Responses to Distinguished Scholars and Medhurst

Statement from the Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus:

The Executive Committee of the Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus, composed of Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, and Raquel Moreira, unanimously disapprove of the comments made by Martin Medhurst in a recent CRTNET post meant for publication in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and of the signatories of David Zarefsky’s complaint letter to NCA’s Executive Committee. Specifically, we 1) express our indignation at the notion that identity and diversity, so-called “god-terms”, are mutually exclusive from intellectual rigor, 2) our indignation at what Martin Medhurst conceives of as an attack on NCA’s Distinguished Scholars, and 3) our indignation at the notion that distinguished scholarship belongs solely to whiteness.

Grounded on the history of the colonization of our continents, the erasure of our languages, the destruction of our cultural legacies, and the ongoing and unending reclaiming and decolonization of our heritages, alongside our two-spirit allies, and alongside our brothers and sisters of different races and ethnicities across the globe who continue the fight against colonial, white supremacist patriarchy, we condemn actions that seek to undermine decades of decolonial work under the banner of meritocracy.

Underlying Medhurst’s grumbles are a series of well-known rhetorical moves, what Hasian & Delgado, Hurtado, and Squires call pendejo games, wherein members of a dominant sector of society feign ignorance toward the ongoing historical oppression of racial minorities. Such hypocrisies have been used to defer and deter radical change, safeguarding systems of privilege, inequity, and oppression, alienating scholars of color from the academy, from their own intellectual labor, and from the material conditions wherein they might create new spaces to pursue their intellectual endeavors.

We deplore the tokenization of scholars of color and diverse gender identities, sexualities, physical abilities, and backgrounds. Perhaps Medhurst expected an ovation as some sort of white savior. Perhaps Medhurst expected gratitude. Nonetheless, the tokenization of the unnamed transgender scholar only proves ineptitude at the face of the perceived changes in the academy—changes feared as attacks on the privileges of white, heterosexual, cisgender male scholars. In his message, Medhurst provides little to no mention of the scholar’s own intellectual merit, begging the question: why bring this up, if not for self-aggrandizing and self-defense? While we do not speak on behalf of the transgender author, and while we do not wish to “out” this author, we want to emphasize that our division has, from its beginning, sought to serve as a place of safety and inclusion.

We take this moment to remind our allies, and in particular our gringo allies, of the ample research that ought not be forgotten or dismissed in a moment like this: research on the violent discrimination inherent in the language of American exceptionalism, bootstrap mentality, and liberal meritocracy. Many of our members grew up being told we are not good enough, intelligent enough, and in short, not worthy of existence in the academy and beyond. The myth of meritocracy that at one point, perhaps, led us to think of the academy as a place of belonging, now forces us to reconsider our aspirations, to continue our unending struggle in the decolonization of the academy, and to reify our commitments to the creation of a world without injustice.

Let us not forget the Zarefsky gang, who perhaps too aware of their audience, appear to have no trouble placing and patrolling the baseless border between “distinguished” and “diverse.” For some, this may appear as a mere result of the current political climate. They might tell us to chill and enjoy the summer. To throw on a pair of cargo shorts, break out the Birkenstocks and socks, and enjoy a margarita. Summer time is the grinding season. But the signatories must not be ignored. The same bordering practices that allow Central Americans to be thought of as “immigrants” are central to our concerns in the study of Latina/o/x communication studies. And such bordering practices are clear in the actions of those who seek to claim indigenous land as their inherited territory. This practice predates Trump and the signatories. Let us not dismiss this as a symptom of the times and, instead, address this as the reality of centuries-long colonization.

From the historically-grounded perspective of the Executive Committee, LCSD/LRC has aspired to serve as a space where Latina/o/x scholars can feel safe and where their work can be valued, not just by friends, but also by intellectual colleagues in the field of communication studies. In that spirit, we want to assure those who seek asylum within the warzone that is communication studies that our division and caucus stand alongside its less privileged members and will advocate on their behalf.

The leadership of NCA’s Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus strongly condemn the statements made by Professor Medhurst. Moreover, we are disappointed in the signatories that accompany David Zarefsky’s Distinguished Scholars complaint letter as well as the displeasure with the numerous white scholars who continue to write about Latinx issues is various subfields of communication, but remain silent when it comes to making space for scholars of color. We want those involved to know that while we are disappointed, their actions do not necessarily surprise us. Deep inside, we always knew there was a reason to distrust whiteness within “our” institutions. In their actions, they have undone decades of coalitional and decolonial work. We would like to say that it’ll take time to rebuild alliances, but, historically-minded as we are, we know—and they have shown—that such an expectation is far from reality.

Signed:
Michael Lechuga, Immediate Past Chair
Leandra H. Hernández, Chair
Sarah De Los Santos-Upton, Vice Chair
José Ángel Maldonado, Vice-Chair Elect
Shantel Martinez, Secretary
Raquel Moreira, Parliamentarian

Español

El Comité Ejecutivo de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza, compuesto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah de los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, y Raquel Moreira, unánimemente reprueban los comentarios de Martin Medhurst hechos en CRTNET e intencionados para aparecer en la revista Rhetoric & Public Affairs, y al igual, reprueban las acciones de lxs signatarixs de la queja al Comité Ejecutivo de NCA escrita por David Zarefsky. Expresamos 1) nuestra indignación frente a la noción que la identidad y la diversidad puedan ser mutuamente exclusivas del rigor intelectual, 2) nuestra indignación frente a lo que ha sido llamado un ataque hacia lxs Eruditxs Distinguidxs de NCA y 3) nuestra indignación ante la noción que la erudición distinguida pertenezca únicamente a gringos.

