of course, she won’t be there and perhaps she (and Bill) are now raising their voices and doing it with the ultimate resolution in mind.  

I do understand how one can arrive at some of the conclusions the two have articulated. To be sure, many comments over the past few weeks on the DS process have resulted in apologies from some, heel-digging and defensiveness from others, and yes, shoulder shrugging presumably from quite a few in the Association who have no idea what the big “fuss” is (all about).  

Many of the  comments have been thoughtful and quite heartfelt while others, it seems to me, are clumsily presented.  But, all seem to be rooted in a commitment to personal values and some may not have been as eloquent as others would prefer (as a member of the LGBTQ communities, I can assure you that being “eloquent” is sometimes secondary to getting the messy work of change underway).

I do have to disagree with those who say that both Carole and Bill have “courage” to quit. Indeed, the courage I believe to be necessary is one that demands working toward change, inclusion, and scholarly/pedagogical excellence!  And, I also don’t see their resignations, as some note, to prompt “soul searching” from an Association.  If two former NCA members’s renunciations have the power to prompt thousands to do some “soul searching,” then how does NCA begin the soul-searching for those who have felt disenfranchised for decades?  

And, hopefully, two past NCA Presidents do not leave an Association because of one event such as the DS selection process.  It would seem to me that a collation of events and experiences over the years would prompt such a draconian decision, but who knows? Maybe it was this one three-week CRTNET posting sequence…clearly, both of their posts only alluded to the DS conversations taking place, unlike what I’m about to describe. 

I know that troubling events have frequently characterized this Association.  As I thought about things and looked through my emails over the past many years, I found so many episodes that should’ve prompted *me* to QUIT:

a. a vitriolic anti-Semitic CRTNET post published on January 15, 2008 by David Duke, 

b. being called a “Nazi” as NCA VP by a unit Chair at an LA meeting, 

c. being told by a few former EC members that I should have resigned as a member because of my intolerance of nepotism and favoritism in hiring,

d. reading the 1997 NCA publication of an essay using a sexual metaphor to discuss texts and calling it “scholarship,” 

e. listening to a group’s demand that the annual convention be switched (five months before our date) because of the hotel’s ownership, 

f. listening to that same group expecting NCA to pay for an alternative location site (which it did!),

g. reading an email a week ago from one CRTNET reader (NCA member?) who told me to “get a clue on what scholarship is” and another who said “you USED to be a leader, definitely not now” after I applauded the impending changes to the DS selection process

h. reading a very recent post calling CRTNET comments a “carnival of loathing” 

…all of these among so many others.

Now, I could get snarky here and in some situations, I did (hey, I’m not about to let my integrity be shredded). Yet, I decided that the field and the Association are far grander and more helpful to me as a member rather than as an outsider with no possibility of creating or supporting change.  

And it’s precisely because of membership in NCA that the DS selection process has evolved and none of this could have happened without an engaged group of people/leaders who yes, took a risk and challenged the status quo.  And, make no mistake: That was not an easy process to set in motion. 

So, although I *know* a few other members will/have quit the Association as they did after the David Duke post, the Text and Performance Quarterly publication, and NCA refusing to change its convention location, I will NOT leave NCA and encourage all of you to stay put, too.  If the organization doesn’t align with your personal, scholarly, or pedagogical values, go for it.  I’d recommend that you do resign.  

Sometimes a more nimble Association embracing professional criticisms will have more impact than reading about, oh, I don’t know: accusations of being “childish” or “cry babies” in a post that simultaneously infers that NCA has been held hostage by the uninformed or the insensitive (haha?).

But, for those who are new to “this” sort of open dissent and as a reminder to the rest of us: Being annoyed, angry, and otherwise perturbed by what people are saying and how they are saying it will, well, make you angry.  It will make you really mad sometimes (look at some faculty meetings around the country!).

BUT: resigning (rather than advocating change), quitting (rather than defending your passion), and checking out (rather than instigating new ideas) will never accommodate your values and views as a communication teacher and/or scholar.  Senior scholars like Blair and Balthrop are established in the field. 

They have laid a foundation in some ways and it seems that it’s time for the rest of us to start building upon that with transparency, candor, and inclusive thinking/behavior.  Whether you’re a new NCA member, a veteran and seasoned convention-goer, or an “every-now-and-then” affiliated colleague, let your spirit of support overtake the shadow of doom that some have articulated via this venue.

Over more than three decades, I’ve been hurt, hated, and heated.

Yet, during all of these organizational, professional, and personal challenges, withdrawing was not my option.  

Engagement was and still is.  

I respectfully encourage all of you to do the same.

John M Sloop,

Discussion post

This is no time for resignation.

Neither in the sense of sitting back and watching change in our discipline play out nor in the sense of quitting the organization altogether, as two of our (former) colleagues have recently done.

Indeed, I know of no time since I’ve been in the organization (I joined in 1986) that has more loudly called for each of us to be engaged.  In my experience, the conversation and thought coming out of this has been generative and spirited, not bullying.  While I find it uncomfortable at times to think about how I’ve been part of some pretty damaging systems, and while my initial response is to get defensive about it, I’m also learning to trust that if I listen, if I quit being defensive, I am able to rethink some assumptions and imagine a different future.  Does that mean I agree with everyone in this conversation? Of course not, but this moment is generating new thought, a different world.

I firmly believe that NCA is a better, more thoughtful, collective when we are diverse, inclusive and engaging with/across a diversity of thought, experiences, and identity.  And while these efforts have been intentionally ignored or ignored by neglect in the past, the recent series of events have opened the door for ripe discussion and action, for a rethinking of processes.  

Will this discussion always be in everyone’s preferred tone?  Of course not.  Will anyone make claims they might decide later could have been toned differently or altered? Of course.  Will people who take risks sometimes get their egos bruised?  Absolutely.

But these are the types of engagements, conversations and actions we need right now.  To not engage in these conversations is to refuse to learn. To not be part of these actions is to be irresponsible to this community.

A few days ago, Rake Shome had a lovely post in which she asks her white colleagues to do the following (and I paraphrase): 1. Realize that the argument is against structures, not against individual people.  2. If you hear arguments being made and feel angry, or attacked, or defensive, live through those feelings and instead work to bring about different ideas, different structures; 3. Do not make this conversation about you. It’s not. 4. Assume that if 1,500 otherwise busy people in NCA are talking about an issue, it most certainly is of some substance; 5. We’ve all been socialized in this system; talk about it and think about how you’ve been shaped by it.  

This seems like a better starting place for change than does resignation.

If you are in a position where you can resign your national organization without a lot or hesitation, you likely have little to lose in doing so.  While I understand that some individuals have chosen to leave NCA in the past because they felt unwelcome, those people left with their careers or their futures at risk.  

Those who can resign from NCA with NO effect on career or scholarly reputation have no business doing so.  Of course, they have the right to quit, but, in my mind, the ethical thing to do is to stay and help create a better, more thoughtful organization.  The obligations we have to each other would demand it.  Moreover, as I see it, rather than bullying, our colleagues are giving us a pathway to do this work.

Take it.

Helen Sterk,

Association for Communication Administration statement on the Distinguished Scholars award process

On behalf of the Association for Communication Administration (an NCA affiliate group), the Executive Board affirms our support for the changes that NCA has made to the Distinguished Scholar awards process and categorically reject the notion that diversity and merit are mutually exclusive. We hold a responsibility to advocate for diversity at every level of leadership in our discipline and in the academy. 

Our members are in unique positions to encourage the growth and health of the Communication discipline in a time of adversity in higher education. We can only do this if we are united in our orientation toward building just, diverse, and ethical organizations where we support our colleagues, students, and communities.

We have worked to provide our members with strategies, research, and mentorship on the variety of challenges administrators face. We are committed to promoting recruiting, hiring, promoting and tenuring  practices that engage diversity at every level, from contingent to tenure-track faculty to directors and deans. 

We propose two concrete actions to address the need for meaningful accomplishments in efforts toward diversity and inclusion. 
First, we invite contributions to an upcoming special issue of the Journal of the Association of Communication Administration whose theme will be Administrative Practices for Transforming Institutional Cultures. 

While much has been written about the need to diversify higher education broadly, we are seeking scholarship that demonstrates how communication can advance administrative strategies for identifying, addressing, and fostering practices that promote the flourishing of all members of a scholarly community.

Second, we invite your participation at our business meeting at NCA in November to discuss suggestions, concerns, and solutions to diversifying the academy and the Communication discipline.

The ACA recognizes the work to be done and we pledge to engage our membership in this work.

Co-Signed, the executive committee of the Association for Communication Administration:

Shawn Long, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Past President

Helen Sterk, Western Kentucky University, Past President

Sarah Stone Watt, Pepperdine University, President

Amy Koerber, Texas Technological University, Vic-President

Jeanne Persuit, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Treasurer


Jay Brower, Western Connecticut State University

Ben Myers, University of Nebraska, Kearney

Michael Smith, La Salle University

Christopher Lynch, Kean University

Amy Young,

On leaving NCA

I have been a member of NCA for 18 years, have served 7 of those years on Legislative Assembly, and rotated through leadership on the Rhetorical & Communication Theory Division. After all this time, I actually had no idea we even had Distinguished Scholars until the infamous “editorial.” In reading the history of these conversations between the EC and the DSs, I am struck by the fact that being a Distinguished Scholar comes only with the “power” to replicate. 

And when left to their own devices, the DSs created nominating criteria that were I’m sure unconsciously designed but still effective in nominating people whose careers mirrored theirs, whose accomplishments mirrored theirs, and whose standards of excellence were nearly identical to theirs.

I don’t think they did this consciously or with malice, and I am 100% certain that those people who have been selected as DSs deserve that honor. I’ve looked at the list now that I know this is an actual award, and it’s filled with people who have done tremendously impressive things in our field.

But it is also filled with white people, and mostly men, and mostly cis hetero people. And that’s not really surprising–the nomination criteria and the history of the field make it really difficult for people not in those categories to be nominated, considered, or selected. But that it is not surprising does not mean it’s not indicative of a systemic problem–what we consider excellence, even what we consider a contribution to the field, is determined by a set of criteria that need serious reconsideration and revision. But power begets power. And here we are.

I have no real idea why any DS felt so strongly that they needed to sign onto Professor Zarefsky’s letter demanding they be able to nominate and select their own membership. Many have since asked their signatures be removed, or asked that their signatures stay so they may be reminded of their mistake. My guess is a lot of people signed because this group had always controlled its nomination and selection process, and the criteria for both, and that seemed like the way it should stay. 

I also have no idea why anyone would leave NCA because of this. I understand and applaud people who have left because they felt unwelcome–THAT would be something to really sit down and think about as a membership. But for people with such extraordinary privilege to leave because a few scholars asked them to be in dialogue about these larger systemic issues is…baffling. There are not litmus tests of anyone’s purity happening. 

And frankly, it doesn’t take an advanced heuristic to understand that systemic racism, sexism, misogyny, heteronormativity, and any other form of bias is part of NCA because NCA is full of people who are imperfect. Instead of leaving, the move for those of us with the privileges to do so should stay, should listen, should shut up, and should help change the organization to be more inclusive, more just, and more affirming. None of that means we’re somehow against “excellence,” but that the category itself is open to interpretation.

I helped organize the UNconvention in 2008. We heard the same refrains then–that we were bullying people, that we were demanding ideological purity, that we were calling our colleagues homophobic and anti-labor and whatever else, that we should keep this stuff off of CRTNET because NCA is “apolitical.” Victimhood is a moral claim, and it is effective stuff, though troublingly ironic, if it comes from powerful people. There could be myriad ways to change the organization. 

If your response to having to take public accountability for your actions is to leave, well, I can’t stop you. I know I have personally benefited from privileges of my race, my sexuality, and my social class–I choose to use that power to make change not by leaving, but by staying, and by listening. 

I’m not demanding some sort of purity–I don’t even really know what that means, and I damn sure don’t understand how diversity is being weaponized–having these commitments to justice on paper don’t matter much if you don’t have them in reality. If people want to call me out on things I’ve done, I can take it. I should take it. And then I should help make productive change because I am in a position to do so.

So I invite my fellow cis white tenured people to join me in shutting up, and in doing the work this organization and its membership deserves toward inclusion. 

Michael Holmes, m.emilholmes@GMAIL.COM

A modest proposal for concrete actions


NCA reflects its membership. The conflict about how DS designations are made wouldn’t have happened without the progress we’ve made in the last 25 years. 

Changing how names are selected to be chiseled into the top of the scholarship pyramid is an important symbolic act, but enduring, consequential change happens at the base of the pyramid:  through how we recruit and develop students as communication scholars and teachers, and how we retain and support them as early-career colleagues.  

We know academics can talk any issue to death without taking real action.  Therefore, in addition to our typical academic responses, e.g.:

“Let’s have a special issue about this”

“Let’s schedule discussions at our next (inherently exclusive) conference” 

“Let’s write value statements and pledges”

I suggest considering concrete steps such as:

“Let’s implement an annual national award for the department that makes the most significant, measurable progress in inclusivity” (AEJMC has such an award; each year’s winner is a new source of effective strategies)

“Let’s do a better job mentoring research-minded undergraduate students from traditionally under-represented groups” (Lori  Byers did this with a “Ph.D. Pathways” student group at Ball State University).  

“Let’s review how we develop our contingent faculty” 

“Let’s protect our colleagues from unintended consequences” (for example, university pressure to diversify committee memberships often places unreasonable time demands on women and minority tenure-track faculty members)

And finally, for those of us who are aging, male, white, CIS, neurotypical and middle class: “I will take [specific action step] to learn more about systemic bias, its consequences, and my role in it”  (For me, this has been reading commentary by blogger Michael Harriot)

The communication discipline has never been more needed by our students and communities.  Improving internal processes of NCA to reduce bias is important, but concrete steps to be inclusive will have more impact on whether we can meet that need.

Richard Vatz,


Colleagues, it was implied that in my CRTNET post I used the word “courage” lightly in applying it to my good colleagues, Carole Blair and Bill Balthrop.  

I did not.  I enclose for anyone interested the most important op-ed, I believe, I have written.  The importance of courage always has been part of my academic work and pedagogy.

Theodore Sheckels,

Winning the Battle But Losing the War?


Like many, I have been following on CRTNET the commentary surrounding the Distinguished Scholar commendation. And I have found it very disheartening. And I fear it has done irreparable damage to NCA and, thus, the discipline. I’d like to step back from the commentary and offer systematically what I see that I think many others are not.

I see eight things.

First, I see that the overwhelming majority (90%+) of those active in NCA are STRONGLY supportive of diversity. Yes, despite some posts that have been quite uncivil in content and tone, we are all pretty much on the same page!

Second, I see an emerging recognition that NCA practices (and, more broadly, disciplinary practices and institutional practices) privilege some and marginalize others. This recognition has led to resolutions on the part of many groups but also the basis for genuine interrogation and action.

Third, I see that some members of the discipline are wedded to a traditional conception of scholarship and a traditional definition of “distinguished.” That this is so can be explained by our disciplinary history, one shared with many other academic entities, NOT by these members’ prejudices. For I also see that these “traditionalists” are quite willing to join in a conversation that will revise how both “scholarship” and “distinguished” are defined. Furthermore, they admit that, from a privileged position, they do not see matters as others might and ask to be educated. Knowing some of these people, I believe the request to be educated to be quite genuine, not a rhetorical ploy.