Basado en la historia de la colonización de nuestros continentes, la borradura de nuestras lenguas, la destrucción de nuestro legado cultural y el rescate y la descolonización continua e interminable de nuestro patrimonio, acompañado de nuestros aleados de doble espíritu y junto a nuestrxs hermanxs de distintas razas y etnias que, alrededor de mundo, pelean contra el patriarcado colonial, condenamos las acciones que buscan profanar décadas de labor descolonial bajo la bandera de la meritocracia.

Las quejas de Medhurst no son más que una serie de actos retóricos, comparable a lo que Hasian y Delgado llaman pendejo games, o mejor dicho, pendejadas, donde los miembros de un sector dominante de la sociedad fingen ignorancia ante la opresión histórica y continúa de las minorías raciales. Este tipo de hipocresías han sido usadas para diferir y disuadir el cambio radical, protegiendo sistemas de privilegio, desigualdad y opresión, y al mismo tiempo alejando a lxs eruditxs de color de su propia labor intelectual y de las meras condiciones materiales donde puedan crear nuevos espacios para el desarrollo intelectual.

Deploramos la tokenización de otras personas. Quizá Medhurst esperaba una ovación, sintiéndose héroe o salvador. Quizá Medhurst esperaba agradecimiento. Sin embargo, la tokenización de xlxs academicx transgénero no nombradx comprueba la ineptitud frente a los cambios dentro de la academia—cambios considerados un ataque a los privilegios de académicos blancos, heterosexuales y cisgénero. En su mensaje, Medhurst falla en tan si quiera mencionar el mérito intelectual de xlxs autor, generando la pregunta: ¿por qué mencionarlx, si no por autoengrandecimiento y/o autodefensa? Hay que aclarar: no pretendemos hablar por parte de estx autor. Mucho menos le pedimos a estx autor sentirse obligadx a hablar públicamente. Lo que sí queremos dejar claro es que nuestra división y nuestra cámara ha sido, desde un principio, un lugar donde valoramos la seguridad y la inclusión.

Recordamos a nuestrxs aliadxs, particularmente a nuestrxs aliadxs gringxs, de las amplias investigaciones que no deben ser olvidadas o ignoradas en momentos como este: investigaciones sobre la violenta discriminación integrada en el lenguaje del excepcionalismo americano, la ideología “bootstrap” y la meritocracia liberal. Varios de nuestro miembros crecieron pensándose ser menos que los demás, al punto de cuestionar nuestra mera existencia dentro de la academia. El mito de la meritocracia que un día nos llevo a creer que la academia podía ser un lugar en el cual pertenezcamos, ahora nos lleva a reconsiderar nuestras aspiraciones, a continuar nuestra batalla interminable en la descolonización de la academia y a cosificar nuestro compromiso a la creación de un mundo sin injusticias.

Y no olvidemos a la pandilla de Zarefsky, quienes sabiendo bien a quien le hablaban, parecen no tener algún problema patrullando la frontera entre lo “distinguido” y lo “diverso.” Para algunos, esto puede parecer nada más que el resultado del clima político contemporáneo. Nos podrán decir “calmados, disfruten el verano.” Nos podrán pedir que nos pongamos los shorts cargo y las sandalias Birkenstock (con todo y calcetas), y que disfrutemos una caipirinha. Pero el verano, para nosotrxs, es una temporada de lucha. La lucha sigue. Y no podemos ignorar a lxs signatarixs. La creación retórica de fronteras nos permite pensar que lxs centroamericanxs sean “inmigrantes,” cuando en realidad este continente le pertenece o todxs o nadie. Al igual, aqullxs que han firmado su nombre han participado en la creación de fronteras dentro de la academia. La creación de fronteras antecede a Trump y lxs signatarixs. No hay que llamar a esto “un síntoma de los tiempos.” En vez, reconozcamos que luchamos contra la realidad de la colonización de siglos.

Desde la perspectiva histórica del Comité Ejecutivo, LCSD/LRC ha aspirado a servir como un espacio donde lxs académicxs latinx puedan sentirse seguros y donde su trabajo pueda ser valorado, no solamente por amigxs, sino por colegas intelectuales en el campo de la comunicación. En ese espíritu, queremos asegurar a aquellxs que buscan asilo dentro de la zona de guerra que es el estudio de la comunicación que nuestra división y nuestra cámara está al lado de sus miembros menos privilegiados y lxs defenderá.

Lxs líderes de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza condenan las declaraciones de Martin Medhurst. Además, estamos profundamente decepcionadxs con lxs firmantes que acompañan la queja de David Zarefsky sobre lxs académicxs ilustres. Falta mencionar nuestro disgusto con los numerosos académicos blancos que continúan escribiendo sobre temas latinos, o pertenecientes a las comunidades latinxs, en varios subcampos de los estudios de la comunicación, y a la hora de la hora no abren la boca para defender o ayudarnos. Queremos que los involucrados sepan que sus acciones, aunque nos decepcionan, no nos sorprenden. En el fondo, siempre hemos sabido sospechar y desconfiar del poder de la academia gringa dentro de “nuestras” instituciones. En sus actos, han deshecho décadas de trabajo de coalición, dañando—quizás rompiendo—coaliciones. Tomará tiempo para reconstruir alianzas, pero tal vez será imposible.