Fourth, unfortunately, rather than seizing the opportunity, those rallying for diversity have launched an unrelenting assault on those who genuinely wish to be part of a process that will make NCA and the discipline more diverse. (One might have thought the resignations from NCA of two past presidents–Bill Balthrop and Carole Blair–might have given those who were “piling on” pause, but as posts by Professors Poulos and Desnoyer-Colas suggest, the assault will continue.)

Fifth, I see those who would be strong allies of those calling for diversity silenced and/or sadly departing an NCA that has long been their disciplinary home. I would strongly suggest that those who do not know the work of Balthrop and Blair, to look at it. Especially look at Blair’s award-winning, co-authored “Disciplining the Feminine” and her NCA presidential address focused on the growth of contingent faculty. The continued assaults–and the implicit refusal to say “How do we ALL work toward a shared goal–are causing those, such as Balthrop and Blair, who are strong advocates of diversity to abandon the fight because of the tactics being deployed by those who have chosen this moment to vent their anger.

Sixth, I see the anger. And I suspect, like many with a degree of privilege, that I don’t quite “get it,” but I want to understand the anger. It is palpable and probably well-understood by those who have been victims. Please, find a way to share experiences with those who have not had them but are sympathetic. Please, stop assaults that are just this side of character assassination of good people who have served NCA and the discipline long and well–and recognize that they agree with you!

Seventh, I see little recognition on the part of those attacking that they may have played a role in NCA’s problems. As others have noted, although the Distinguished Scholars might have departed from the norm and aggressively solicited nominees representing diversity, the process failed because NO ONE did the important work of soliciting and nominating. 

Knowing some of the Distinguished Scholars, I do not believe they would have rejected candidates representing diversity out of prejudice; rather, I believe they would have welcomed such candidates and, in assessing their credentials, considered how the meanings of “scholarship” and “distinguished” have changed and must continue to change as they deliberated. Too much of the CRTNET rhetoric assumes that this body of men and women are inherently prejudiced. Traditional, maybe, but to imply they are prejudiced as a group (and without citing evidence) maligns some very, very good people, some of whom are diversity’s strong allies.

Eighth, I see a very divided NCA emerging from this conflict–perhaps a much smaller NCA as folks like Balthrop and Blair reconsider career-long commitments. A smaller NCA is, of course, a weaker NCA, and a weaker NCA could easily result in a weaker discipline. So, those who are declaring and denouncing–and driving their allies away–may well win this battle, but they may be, on a number of fronts, losing the war.

And I’m certain that I have now “invited” attacks. On the verge of retirement, attacks little matter. I write for three reasons–1. I think we have the opportunity to address barriers to diversity in the discipline NOW if we seize it; 2. I fear NCA has been damaged by this “discussion,” perhaps severely damaged; 3. I think those campaigning loudly for diversity have, because of their tactics, maligned allies and lost allies.

John Hatch,

Self-Reflection and the Distinguished Scholars controversy

In light of the current discussion about the character of the responses to the Distinguished Scholars and Prof. Medhurst — in the aftermath of resignations by two former presidents of NCA — I humbly offer some observations. 

First, calling for collective and individual self-examination resonates loudly with me. Justice is a virtue (per Aristotle) as well as a social/structural ethic, and developing this virtue requires self-examination. While I have published extensively on efforts to promote racial reconciliation and justice, I know my own weaknesses and privilege only too well, and I gave myself a long time to reflect and self-examine before contributing this post.

Second, it’s difficult to listen well, see clearly, and consider all relevant factors — including one’s own culpability in a conflict system — amid the heat of righteous anger, especially the anger of a crowd. That is why we teach students (in such classes as intercultural communication and conflict management) about the importance of avoiding snap judgments and practicing mindfulness in dealing with others whose actions impact us negatively, whether in perception or material fact.

Third, it’s clear that NCA has evolved, or grown up (not saying arrived) into an association passionately committed to social justice. And the fact that there is only one non-white Distinguished Scholar to date (as well under-representation in other identity categories) certainly is an injustice to consider and address. As many have pointed out, this injustice is systemic and need not be intentional to be in force. And since systems function and grow within larger systems, the injustice need not even be rooted in NCA itself, although any large organization almost certainly has absorbed some of society’s legacy of injustice, even if it has tried to work against that legacy.

Fourth, working against systemic injustice is one thing; scapegoating individuals who raise questions about the ethics and appropriateness of a particular process for doing so is another. Unlike affirmative action in pursuit of social justice, scapegoating proactively perpetrates new injustices against targeted individuals. While scapegoating typically is done in the guise of justice or community well-being, it is still an injustice. 

If individuals are guilty of “crimes,” whether legal or social, justice demands due process for “trying” those individuals. And in that process, intentionality does matter (along with impacts). All the facts of the case should be given due consideration. Mitigating circumstances should be taken into account. To give a good example, Prof. Zarefsky carefully and humbly laid out important contextual factors and clarifying thoughts for us a few weeks ago, which merited consideration and acknowledgement. In addition, contrition, or lack thereof, should be taken into account. Prof. Medhurst humbly apologized and took corrective measures. 

Much of what we have seen on CRT-NET in the last few weeks has amounted to a positive defense of Executive Committee’s approach to affirmative action in selecting Distinguished Scholars. This voicing of support is well and good. AND there should be room for open and respectful disagreement as to the wisest and most integral approach, especially in an organization dedicated to communication, dialectic, and dialogue.

Amid the barrage of statements from divisions and individuals, it has been dismaying to witness scapegoating and caricaturing of senior colleagues who voiced disagreement with the wisdom or sensitivity of the EC’s approach — symbolically reducing them to little more than effigies of white privilege and cogs in the wheel of systemic racism  — mere grist for our critical theories rather than complex human beings, worthy of respect and consideration on many levels, even when many of our members sharply disagree with their approach to diversifying the Distinguished Scholars. 

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that some of what we have witnessed in this affair has bordered on “pillorying” or “rhetorical stoning.” Feminist rhetoricians have helped the field to recognize that rhetoric can be, and often is, violence by other means, and such violence is significantly damaging (though not physical). Granted, justice requires struggle, both rhetorical and political, but justice also requires attention to relevant particulars and potential unintended consequences of the struggle. I realize there have been good intentions (promoting justice) behind many folks’ expressions of rage and indictment — but as we have been reminded, impacts matter, not just intentions. 

In this case, the presumption was already on the side of the EC, which has the authority in this matter and had made its decision. This was not a case of the powerless using the last card in their deck against a system bent on oppressing them, but rather of an occasion to listen fair-mindedly to objections to the EC’s particular handling of the DS and then respectfully, if passionately, voice responses of support for the EC’s new process (or else propose a better way). This would have effectively accomplished the goal at hand and resoundingly affirmed the value of diversity in NCA, without the vitriol and “piling on,” as Prof. Carveth aptly put it.

Thus, even from a utilitarian standpoint, I don’t see how the ends justified the means of targeting and scapegoating — which predictably did great damage to colleagues’ reputations and relationships, and eventually precipitated the departure of two former presidents from NCA to register their dismay.

How different things could have been, and how different the climate of NCA would be right now, if we had instead witnessed a groundswell of statements affirming the goal of diversifying the Distinguished Scholars and expressing views on how best to accomplish that (e.g., affirming the EC’s process, or calling for further deliberation between the EC and the DS) — *without* statements “condemning” individuals, or threatening to boycott journals, or other measures like these. 

Over the past weeks, I have wanted to speak up numerous times but did not feel I was ready. I needed to listen and reflect more — and also to examine myself for biases and reflexes that may have clouded my judgment. I do not claim to have arrived at unbiased, unclouded judgment in the observations expressed above, but I hope that I have made some contribution, however small, to the conditions for self-reflection in our organization — and also for gestures of rapprochement where warranted.

Humbly offered,
John Hatch

Wil Upchurch,

Discussion submission

Let’s look at just a small fraction of the sentiments expressed by the open letter signatories in recent days. Everything in this letter is cited, publicly verifiable, and archived. You can view it directly at the source at the following link, for as long as it remains public:

They have dreamed about, celebrated, and (possibly) threatened the death of Carole Blair and others.

– “I love the YUUUUUUUUUUUGE picture of CB, like he’s memorializing her at a funeral.” (Ragan Fox, FB, 7/9/19)

– “Oh, he knows she’s dead.” (Ursela Ore, FB, 7/9/19)

– “Ersula Ore: This. This. This. More of [scholars being dead/killed].” (Ragan Fox, FB, 7/9/19)

– “There are surely ways to denounce even death threats without retreating to conventional norms of decorum and civility rhetoric?” (Joan Faber McAlister, FB, 7/9/19, on why Blair should have been more polite in the face of possible death threats from the signatories)

– “The most important op-ed he will ever write will be — “I believe” for most of us — his [dead] last.” (Jay Baglia, FB, 7/11/19, wishing death on Rick Vatz on behalf of the entire group, to which no one objected)

This is acceptable to them, because they dehumanize those who are not in their group,

– “What needs to be done to make this creature go away” – Devika Chawla, FB, 6/27/19

– “[NCA scholars are] dead, nearly dead, or zombies.” (Chawla, FB, 7/13/19)

They have positioned themselves as rage-filled…

– “Moving forward [we argue for] the necessity for holding on to the rage.” – Dutta and Chawla, blog, 6/24/19

– “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” (Chawla ironically citing Fanon, FB, 7/12/19)

– “There are always unintended casualties to righteous rebellion.” (Jason Wayne Hough, FB, 6/20/19)

…relentless and organized in pursuit of NCA’s destruction…

– “This is and has always been bigger than Marty Medhurst, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, or the NCA Distinguished Scholars.” (Bryan McCann, FB, 6/19/19)

– “There’s more to this moment than only Medhurst and RPA, of course.” (Ira Allen, FB, 6/25/19)

– “This is an activist moment. We see this moment and these conversations as the beginnings for undoing and re-doing what makes up the terrains of our field.” (Chawla and Dutta)

– “It’s not enough to tweak the rules to the game.  It may not even be enough to completely change the rules of the game. Perhaps now is a moment in the discipline when we rise up and say, “new game.” (Sarah J Tracy, 6/13/19)

– “This has always been about more than this latest incident.” (Washington, et al, CRTNET, 6/17/19)

– “We call for a broad and energized effort for real transformation and true action. Extending beyond weak or artificial band-aids and gesture, we support a bold, sweeping, and systematic series of transformative efforts at all levels of the organization to—in no uncertain terms—challenge and change the culture of NCA.” (Davis et al, CRTNET, 6/21/19)

…and in a battle for literal survival.

– “For many scholars of colour, the simple act of survival in the discipline calls for tremendous grit and resilience.” (Dutta, FB, 6/29/19)

– “Let us be clear: We do not simply choose to do this work out of moral conviction. We must do this work in order to survive.” (Calafell et al, letter to Blair, 6/28/19)

The necessity for destroying NCA does not stop at its structures, however. Let’s see what they think of older scholars,

– “I am sick to death of these out of touch people telling us how we are allowed to perform anger or make changes. Please retire already.” (Calafell, FB, 7/11/19)

– “Martin Medhiocrity”, Robin James, FB, 6/24/2019

From Lisa Corrigan’s Twitter,

– “The generational divide also limits what is possible because [Old] folks can only see what HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE.”

– “Older [scholars] are not internetting well, if at all. This is both a blessing and a curse.” (Corrigan, Twitter, 7/2/19)

Corrigan states that older scholars, in relation to the open letter signatories,

– Process information more slowly

– Are incapable of innovation

– Are incapable of reading and understanding the work of younger scholars

– Aren’t as well networked

– Can’t or won’t use communication technology

– Don’t engage the public

– Are intellectually ossified and irrelevant to today’s scholars, who have “read differently”

– Think and understand the discipline in completely different, ignorant ways

– Are psychologically damaged, “they have founder’s syndrome”

According to Corrigan and the open letter signatories who have cheered her, if you were born before 1965 you are old, ignorant, addle-brained, psychologically damaged, and irrelevant to not only NCA, but intellectual and public life. They explicitly deny this is ageist, characterizing their beliefs as merely “the facts,” and that you should all retire and be forgotten.

And what they think of white scholars in NCA,

– White scholars within NCA are “stupid and contemptible,” and “not to be trusted.” (Leandra Hernandez et al, caucus statement, 6/18/2019)

– [White scholars] “please leave.” (Calafell, FB; Desnoyers-Colas, CRTNET, 7/9/19)

– “White people are so scared! We’ve frightened them so that they fear speaking out!” (Cloud, FB, 7/10/19)

– “All that stuff on Crtnet is, as people noted, white tears, white fragility, and white flight.” – (Chawla, FB, 7/9/19)

– “I love how these white people are claiming NCA is so hostile for them.” (Calafell, FB, 7/10/19)

The preceding Calafell quote demonstrates that they deny your subjectivity by denying you the ability to respond.

– “If you are feeling attacked and vulnerable, exposed, guilty, angry whatever–you do have to live through those feelings and still commit to change.” (Shome, FB, 7/8/19)

– “These are sounding more and more like “coming out” as racists posts!” (Rao, FB, in response to resignations and rebuttals)

– “Please do not make all this about yourself.” (Shome, FB, 7/8/19)  

– “Do I need to know who Theodore Sheckels is?” (Chawla, FB, 7/11/19)

– “Please get the “me” out of this landscape.” (Shome, FB, 7/8/19)  

– “Do not provide constant ‘evidence’ from your past work or actions to (seemingly) argue that you are not racially insensitive. Just because you collect evidence does not mean that somehow you are pure.” (Shome, FB, 7/8/19)

They claim they aren’t asking for litmus tests and loyalty oaths, but then say things like:

– “Scholars of color would admire and recognize you if you admitted that you are socialized by a racist system.” (Shome, FB, 7/8/19)

– “Is this a concern that the division hasn’t issued statement about the DS/Medhurst/NCA crisis, or other abuses?” “Both, I think.” (de la Garza and Chawla, FB, 6/25/19)

– “We accept no apologies” (Paige Pettyjohn Edley, FB, 6/24/19)   

These are not cherry-picked quotes, they are representative of the daily flood of hate that powers their “moment.” Go check out the Facebook group for yourself if you haven’t, I don’t think they’ll keep it public very much longer. Here’s the link again:

To them, you are the equivalent of Trump supporters (Yousman, CRTNET, 6/13/19; de la Garza, Kelly, Corrigan, FB, 7/9/19) and segregationists (Kristin Hoerl, FB, 7/8/19).

They demean, dehumanize, and threaten you and then accuse you of “white fragility” when you respond with anything other than complete obeisance. Then they come here and lie to you about who they are and what they want (Poulos, CRTNET, 6/24/19). “Why are you so defensive?,” they ask. But, their own words reveal them. Don’t let them lie to you anymore.

They, in their own words, have framed this as a matter of their literal “survival.”

They, in their own words, have positioned you as an enemy that must be removed.

They, in their own words, have dehumanized, mocked, and belittled you.

They, in their own words, seek to eliminate your subjectivity and bend you to their ends with “unending rage.”

– “This has always been about more than this latest incident.”

– “There are always casualties.”

– “[Carole Blair] knows she’s dead.”

– “This. This. This. More [death].”

In the world they are working toward, you are dead and they are dancing on your graves. NCA’s Executive Committee has endorsed and is acting on these positions.

Good luck at the convention.