Firmado por:
Michael Lechuga, Presidente Pasado Inmediato
Leandra H. Hernández, Presidente
Sarah De Los Santos Upton, Vicepresidente
José Ángel Maldonado, Vicepresidente Electo
Shantel Martínez, Secretaria
Raquel Moreira, Parliamentaria

Português

O Comitê Executivo da Divisão de Estudos Latinos em Comunicação e La Raza Caucus (LCSD/LRC), composto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga e Raquel Moreira, repudia por unanimidade os comentários feitos por Martin Medhurst in postagem recente na CRTNET com intenção de publicação como editorial em Rhetoric & Public Affairs, e dos signatários da carta de David Zarefsky ao Comitê Executivo da Associação Nacional de Comunicação (NCA). Especificamente, nós 1) expressamos nossa indignação com a noção de que identidade e diversidade, chamados “termos divinos,” e rigor acadêmico são mutuamente exclusivos, 2) nossa indignação com o que Medhurst concebe como um ataque aos “Distinguished Scholars” (intelectuais distintos) da NCA, e 3) nossa indignação com a ideia de que “Distinguished Scholars” pertence somente a branquitude.

Fundamentado na história de colonização de nosso continente, no apagamento de nossas línguas, na destruição de nossos legados culturais e na reivindicação e descolonização incessante de nossos legados, junto aos nossos aliados dois-espíritos, junto aos nossos irmãos e irmãs de raças e etnias diferentes em todo o globo que continuam suas lutas contra forças coloniais patriarcais brancas, nós condenamos ações que buscam minar décadas de trabalho descolonial sob a bandeira da meritocracia.

Subjacentes aos resmungos de Mehurst está uma série de movimentos retóricos já conhecidos, o que Hasian e Delgado chamam de pendejo games, em que membros de setores dominantes da sociedade simulam ignorância sobre a contínua opressão histórica de minorias raciais. Estas hipocrisias vêm sendo usadas para adiar e desencorajar mudanças radicais, salvaguardando sistemas de privilégios, desigualdades e opressão, afastando da academia intelectuais pertencentes a minorias, de seus próprios trabalhos intelectuais e das condições materiais em que possam criar novos espaços para buscar realizações intelectuais.

Nós lastimamos a tokenização de intelectuais pertencentes a minorias raciais e de diversos gêneros, sexualidades e habilidades físicas. Talvez Medhurst esperasse ser ovacionado como “herói branco.” Talvez Medhurst esperasse gratidão. De qualquer forma, a tokenização da intelectual transgênero prova ineptidão face a mudanças na academia—mudanças temidas como ataques aos privilégios de intelectuais homens, brancos, heterossexuais e cisgênero. Em sua mensagem, Medhurst fornece pouca ou nenhuma menção aos méritos da intelectual, implorando a pergunta: por que trazer isso à tona, se não por motivos de auto-engrandecimento e autodefesa? Apesar de não falarmos pela autora transgênero, e apesar de não desejarmos expô-la, gostaríamos de enfatizar que nossa divisão tem, desde o início, buscado servir como um espaço inclusivo e seguro para todxs.

Aproveitamos esse momento para lembrar aos nossos aliados, especificamente nossos aliados gringos, da extensa pesquisa que não há de ser esquecida ou dispensada: pesquisa sobre a discriminação violenta inerente à linguagem do excepcionalismo estadunidense, da mentalidade “bootstrap” e da meritocracia liberal. Muitos de nossos membros cresceram ouvindo que não eram bons o suficiente, inteligentes o suficiente e, em resumo, indignos de existirem na academia e além. O mito da meritocracia que em algum momento talvez tenha nos levado a pensar na academia como um espaço de pertencimento, agora nos força a reconsiderar nossas aspirações, nossos esforços contínuos para descolonizar a academia e para reificar nosso comprometimento com a criação de um mundo sem injustiças.

Não nos esqueçamos do grupo de Zarefsky que, talvez bastante conscientes de seu público, aparentam não terem problema algum em estabeleceram e policiarem uma fronteira sem fundamentos entre “distinto” e “diverso.” Para alguns, isto pode parecer como um mero resultado do clima político atual. Eles podem nos dizer para relaxar e aproveitar o verão. Para colocarmos um par de shorts, colocar os chinelos nos pés e beber uma margarita. Porém, o verão é tempo de luta para nós. E os signatários da carta não devem ser esquecidos. Práticas fronteiriças que permitem que pessoas da América Central sejam tratadas como “imigrantes” são cruciais para nosso interesse no estudo de comunicação latina/o/x. E tais práticas fronteiriças estão claramente presentes nas ações daqueles que continuam a tratar terras indígenas como seus territórios por direito. Essas práticas antecedem a Trump e mesmo aos signatários. Não caiamos na armadilha de entender esse momento como um sintoma dos tempos atuais, mas sim como a realidade de séculos de colonização.

Da perspectiva historicamente fundamentada pelo Comitê Executivo, LCSD/LRC tem servido como um espaço onde intelectuais Latina/o/x possam sentir-se seguros e onde seus trabalhos possam ser valorizados não apenas por amigos, mas por colegas intelectuais no campo da comunicação. É com este espírito que queremos assegurar a todos que buscam asilo no campo de guerra que é a comunicação que nossa divisão apoia nossos membros menos privilegiados e continuará a defendê-los.