Statement on Diversity and Inclusion from Officers of the IPFC Interest Group of the CSCA – July 2019

As the leadership of the Interpersonal and Family Communication (IPFC) Interest Group of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA), we write in support of the NCA Executive Committee’s changes to the nomination and selection process for the Distinguished Scholar award, and detail some ways in which we, as a regional interest group, plan to contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within our interest group. 

We recognize that we have not been a historically diverse interest group and have begun to take actions to address this in hopes that members see our interest group as welcoming and desirable. In 2018, we voted to include family in the title of our interest group. This change—although not a fix for our lack of diversity—has provided a starting place for inclusion, in that we have made it explicit that family communication research, its related research methods (more often interpretive and critical than traditional interpersonal scholarship), and the scholars conducting this research have a home at CSCA. 

A new award—Dawn O. Braithwaite Award for Qualitative Research—was endowed for our interest group in 2017 to celebrate research embracing paradigms / approaches to research that have often been marginalized in our subdiscipline. 

Moving forward, at our upcoming convention in Chicago (April, 2020), we will be dedicating a slot for discussion as we work towards a strategic plan, and to discuss ways in which individuals have diversified their scholarship, and how we are planning on diversifying our scholarship moving forward. If you are interested in being on this panel, please contact Kaitlin Phillips at 
The Vice-Chair has already been in the planning stages of using her courtesy panel for a discussion/workshop to highlight the ways scholars can use social scientific methods to promote social justice. Although this panel is in its early conceptualization, one goal is to show the potential for social science and humanistic collaboration.

We will be looking into how we might add questions to the paper review process that address inclusion and diversity. We recognize that the structure of the review process needs to change to reward scholarship that features diverse populations and hard(er) to get samples. Without this structural change, seeking these populations can be costly (in time, resources, etc.) for students and faculty without permanent positions and/or tenure.

Finally, we pledge to be more mindful and to make IPFC studies more inclusive, not only in CSCA but on our campuses, in our professional organizations, and across the larger community of our discipline. We know that these discussions and actions can only strengthen our interest group and discipline. 


Kaitlin Phillips, Utah State University – Chair and 2019-2020 Program Planner

Kristina Scharp, University of Washington – Vice-Chair

Shawn Starcher, Muskingum University – Secretary

Allison Thorson, University of San Francisco – Immediate Past Chair

Christopher Poulos,

Brief response to Scheckels

Just a point of clarification: Although I was honored to be called out in Professor Scheckels’ “distinguished” post yesterday, I must point out that, in the post referred to, I was pointing out cowardice, not piling onto cowardice. 

Or, in the Vatzian spin-model, where cowardice is courage, you could call it piling onto courage. 
Running away when things get hot is the easy way out. 

Some people need to try harder.

Bryan Crable,

Kenneth Burke Society Statement: Acknowledging our Past, in Solidarity for the Future

We, the undersigned members of the Kenneth Burke Society Executive Board, and leaders of the Kenneth Burke Society, NCA Branch, feel compelled to address the issues raised by (but not limited to) the changes instituted by NCA regarding the nomination and selection of Distinguished Scholars. As the continuing conversation in this space has demonstrated, NCA is not the only organization whose members are struggling with the issues of privilege and structural inequality — or with the disruption and disagreement produced by sincere efforts to actualize (and not simply gesture toward) diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In many respects (and we are certainly not the first to say this), the discussions on social media and listservs like CRTNET require an urgent attention to the past. For example: the troubling historical record of a system that has functioned to equate merit with particular kinds of scholarship, and particular types of scholars (white, male, cis, able-bodied). Or: arguments in support of this system drawing upon false binaries that have been used for decades against, for example, affirmative action policies (e.g., diversity vs. “merit”). Or: arguments in support of this system that rely on analogies to other systems or practices historically critiqued as racist and patriarchal (e.g., IQ tests, rank and tenure).

In all, though, it means reckoning — as eloquently described in the many statements produced by NCA members, leaders, caucuses, and divisions — with our discipline’s own past, and the way in which it has functioned structurally to reproduce and sustain inequality across lines of difference. We, the undersigned (though we do not speak for all members of the Society) feel compelled to recognize the Kenneth Burke Society, and Burke Studies, as deeply implicated in this conversation, and in this past. 

The Society, and the field of Burke Studies in general, has for too long functioned as an exclusionary space, reproducing an equation of Burke with “white” and “male.” This has worked to denigrate and marginalize work by the many women (starting with Marie Hochmuch Nichols) who have been excellent readers and scholars of Burke and rhetoric; even those women who have worked to carve out a reputation in the field or Society have been too often made to feel out of place, as though they were intruding into an “old boy’s club.” This has also worked to discourage students and faculty of color from finding a home in the Society — and has rendered illegible those scholars of color who do, and have done, excellent work with Burke’s texts. 

Although the KBS is not alone in this regard, this is our past. The task, then, is to make something different for the future, to find possibilities in the past that were not seized (by Burke, or those who followed in his footsteps), possibilities that can aid in that effort.

This is not, as so many have pointed out in this space, to call individual people, leaders, or scholars in the KBS or field at large racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ+ etc., but to acknowledge that structures are not neutral, they benefit some and not others, and they have consequences. Here we might recall Burke’s meditation on this point from <Attitudes Toward History>: “insofar as those for whom the [dominant cultural] frame is comparatively adequate are kept by their own material emphases from noting its limitations, it is the ‘culturally dispossessed’ whom they accuse of ‘attitudinizing’ (the new attitudes, not being their attitudes, are felt as attitudes, rather than as ‘truth’)” (pp. 40-41).

Once such a situation emerges, some (especially those advantaged by the structure) might be tempted to see the solution too simply, as Burke’s comic call for listening and “tolerance.” But, as he reminds us in that same text, the comic frame should not be understood as a call to “tolerate” the intolerable. When a structure produces widespread and destructive forms of alienation for those dispossessed by it, then the only way forward is a change of structure: “For alienations of this sort .  .  . the comic frame could not, and should not, offer recompense. Its value should only reside in helping to produce a state of affairs whereby these rigors may abate” (pp. 174-175).

We are committed, then, to continuing this vital conversation, but also to making the KBS, and thereby helping to make the field, different than it has been. Hierarchy may be inevitable, but, as Burke might say, the particular hierarchical scheme critiqued by so many in this space is not. Our 2020 Triennial has been in planning stages for months, and we from the beginning were committed to disrupting the KBS’s past, in speakers, conference theme, and format. We, the undersigned, are committed to continuing this difficult, necessary work within the Society, and to solidarity with all those who want to make from our collective pasts a very different future. This is not a coerced pledge of loyalty; this is a recognition that hard, necessary, long-overdue work lies ahead, and a promise to take up our part of it.

Bryan Crable, Kenneth Burke Society (KBS) Executive Board

David Blakesley, KBS Executive Board

Elizabeth Weiser, KBS Executive Board

M. Karen Walker, KBS Executive Board

Jouni Tilli, KBS Executive Board

Erik Garrett, Kenneth Burke Society, NCA Branch, Chair

Jon Carter, Kenneth Burke Society, NCA Branch, Vice Chair

Michaela D.E. Meyer,

Alliance Building and the Optics of Resignation

Just a few short days after an invigorating pre-conference at ICA on #CommunicationSoWhite, I began watching the NCA Distinguished Scholars issue unfold online. Like many others, I am navigating a profound sense of discomfort, loss, rage and grief associated with the ongoing narrative. I ruminate on Foucault’s observation that “Disciplines will define not a code of law, but a code of normalization.” This is *not* the time to quit the exhausting work. It’s time to embrace it. And it’s time to recognize that if you are an ally in any context, there are ways you can do better.

As a bisexual/queer white woman living within our discipline, I have a particular set of experiences with marginalization. Early in my career, I was consistently struck by how frequently my interactions at NCA reproduced real barriers to change. Slowly, these interactions made very clear how power and privilege work through and within intersectional contexts. And they made me pause and redirect my efforts into organizations other than NCA. I was at a place in my career that I could do so – and I certainly recognize the position of privilege I occupied when making that decision to step back. I simply felt that instead of making tidal waves of change, NCA within its massive organizational structure was not yet mobilized around issues of diversity, equality, and inclusion. 

We are now. 

I would also be remiss not to mention that scholars who are marginalized rarely have the privilege of making public statements about our departures that garner loss; rather we/they quietly resign over time after years of feeling unwelcome. My hope is that these scholars in particular feel welcome to come back, be listened to, lead and transform NCA. 

In a recent essay by Ghabra and Calafell (TPQ, 2018), they capture it perfectly: Alliance building begins with owning and learning from moments of failure. As a queer woman in the academy, I am always in pursuit of becoming a better ally, and I know I can do better to advocate against racism. Likewise, straight allies can always do more to fight the rampant heteronormative biases in our discipline. Allies who are fundamentally against all forms of oppression, marginalization and erasure can do better and should always do better. Asking one to do better is not “bullying” – it is a call to action. Rather than considering resignation, my hope is that our vastly diverse discipline realizes that *this* is the moment to engage.

Vince Waldron,

Toward Forgiveness

I have been reading and listening carefully to the posts on CRTNET, with the intention of learning from, and feeling, the experiences of those who have been so served so poorly by an organization that I have faithfully supported for more than 30 years.  I am heartbroken to (finally, fully, deeply) recognize the human and professional costs borne by some of our colleagues due to the institutional racism that seeps from the organizing structures, selection processes, and comfortable conventions of my own professional organization. As a long-time member of NCA, I needn’t fret too much about my own “intentions” when the effects are so clear, have been so clear, for years.

I need only notice the sea of white faces in the audiences of the business meetings I attend at the annual NCA meeting.  And while I deeply admire so many of NCA’s distinguished scholars, I felt a wave of disbelief, even shame, when I learned that the group is almost exclusively white.  I am proud of the way our discipline has diversified its scholarship over the years and “grown up,” but at the same time, as a member of NCA I own this disappointing, unjust, and well… racist, side of our history.   

Although in this forum we have witnessed a few regrettable attacks on persons and classes of persons, I have been humbled by those who have posted message that are both vulnerable and caring.  My eyes and heart have been opened by the  thoughtful, heartfelt, and honest responses to this painful moment in NCA history:  Righteous expressions of anger. Baffled expressions of self-defense.  Exasperated demands for justice.  Hopes for improved understanding. Painful self-disclosures. Terminations of membership.   My own hope is that we will someday — after we make progress in creating a professional community that is both more just and truly welcoming —  find room to explore forgiveness as another response to our history of institutional racism.     

Having studied the communication of forgiveness for roughly 20 years, I still barely understand its complexity, relationship-healing properties, and (yes) potentially-harmful power dynamics.  But, my personal understanding tells me that forgiveness is begins with a clear-eyed and unequivocal recognition of the wrongdoing and harm for which I am responsible.   It fully legitimizes the emotions that people experience when they have been hurt by me or the community to which I belong.  

It is a process of deep reflection and a forming of genuine commitments to be a better person, to form more just and caring relationships. to start anew.  I suspect that certain acts are truly unforgivable, at least by us humans.  But in my own experience, the processes of seeking and granting forgiveness can be a means of healing some of the pain we cause each other. In our case, it might be an alternative to an escalating cycle of anger, accusation, and revenge that will eventually drown out expressions of good will.  (Yes, I get that revenge yields its own special satisfactions).        

In this spirit, I call on the leadership of NCA to help the membership engage in a renewed and clear-eyed examination of the institutional racism that has disadvantaged so many members.  And I ask that, after this period of reflection,  we consider issuing an explicit institutional request for forgiveness to those members who have been harmed by implicit practices of racism, sexism, and hetero-normativity.        

As for me –a 59-year-old, cisgender, white male of quite modest professional distinction —  I recognize that the current system has often worked in my favor.  Early in my career I received “fatherly” mentoring from older male colleagues that I suspect was offered less easily to my female, nonwhite, and gay colleagues.  I was never forced to endure the sexual harassment that so many of my female peers have described. 

I have many times admitted in research articles that the lack of ethnic diversity of my sample was a “limitation” of my research, but rarely have I succeeded in righting that wrong, and my work was published anyway.  I helped lead an NCA presidential task-force designed to diversify NCA’s leadership pool, but failed to put up a fight when its recommendations were allowed to languish.  “Beyond my pay grade”, I thought with a shrug.    

I can’t meaningfully apologize for my maleness or the color of my skin.  But I certainly could have acted in these situations to make sure that the advantages I received from my NCA affiliation were shared by members of every skin color, gender, and sexual preference.  I should have spoken up more forcefully. I should have paid closer attention to selection processes that churned out an endless stream of familiar white nominees for our most prestigious forms of recognition.  It is for these of acts of omission that I seek forgiveness.      

Richard Vatz,

NCA and Diversity


For the NCA’s president to imply that he and the NCA will foster true diversity is the height of, to use a nice word, inconsistency. 

Moreover, the EC’s characteristically secretive expropriation of the selection process of the Distinguished Scholars, as Professor David Zarefsky convincingly argues, is politically unfair, to say the least, particularly without an explanation or apology.

In addition, the consistent anti-conservative and anti-conservative thought and actions that have inhered in the NCA leadership since 2016 is academically indefensible.  

Please do not make the unsupported and insincere claims of adherence to /general/ “diversity.”  There is no evidence that the NCA supports such diversity.

Put simply, the NCA only selectively supports the marketplace of ideas and academic freedom.

This can be changed, and there is nothing wrong with looking at the DS choices, but it takes serious and fair leadership to rectify overall hidden biases.

S. A. Welch,

What the heck has happened to us as ROLE MODELS?

I have been reading the series of posts that began with the Distinguished Scholars issue but seems to have grown (Morphed?) into something that I, sadly, find quite disturbing. My disturbance is in light of the fact we, as established scholars, are to be role models for upcoming faculty.

I am certain that the majority of us took or taught a course in conflict resolution. Perhaps it is time to re-read our notes from the class.

I also urge us to remember that actions speak louder than words and that many newer scholars are watching our behavior, probably more closely than we might imagine.

Rod Carveth,

Discussion post

After reading Wil Upchurch’s contribution to CRTNET yesterday, I admit to being taken aback by a number of the posts that he was re-posting. Upchurch gathered his material from a variety of sources, though many came from the Facebook page of the group Communication Scholars for Transformation (hereafter CST). I went to see for myself whether the posts that Upchurch picked were a fair representation of messages on CST.

To be fair, a few of the comments that Upchurch selected were taken out of context, and don’t accurately reflect what the poster was saying. On the other hand, many of the other posts revealed a disturbing underbelly of CST where the group’s members launched ugly, gratuitous attacks on other longtime NCA members. Many CST members were horrified that Upchurch cast light on the group’s activities, as if he violated their privacy – an interesting position to take given that the group is public.

It took only a couple of minutes before one CST member attacked Upchurch on the group. Had the attack been on what Upchurch had done, I would not have engaged. Instead, Upchurch was characterized as “frightened, confused and angry” by someone who has no knowledge of Upchurch’s emotional or psychological state. I then weighed in on the thread, later regretting the gigantic time suck.

It would not take long for someone perusing the group’s postings to discover that there’s a lot of anger expressed by members of the group. Anger is not always a bad thing. For one thing, getting anger out can be cathartic. For another, anger can be an effective motivator – a good means to an end. Unfortunately, too often in this group, anger is the end in itself.