A liderança da LCSD/LRC repudia veementemente as afirmações feitas pelo professor Medhurst. Ademais, estamos decepcionados com os signatários da carta de reclamação escrita pelo professor Zarefsky, assim como repudiamos o silêncio que acompanha inúmeros intelectuais brancos cujos trabalhos estão centrados em questões latinas, mas que se recusam a abrir espaços acadêmicos para minorias raciais. Ao mesmo tempo, gostaríamos de dizer aos envolvidos que apesar de estarmos desapontados, suas ações não nos surpreendem. No fundo, sempre soubemos que não se pode confiar na branquitude dentro de “nossas” instituições. Em suas ações, eles desfizeram décadas de esforços de coalizão. Gostaríamos de dizer que levará tempo para reconstruir alianças, mas conscientes de história que somos, sabemos—e que eles nos mostraram—que tal expectativa está longe da realidade.

Assinado,

Michael Lechuga, ex-presidente
Leandra H. Hernández, presidente
Sarah De Los Santos Upton, vice-presidente
José Ángel Maldonado, vice-presidente eleito
Shantel Martínez, secretária
Raquel Moreira, parlamentar

From the Game Studies Division:

NCA Game Studies Division members,

In light of the recent discussions about promoting diversity within the ranks of NCA’s Distinguished Scholars Award recipients, the elected officials of the NCA GSD feel it is prudent to address the ways in which our division can continue to support and improve to encourage diversity within our division, NCA, and the broader field of game studies.

Game studies as a discipline grapples with its own history of cis-het-, male-, Whiteness. In a world of talented queer, POC, and women scholars, we still see a citation bias towards White/European cis-het male scholars. While there are several prominent conferences dedicated to queer game studies, feminist game studies, etc., they exist as “niche” venues, attended almost entirely by scholars from the marginalized experiences being studied. Broader gaming culture is still characterized by assumptions about players’ and developers’ gender/ethinic/racial/sexual identities. Therefore, we as a Division are in a position to be strong allies to other NCA Interest Groups, such as the NCA Women’s Caucus, and Feminist & Women’s Studies Division.

Currently, there is a joint-statement penned by the Women’s Caucus and Feminist & Women’s Studies Division, as well as an Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline, being circulated on Facebook. You can find both documents in the GSD Facebook page, should you choose to share them and sign the open letter.

This Inside Higher Education article provides a decent summary of the matter of hand: https://www.insidehighered.com/…/communication-scholars-deb….

More information on the DS Award can be found on NCA’s website at: https://www.natcom.org/distinguished-scholars

GSD is already planning several actionable items to further promote diversity within the communication discipline. Our first course of action is to solicit our own nominations for NCA’s Distinguished Scholars Award, as well as support candidates put forth by other divisions. We are also discussing creating a Nominating Committee for GSD, of which the role would be to seek out and spotlight scholars whose work might be overlooked for awards and to nominate them for NCA awards.

We are asking for your input on a few items. First, we are asking for any names of scholars you feel would be strong candidates for NCA’s Distinguished Scholars Award. (At this point, do not concern yourself with eligibility criteria too much, as that is part of what is under contention). If you know of a candidate that another division is backing, feel free to include their name and the supporting division here as well.

Finally, we are also asking for your input on additional action items that GSD can take going forward to encourage and promote diversity within our own ranks. We are looking for tangible things that we can do – beyond words of support – that can invoke change within the larger NCA membership and our field as a whole.

Sincerely,

Nick Bowman, Chair

Stephanie Orme, Vice-Chair

Emory Daniel, Vice-Chair Elect

Sky Anderson, Secretary

Arienne Ferchaud, Publications/Web Editor

Shay Xuejing Yao, Graduate Student Representative

Survey link: https://forms.gle/dGgQYvPK3SyvHjae7

Open Letter from the NCA Critical/Cultural Studies Division Leadership

The leadership of the Critical/Cultural Studies Division wishes to express our profound displeasure toward the letter and editorial about the Distinguished Scholars. Dr. David Zarefsky’s letter that was endorsed by 66 of the NCA Distinguished Scholars and the proposed Rhetoric and Public Affairs editorial penned by Dr. Martin Medhurst reify racist myths that rectifying historical racial wrongs necessarily lowers quality. It is a well-rehearsed yet exceptionally antiquated argument that is used to roll back anti-racist gains to the benefit of White culture (i.e. people, ideologies, structures, etc.). We strongly reject Medhurst’s argument that a more racially diverse body of Distinguished Scholars means a less distinguished one, and we reject Zarefsky’s defense of a systemically racist process that has awarded only one scholar of color with NCA’s highest honor since 1991. As such, these actions violate the core principles of the Critical/Cultural Studies Division. To quote our division’s credo: Our members privilege studying languages of knowledge, power. and disciplinarity, questioning how these components shape cultural and social practices across historical contexts, in “everyday life,” and in the classroom. We champion work that scrutinizes how discourses and practices impact individuals and communities, embodies insightful interpretation, and generates productive theorizing. Moreover, we are committed to the premise that teaching and scholarship are powerful tools for fostering social justice and promoting social change, in the academy and beyond.Our division is committed to upending the structures of power that maintain exclusion and violence against people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, women, and other marginalized groups that stand at the intersection of these identities. Exposing how far our discipline has to go insofar as achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion, these letters have done irreparable damage to this project and signaled that the largely cishetero white men and women of the organization are not committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for scholars from marginalized communities to flourish. Nor are they representative or supportive of the cishetero white men who align with scholars from marginalized communities. These letters, Dr. Medhurst’s in particular, reframe diversity, inclusion, and justice as an affront to meritocracy and its derivative entitlements. They sow doubt and suspicion toward historically excluded communities while reaffirming formal and informal white male cishetero networks. These arguments have no credible place in our national association and should not be treated as a legitimate controversy over “procedure.” Our division recognizes the tireless work by people of color and from communities typically disenfranchised within the academy that is producing the positive change we are seeing at NCA. We want to recognize, support, and celebrate the labor of those who have fought to make change possible, many of whom are members of this division. These changes did not happen in a vacuum. Last year, a petition from NCA members—largely the result of the action and labor of people of color—in protest of the historic exclusion of people of color as DSs and journal editors, was signed by many of our best scholars in the field and in this division. Scholars who identify with disenfranchised communities have been actively taking on positions on NCA committees and occupying leadership roles, and serving on NCA’s Executive Committee. NCA leadership is now the most racially diverse in its history yet remains deeply challenged by diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to the changes to the selection process for the DS award, a clear mission Statement on Diversity, Equity, Access, Justice, and Inclusion for NCA was created, which can be found here: https://www.natcom.org/about-nca/nca-and-inclusivity?fbclid=IwAR23MXEkvGamTt3y41xfFDd5XPzMBAUzN-_NCG0x2ZZg8nPRlsURv5md35M Changes to the selection process for the DS award reflect commitments in this statement. Our division is committed to upholding these values and to the labor involved in supporting this change and the folks who are working tirelesly to make this happen.In solidarity with those who have spoken out, resigned from the Rhetoric and Public Affairs editorial board, and continue to work with the NCA leadership to enhance the organizations commitment to social justice, the Critical/Cultural Studies division strongly condemns the words and deeds of Dr. Medhurst and the Distinguished Scholars who endorsed Dr. Zarefsky’s letters. We support the current and future changes to the nomination and selection process for the Distinguished Scholar Award to protect against the replication of white cishetero male networks. We endorse all of the recommendations put forth in the “Open Letter to Leadership in the Field of Communication” and are committed to see them come to fruition. We are committed to making NCA a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just organization and will not be frightened away from doing so by calls for gradualism, civility, and meritocracy.

In solidarity,

Dr. Casey R. Kelly, Chair

Dr. Rachel Griffin, Vice Chair

Dr. David Oh, Second Vice Chair

From ICCD leadership:

June 14, 2019
Statement from Officers of NCA’s International and Intercultural Communication Division RE Leadership in the field of Communication
There has been a controversy regarding an editorial statement originally meant to have appeared in an upcoming issue of Rhetoric & Public Affairs. The founding and current editor Marty Medhurst takes issue with the NCA Executive Committee’s decision to change the selection process of our Distinguished Scholars in accordance with its commitment of diversity; he characterizes it as an “attack” on NCA’s own Distinguished Scholars and complains about it. He claims that the NCA Executive Committee undermined the rights of Distinguished Scholars because the office changed the selection process of Distinguished Scholars in March.
We are elected officers of NCA’s International and Intercultural Communication Division (IICD), one of the most diverse divisions of NCA. As we are committed to diversity and inclusion, we applaud our association’s commitment and efforts for diversity and inclusion as it is painfully noticeable that those awarded as our association’s Distinguished Scholars do not represent its culturally diverse membership; they are mainly White, U.S. American, and cisgender individuals who come from the elitist institutions, which Medhurst names as “R1 and R2 research programs.” We can do better at recognizing diverse scholars and their hard work and contributions to our discipline. Further, we are troubled by Medhurst’s focus on “scholarly and intellectual merit” to ignore the politics of identity and diversity in the discipline. We are troubled mainly because we do not see so-called “scholarly and intellectual merit” as something independently constructed from the politics of identity. We observe a trace of whiteness in such an argument as whiteness is the logic of color-blindness rooted in the notion and practices of individualism and personal merit. The explicit focus solely on “merit” erases how historical and present power relations of race, gender, sexuality, class, and the body privilege mainstream people to achieve their successes and mystifies how they have been historically benefiting from the institutions and systems that have protected their privileges. Therefore, we remain deeply concerned with the statements that were made by Distinguished Scholars about “merit” and our place in the field.
The leadership of IICD strongly condemn the statements made by Medhurst and are extremely disappointed in the signatories of Distinguished Scholars’ complaint letter sent to NCA. The lack of representation of faculty of color, international faculty, and other historically marginalized faculty (including but not limited to U.S. domestic and international LGBTQ people of color) in the ranks of Distinguished Scholars is offensive and not acceptable. As IICD officers occupying intersectional positionalities, we support NCA’s efforts to diversify our organization, increasing the visibility of faculty of color, international faculty, and faculty members from other historically oppressed groups. We stand with colleagues in other divisions and caucuses who are critically questioning marginalization and exclusion of such voices.
Collectively signed by
Yea-Wen Chen, Immediate Past Chair
Ahmet Atay, Chair
Satoshi Toyosaki, Vice Chair
Shinsuke Eguchi, Vice Chair in Elect
Godfried Asante, Publication Officers
Nurhayat Bilge, Secretary