Another thing someone would discover looking through the group is how often ad hominem attacks are made against people. Now, I give as good as I get. Attack me and I respond in kind. But, there seems to be a rule in the group. They can attack you. You are not allowed to respond. If the members want to verbally whack like you are some sort of piñata, you are supposed to just take it. I am not exactly sure what drives that rule, but one thought that comes to mind is that if I responded, I was not displaying enough guilt for my white privilege.

Of course, I did respond (blasphemy!) – often and forcefully – and for my troubles was threatened by members to tattle/actually tattling to my dean.

None of that really bothers me. What does bother me is that a member of the group contacted me via a disposable email address thanking me for being brave enough to engage with the “haters” in the group because the person was too “scared” of them. When a group that decries the intimidation that a number of members have faced are themselves engaging in intimidation of other members so that they are too frightened to speak up, then I wonder what the result of the “transformation” the Communication Scholars for Transformation will be.

Joshua H Miller,

Confessions of a Young Academic: Discussion Post

I have been hesitant to write about the ongoing controversy in our field of communication. As someone starting off his career and hoping to get tenure, the hesitation is largely out of fear of retribution. And, of course, the recent post by Upchurch only has reinvigorated this fear in me. But, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words have been haunting me: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And, after seeing the latest misrepresentation of those calling for change, I thought I must write.

One of the most disturbing events for me this week was witnessing a white scholar decide that he, and he alone, has the authority to determine what constitutes racism, despite the smart objections of a scholar of color. And, although a cis scholar, the same individual decided that he also had sole authority to tell a trans scholar how to interpret a statement about a trans scholar. These two examples alone illustrate the necessity of the discipline having an informed and engaged conversation about its own transformation. Because of this, I offer the following:

Confession One: I have read the attacks against scholars of color and their allies within a broader context of violence against people of color and the inhumane treatment of immigrants at the border (and Trump’s latest racist call for female representatives of color to return to where they came from).

The way the arguments and quotes of scholars calling for change have been strawpersoned, misrepresented, and cherry-picked reminds me of the carefully edited videos used to show immigrants as dangerous from our past election cycle. Listening to people in our field refer to scholars of color as uncivil reminds me of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has helped legitimize the policies at the border; “they won’t be denied a shower and soap if they went through the proper channels.”. The ways people have been told to remain civil has reminded me of the ways those fighting for immigrants have been told that they have gone too far and that people will not support their tactics. Order and civility before justice.

I am reminded me of another King quote and his confession about his grave disappointment with the white moderate:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

And, the silence of many scholars, who have decided against entering the dispute because it is too messy, reminds me of those who remain silent in the face of the violence happening at the border because politics is too complicated or because they see there are good/bad people on both sides. Remember: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I will add that I too have remained silent when I should have said something several times the past month. But, I do not think we can ignore rhetoric that tells scholars of color to stay in their place, especially as we see these detention camps persist.

Confession Two: I fear backlash, and I fear the discipline. But, I have made my bed, and leaving is not an option for me. I have too much student debt to leave now. Leaving is a luxury not all of us can afford. The fact that I cannot leave does not diminish my fear.
First, two quick backstories that I feel compelled to share because of the discussion of death threats. I worked at a factory over the summer both in high school and a year in college.

One day, I sat across a guy who often wore a cross necklace. He was wearing it that day. Sometime during the day, he started talking about his other job—a construction job. Starring me in the eyes, he talked about how he was working on two gay gentlemen’s house. Then, he vividly described how he wanted to bash their skulls in and murder them as he continued to look at me. My heart sank.

Although I did sit a little further away from him, I went back to work the next day. I had to. I needed to raise the money to pay for my first semester’s worth of textbooks (as you know, working all summer covers student fees and textbook costs), and I did not want to explain to anyone why I was not returning. When one must return to a rhetorically toxic environment (Spencer and Barnett, “Touring Homophobia”), one must learn resilience and surviving until the next day, trying one’s best to envision a future of thriving.

There is also a different between calling for the death of an oppressive system (transformation) and calling for the death of people. And, twisting people’s words into a death threat, when they call for something else, minimalizes the pain experienced by those who have suffered through threats of violence. Also, it is curious to me that the invocation of death threats is happening now and not since scholars have started writing about the hate mail and death threats that they have received (See Cloud, “Foiling the Intellectuals,” 2009).

Another point: these calls for civility mask how incivility constitutes an everyday occurrence for scholars on the margin. Scholars on the margins often experience microaggressions from colleagues and students, become painfully tokenized and asked to do additional unpaid labor, feel unsafe or get attacked on their campus, just to name a few ways people experience incivility by just trying to live (See Patti Duncan, “Hot Commodities, Cheap Labor,” Frontiers; Ore, Lynching). In fact, when I would go out in my hometown, I would often play a game where I counted the number of times someone said “f*g.” Never under a dozen. Some of us live in communities, organizations, and systems that are not civil toward us.

Second story (and the story of why I hate my thesis): During the first year of my doctoral studies, I found out that a small group of Christians was working on trying to discredit my thesis and get my thesis revoked (whatever that means). There is still at least one of the websites up on the internet. Since then, I have been fearful about talking about my scholarship. I know my anxiety has shown on several occasions when I presented my research publicly.

So, I deeply fear backlash and the discipline. I always thought those writing these websites were outside of the discipline. The last month has shown me that is not an assumption I can make any longer. Moreover, (and this is really what I wanted to say when I started writing) I have and know others who have received anonymous reviews that contain marginalizing tropes all the time. I, for one, received a review that said my scholarship was not worthy of publication because it is impossible to be an LGBTQ+ Christian. I wonder how many times someone writing about conservative Christian speaker and religious freedom has received the review that “you cannot publish on conservative Christianity, because being a conservative, straight, Christian is an impossible identity.”

Attacks against affirming, inclusive, and diverse scholarship already happens under the anonymity of peer review. As someone who has had people cloak themselves in anonymity to attack my scholarship publicly, I am deeply concerned about retribution via anonymous peer review. I would have this fear whether I spoke to the current controversy or not. And, I fear scholars using taken-out-of-context quotes from my scholarship to demean the work I have been doing as has already been done. Seriously, if a white cis scholar thinks he can tell scholars of color and trans scholars how to read texts on Facebook about their lived experiences, just imagine what people say under the cloak of anonymity. These are my observations of someone who has been in the discipline for a short period of time. I imagine those speaking out and have been in the discipline longer have hidden cvs full of similar experiences.

Confession Three: If we follow Bitzer’s conception of audience (those who have access to the levers of power and are persuadable), then I worry that the intransigence shown by some scholars in the field will be a stumbling block to transformation. I just cannot stop thinking about all of the scholarship not being referenced or engaged, including

(1) essays about how appeals to civility can be used to silence, oppress, and prevent social change,

(2) essays about how rhetorics of containment and how appeals to procedure maintain status quo power relations,

(3) essays about the labor of women, GLBTQ+ people, and faculty of color that makes it more difficult for them to receive recognition for their work in the academy,

(4) essays that distinguish between structural forms of oppression and individual acts of bigotry (and how even seemingly “benevolent” individual acts can sustain structure) and how they manifest in high education (See Duncan), and

(5) just generally the scholarship on rhetoric of social protests and social movements. I believe that a productive discussion will be hard to come by when so much scholarship is not being engaged.

Jay Baglia,

Response to Upchurch #17246

Before and after the November 2018 midterm election — an election resulting in a record number of women and people of color advancing to the House of Representatives — a number of news sources attempted to chronicle perceived threats of violence by Democrats.

Titles include: “When Eric Holder and other Dems call for violence” (Fox News, by Steve Scalise, R-LA); “Democratic Party ‘Lunatics’ are promoting violence” (Newsweek, by Sebastian Gorka); “Democrats must end mob rule” (The Hill); “Dems Silent as Violence against Republicans Escalates” (Investor’s Business Daily); “Republicans accuse Democrats of ‘mob’ tactics as midterms approach” (CNBC), “When will the Democrats condemn the left’s growing turn to violence?”(NYPost).