Statement co-authored by the leadership representing NCA’s Women’s Caucus and Feminist & Women Studies Division:

In a recent editorial statement originally meant to have appeared in an upcoming issue of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Marty Medhurst complains of an “attack” on NCA’s “own Distinguished Scholars,” whereby previous awardees will no longer be entitled to select the next members of their ranks. What he calls an attack is an effort by the NCA Executive Committee to counter the exclusion of excellent scholars from recognition at the level of the Distinguished Scholar award, especially but not exclusively scholars of color. In his complaint about the loss of the Distinguished Scholars’ privilege of selection, Professor Medhurst posits a false choice between “identity” and “diversity” on one hand and “scholarly and intellectual merit” on the other. Without offering evidence, Professor Medhurst mischaracterizes the new policy as “prioritizing diversity in place of intellectual merit.” His complaint contains a number of moves long familiar to those who have sought to remedy intersecting systemic inequalities of privilege inside and outside the academy, including framing necessary changes to the field as attacks to those who have long been well-supported and rewarded in our field, the implicit casting of scholars at the margins as inherently less meritorious and, defensiveness around concerns of bias, all couched in the language of pure, identity-blind, neutral, competently judged merit.

Indeed, there is copious existing research on the racism (and sexism, homo- and transphobia, ableism, classism) inherent in the language of liberal meritocracy as it has been marshalled historically against efforts to remedy structural inequity (e.g., affirmative action practices).

Indeed, there is copious existing research on the persistence of inequities experienced by scholars from marginalized identities at all levels and various intersections from undergraduate training to who is admitted to our profession, who is hired, published, promoted, tenured, awarded, and selected into leadership. Scholars of color especially, even across inflections of class, gender, sexuality, and ability, have not only been overlooked in and excluded from traditional academic pathways of recognition and reward, but have also faced questions about the worth of their scholarship, their citational practices, and their voice each time a challenge is presented to the usual order of business. The Feminist and Women Studies Division of NCA was formed in response to this very sort of bias against methodology, objects/ subjects of study, interventionist orientations, and recognition that what and how we engage in scholarship is, at its core, political.

Indeed, even among the group Professor Medhurst calls “the epitome of intellectual merit” we have seen a dearth of nominations of meritorious scholars of color most notably, but also of disabled, queer, trans, and contingently employed scholars. Likewise, the Distinguished Scholars who signed onto the letter penned originally by David Zarefsky probably believed that they were communicating only to the Executive Committee of NCA. As such, the tone of this letter suggests a sort of familiarity and entitled positionality vis-a-vis NCA. By focusing solely on process at the exclusion of also articulating a clear commitment and plan for soliciting a more diverse and inclusive pool of nominees who might be considered both “distinguished” and “scholars,” the DS letter rehearsed a well-worn pattern of featuring process over practice, of privileging their own center at the exclusion of creating space for scholars in our midst who are extremely deserving of this recognition.

Professor Medhurst emphasized his “strong support” of diversity, noting that he recognizes “that social, cultural, and racial perspective make a difference in what is studied and how it is studied. The work of the field has been enriched as it has become more diverse.” And yet, even a cursory glance at the editorial board for R&PA undermines his claim. Of the 40 scholars Professor Medhurst has seen fit to place on the editorial board for a journal that he has edited for 22 years, only a very few are scholars of color or sexual minorities, and only a quarter of the board identify as women. Furthermore, if diversity of scope, perspective, and/or voice were at the heart of R&PA‘s scholarly enterprise, a routine circulation of editorial perspectives would surely have been invited into the ongoing publication of this outlet. And let us be clear, while Professor Medhurst’s statement has so clearly highlighted the ongoing biases of our field, R&PA does not stand alone in its ongoing tunnel vision of “what counts” as meritorious scholarship.

It is not lost on us either that Professor Medhurst, in his efforts to demonstrate his commitment to diverse voices and perspectives, rehearses tired binaries and reductionist language referring to non-cis-masculine/ non-white/ non-straight folks. Professor Medhurst stated, “The pages of our journal [R&PA] have been open to all perspectives–left, right, and center-and scholars of all identities-gay and straight, men and women, black and white and brown” and then touted that the journal had received a submission from someone who “identifies as trans” ( using a modifying phrase that calls into question that this scholar is trans). As such, Professor Medhurst tokenizes specific marginalized identity categories as cover for a pattern of non-inclusion of other identities. R&PA and many other journals in our field have not been known to feature diverse gender identities, nor stoutly defend racial and other diversity, in either practice or principle.

For all these reasons, the leadership of NCA’s Women’s Caucus and Feminist & Women Studies Division strongly condemn the statement by Professor Medhurst and are extremely disappointed in the signatories that accompany Professor Zarefsky’s Distinguished Scholars complaint letter sent to NCA. For those designated as the most “intellectually meritorious” of our discipline to be so far behind even the belated scholarly recognition of persistent structural inequities in the academy and elsewhere is the real threat to the intellectual credibility, future, and sustainability of our discipline, not the changes proposed by the Executive Committee to ensure our excellent scholars are recognized and advanced. We support NCA and other caucuses and divisions doing the important work of combating structural inequities in our discipline across multiple vectors of marginalization. That we must make such a statement as this in 2019 is a reminder of why the Women’s Caucus and other caucuses were developed and why organizing and coalitional building amongst those who are marginalized, dispossessed, and oppressed at various intersections is still sorely needed in NCA.

Kathleen Feyh (Chair, Women’s Caucus)

Suzanne Enck (Chair, Feminist & Women Studies Division)

Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas (Vice Chair, Women’s Caucus)

Jessica Furgerson (Vice Chair, Feminist & Women Studies Division)

Kate LaPierre (2nd Vice Chair, Women’s Caucus)

Vinita Agarwal (2nd Vice Chair, Feminist & Women Studies Division)

Diana Bowen (3rd Vice Chair, Women’s Caucus)

Leandra Hinojosa Hernández (3rd Vice Chair, Feminist & Women Studies Division)

Jessica Kratzer (Past Chair, Women’s Caucus)

Ashley Mack (Past Chair, Feminist & Women Studies Division)

From Sarah Jane Tracy:

From Mohan Dutta

http://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/in-post-made-in-response-to-changes-to.html

http://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/distinguished-scholars-and-racist.html

http://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-reproduction-of-whiteness-paradox.html

Departures in Critical Qualitative Research (DCQR)Special Issue:  “Merit, Whiteness, and Privilege”

http://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/special-issue-merit-whiteness-and.html

Letter to Ethnography Division Members re: NCA Distinguished Scholars Controversy

From the Executive Committee of the Ethnography Division
We are writing to the Ethnography Division membership regarding the recent controversy surrounding a Rhetoric and Public Affairs editorial (and subsequent CRTNET post) authored by Professor Martin Medhurst, as well as a letter written by Professor David Zarefsky, and a letter written on behalf of a majority of NCA Distinguished Scholars. We will not summarize the documents, or the controversy here, as we imagine most of the division’s membership is already aware of these details. For those who are not, the documents in question are easily accessible on the NCA website (click here).
In light of these developments, we write to reaffirm the Ethnography Division’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. While diversity and inclusion—currently part of the mission of the National Communication Association—are hallmarks of any organization dedicated to ethical communication and the quality of human life and relationships (also part of NCA’s mission), the division’s leadership also recognizes that equity—in institutional structures and democratic process—is crucial to achieving diversity and inclusion. As such, we support the actions of the NCA Executive Committee regarding the Distinguished Scholars nomination and selection process. We believe these actions will begin to provide the equity necessary to achieve diversity and inclusion at all levels of our national association.
We also write to express our support and gratitude to our colleagues who have worked tirelessly to bring to the forefront the outrage and disappointment shared by over 1,000 (and counting) NCA-affiliated scholars in the “Open Letter on Diversity to Communication Leadership” (there are slight variations of this title on different websites) currently circulating via social media. We recognize that the conditions fueling this current outrage have existed for years in academic institutions and organizations, and we are grateful for the continued and consistent labor expended by people of color, LGBTQAI+ folx, people with disabilities, and allies in front of and behind the scenes. The division leadership has signed the open letter, and we invite division members to read and sign the letter, if so inclined. If you have not already located this letter on Facebook or Twitter, you can read and sign the letter here.
Finally, we write to strongly condemn any language that frames diversity and intellectual merit or rigor as somehow diametrically opposed, or mutually exclusive. We wholeheartedly disagree with any argument that implies that diversity and inclusion pose a threat to intellectual and academic contribution, achievement, and merit. Our division has proven time and again—through its high-quality ethnography panels, papers, and publications—that diversity and inclusion, in all forms, serve to enhance the quality of scholarship. As a division, through current and future membership, we remain committed to co-creating an academic environment that is grounded in equity.
In solidarity,

Dr. Robin M. Boylorn, Immediate Past Chair

Dr. Kurt Lindemann, Chair

Dr. Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, Vice-Chair

Dr. Jimmie Manning, Vice-Chair Elect

Dr. Blake Paxton, Secretary

June 15, 2019

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the current leadership team of the NCA’s Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division write this letter in response to Dr. Marty Medhurst’s essay that was originally slated to be published in a future issue (23:3) of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, as well as the letter authored by David Zarefsky, and signed by 66 former distinguished scholars.

In Medhurst’s essay, he asks: “What sort of organization the NCA will be?” We would like to answer Professor Medhurst’s question of what sort of organization the NCA will be by first opposing, in no uncertain terms, arguments levied in Professor Medhurst’s editorial, by addressing Dr. Zarefsky’s letter and signatures, and in calling for just organizational future.

In Professor Medhurst’s editorial, he laments the change in the selection process for the new Distinguished Scholars, as laid out by the Executive Committee of the National Communication Association. Invoking “diversity” as a god term, Medhurst sets up a false dichotomy where meritocracy and diversity are at odds with one another within the new selection process for Distinguished Scholars. Medhurst states, “The new selection committee will be guided by ‘diversity,’ not intellectual merit.” Medhurst also questions the selection process by wondering what will happen if “ . . . selections are made on intellectual merit or one where identity is prioritized over intellectual and scholarly merit?” Finally, he states, “We support diversity, but not at the prices of displacing scholarly merit as the chief criterion for selecting Distinguished Scholars, choosing journal editors, and evaluating research.”