There are many more (google “democrats promoting violence”).

So when Wil Upchurch (University of Pittsburgh) attempted to provide a discourse analysis of exchanges among “Communication Scholars for Transformation” I knew I recognized a pattern. Upchurch organized his themes into 1) death threats, 2) rage-filled, 3) a battle for survival, 4) perspectives on white scholars, and 5) loyalty oaths.

Contrary to Mr. Upchurch’s claims to the contrary, he does, in fact, cherry pick his representative examples. Furthermore, through his questionable practice of lurking, he takes many examples out of context, exaggerates and misconstrues meaning. As he reads these purportedly offensive posts, why did he not comment on them? (opposite of “courage”).

He does, however, underestimate the importance of what this group is attempting to do. In fact – in the same way the news stories above mistake passion for aggression – Mr. Upchurch fails to acknowledge what this group is fighting for. We ARE filled with rage. This IS a battle for survival. The causes of the rage ARE – in many instances – perpetuated by out-of-touch and often (but not always) aging and white scholars.

Finally, I couldn’t help but note the implicit threats Mr. Upchurch himself advances in his post – including his “we” to the “they, “us” to the “them,” “our” to the “their.” This kind of othering is racist and emblematic of the very Discourse (big D) that is being resisted. Who is this intended audience of Mr. Wil Upchurch?

Signed, White, male, and born prior to 1965 (and riding the arc bending toward justice).

These opinions are my own.

Bryan McCann,


Dear Mr. Upchurch,

Thank you for your input.

In the future, when misquoting and/or decontextualizing a small sample of the more than 30,000 posts by black, brown, disabled, trans, queer, and non-U.S. citizen people calling on a range of rhetorical strategies (e.g. anger, humor, irony, hyperbole, metaphor) to comment on their experiences with pain in professional spaces, I hope you will at the very least also include links to the many hilarious .gifs we have posted.


Bryan J. McCann, PhD

Co-Founder, Communication Scholars for Transformation

One of the White Guys You Quoted

Devika Chawla,

Communication Scholars for Transformation (Public Facebook Group)

Submitted by Devika Chawla, Professor, Ohio University

Dear Mr. Upchurch, Thank you for decontextualizing and recontextualizing black/brown/queer/trans pain.  Kudos to you. I would like to take this opportunity to invite members of the Crtnet community to join our public Facebook group (Communication Scholars for Transformation), follow and participate in our meaningful discussions, and contribute to the hard work of creating a more inclusive scholarly community.

Star Muir,

NCA Moving Forward
Star Muir, NCA President

The NCA Executive Committee remains committed, by our core values and by NCA’s guiding documents, to removing structural barriers or exclusionary policies and practices that undermine a diverse, equitable, and inclusive association. We reaffirm our commitment to NCA’s mission statement that, in part, says “NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion” and to NCA’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (

Our perspective is that diversity, equity, and inclusion are no longer intermittent or ancillary to NCA decision-making. We are strongly committed to moving forward as a community to ensure that our statements about diversity become institutional policy and action.

At our August meeting, we will continue our work on three issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion that are already on our agenda. These include: 1) The ongoing process for improving and reforming the Distinguished Scholar Award selection process; 2) The revisions for training, recruiting, and selecting a diverse group of editors for NCA journals; and 3) The ongoing discussion about NCA’s Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment efforts to ensure attendee’s safety at all NCA meetings and events. We further anticipate discussing and responding to the current petition regarding the transformation of the Communication discipline and considering how NCA can best support many of the initiatives announced by our divisions, interest groups, caucuses, and affiliated associations.

We appreciate the willingness and energy of all NCA members as we pursue our shared commitment to making NCA a stronger, more vibrant, and more welcoming community for the myriad roles, paradigms, identities, communities, and ideologies reflected in our membership.

Nina Lozano,


Dear Mr. Upchurch:

“These Disciplinary Deaths”

I support the death of racism.

I embrace the death of sexism.

I endorse the death of white supremacy.

I encourage the death of ableism.

I wish for the death of anti-semitism.

I call for the death of classism.

I celebrate the death of homophobia.

I applaud the death of nationalism.

I exhort the death of transphobia.

I advocate for the death of hegemony.

I advance the death of discrimination.

I foster the death of oppression.

These graves I will dance upon.

These graves I will stomp upon.

These disciplinary deaths.

Jill Bergeron,

Re: CRTNET: Announcements, Queries, and Discussions #17248

With due respect to all members and their opinions, I don’t think this is the place to air personal grievances and attack other members. Could we please just stick to Communication association business? I’m so tired of wading through these personal letters to get to what I joined Crtnet for–NEWS about NCA, SSCA, and other associations.

From the Conference on College Composition and Communication – CCCC Executive Committee, a letter of support for the National Communication Association’s position on diversity.

CCCC Officers
Asao B. Inoue, Chair
Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Chair
Julie Lindquist, Assistant Chair
Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt, Past Chair
Jessie L. Moore, Secretary

EC Members
Jonathan Alexander (CCC Editor)
Jeffrey Andelora (TYCA Past Chair)
Kristin Arola
Resa Crane Bizzaro
Chris Blankenship
Sheila Carter-Tod
Christina Cedillo
Christine Peters Cucciarre
Cristyn Elder
Candace Epps-Robertson
Heidi Estrem
Eli Goldblatt
Bump Halbritter
Holly Hassel (TETYC Editor)
Jay Jordan
Suzanne Labadie (TYCA Secretary)
Amy Lynch-Biniek (Forum Editor)
Aja Y. Martinez
Bruce McComiskey
Steve Parks (SWR Editor)
Leslie Roberts
Michelle Bachelor Robinson
Donnie Johnson Sackey
Jennifer Sano-Franchini
Trixie Smith
Cheryl Hogue Smith (TYCA Chair)
Christine Tulley
Karrieann Soto Vega (Graduate Student Representative)
Shelley Rodrigo (Parliamentarian)

A Statement of Support from MLA RCWS Forum Members

The undersigned members of the MLA and the Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies Forum would like to acknowledge recent controversies regarding the National Communication Association’s Distinguished Scholars program and its selection process. As scholars of rhetoric, composition, and writing studies, many of us are also members of the National Communication Association, and those of us who are not NCA members often collaborate with rhetoric and communication scholars in the NCA. Recent statements made by Dr. Martin Medhurst, Dr. David Zarefsky, and others were a response to NCA efforts to change the Distinguished Scholars’ disproportionately white and male membership. (For access to Medhurst’s editorial, Zarefsky’s defense, discussion of the controversy, and statements issued in response, you can visit Dr. Bernadette Marie Calafell’s website: Among other troubling assertions, Medhurst, Zarefsky, and others staged a false binary between “merit” and “diversity,” arguing specifically that the rigor of rhetorical studies suffers under diversity initiatives. Their remarks demonstrate how entrenched problems of inequity and injustice are in the academy, as do the gaslighting practices of senior and established scholars in the field.

We wish to stand in solidarity with NCA members who are working toward real and structural changes in order to ensure that their organization and their practices will be more inclusive and equitable. It is necessary at this moment for all academic organizations and institutions, including the MLA, to consider how we might examine our own approaches to and policies regarding gender discrimination, white privilege, classism, heteronormativity, and ableism. And we thank and join those who are doing the work to promote inclusivity and equity in our professional organizations.

James J. Brown, Jr.
Donnie Johnson Sackey
Brice Nordquist
Ersula J. Ore
Aja Y. Martinez
Amy Wan
Bruce Horner
Annette Vee
Julia Voss
Christa Teston
Douglas Eyman
Mya Poe