We, in no uncertain terms, vehemently disagree with Medhurst’s hegemonic strategy of pitting merit and diversity as diametrically opposed. Medhurst’s arguments about diversity are nothing new. Indeed, one need only reference the historical and current policy debates on affirmative action in the United States to understand how this series of claims has been mobilized to undercut equity and justice for marginalized people. Arguing that scholarly merit will be sacrificed at the expense of diversity is an unequivocally racist, gendered, and homophobic assumption. One point of Medhurst’s essay that is particularly deplorable is his statement that a submission included that of “a scholar who identifies as trans.” Medhurst’s attempt at invoking this scholar’s submission functions as a rhetoric of tokenism, may potentially “out” this scholar, and reads as if he should be applauded for considering this person’s submission. We reject this white savior rhetoric that is akin to, “I have a friend who’s gay.” This type of hegemonic strategy further marginalizes and stigmatizes this individual, as well as other groups and individuals who occupy marginalized subject positions.

We must read Medhurst’s indictments of the Executive Committee’s distinguished scholars’ selection process side-by-side with Dr. David Zarefsky’s letter signed by 66 NCA distinguished scholars. In Zarefsky’s letter dated March 29, 2019, and addressed to Dr. Star Muir and Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles, Zarefsky, like Medhurst, opposes the Executive Committee’s changes in the Distinguished Scholars’ selection process. In this letter, Zarefsky contends that the Executive Committee’s goal that the Distinguished Scholars award resemble the other NCA awards is a “red herring.”

First, we agree wholeheartedly with the proposed changes by the Executive Committee. The context leading up to the changes in the selection process is also imperative to note. These changes, in 2015, were implemented by calls from numerous NCA division and caucus members, in the form of a petition, to address the exigence of #NCASOWHITE. We are pleased to see that Dr. Star Muir and Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles are listening to the concerns we and our colleagues have raised and that they are advocating for strcuural changes to address the glaring lack of diversity in the Distinguished Scholar’s decision-making body, as well as the field of recipients.

Zarefsky’s indictment that diversity is a red-herring ignores the material embodiment of decades of structural exclusion within the Distinguished Scholars award process. The NCA Executive Committee’s decision to take action to include those scholars on the margins (women, LGBTQI+ individuals, people of color, and those with disabilities) makes an intervention that prevents whiteness from breeding whiteness. Indeed, decades of critical scholarship supports the notion that what counts as “scholarly,” routinely discounts any scholarship from the margins.

We applaud that the top NCA executives listened to the calls that the stark white cishet group of primarily men—in what can only be viewed by us as the ol’ boys club, demands urgent change. As such, we support endeavors to stop the exclusion and, more to the point, to include those scholars on the margins.

The rhetoric in both Medhurst’s and Zarefsky’s letters are defenses of whiteness that ignore, insult, and further marginalize all of the critical scholars in our field doing work to challenge power, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc. in our field. The RCT division leadership condemns these damning claims.

Medhurst’s and Zarefsky’s comments evidence a institutional exclusivity that reaches far beyond the letters and statements that have sparked this essential conversation and that must introduce structural changes. We, the executive committee of the RCT, without replicating here, agree with the list of 10 demands put forth in the “Open Letter to Communication Leadership.” We proudly stand alongside the over 1,000 signatories in calling for a discipline that is more inclusive. More diverse. And more just.

Chair: Bernadette Calafell

Vice-Chair: Nina Maria Lozano

Vice-Chair-Elect: Megan Morrissey

Secretary: Jenna Hanchey

Past Chair: Lisa Corrigan

From Ragan Fox

Rowena Winkler “A Confession Letter to the Academy”

https://rowenawinkler.com/2019/06/15/a-confession-letter-to-the-academy/amp/?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR2Jy9jll4kagHi9Ib8W6T7M_G1baZ_TC75Qte9I0tQEU-qmjZTmwYG9Fhk

Kirt Wilson

June 13 at 12:36 PM ·

I want to thank everyone who shared your comments to my Facebook post of yesterday, who emailed me directly, and who answered my phone calls. This afternoon I resigned from the R&PA editorial board and declined the opportunity to edit a special issue on the politics of merit in that journal. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue with another journal, with or without my involvement, or perhaps not. Regardless, the fact remains that these questions, challenges, and hard conversations need to happen.

In my case, a habituated tendency to analyze, critique, and educate about these issues caused me to lose sight of the larger racial politics in which I was participating. I was complicit in that moment, not with purpose or malice or forethought, but complicit.

This post was originally longer, talking about Foucault’s notion of specific intellectuals; the expectations and labor that faculty of color face in these situations; the need for consistency between what we research/present and what we do. There is honestly so much to discuss and understand about this moment. I hope, at some point somewhere, the experiences and discourses of this week will be examined extensively–something that isn’t limited to a Facebook Post.

In the meanwhile and especially for those of you who said that you wanted to see a special issue in R&PA, let me mention that Dr. Darrel Wanzer-Serrano‘s edited forum, #rhetoricsowhite, will appear in QJS by the end of the year. I encourage you to check it out.

Oh, and I forgot to say. I will need to announce this to CRTNET in the next day or so. It may take that long to get it there, however.

Kirt Wilson‎ toRhetoric Society of AmericaJune 14 at 6:46 PM

Dear Members of the RSA Facebook Community,
I want to acknowledge that so far the communication on this facebook page along with the RSA webpage and email list has been quiet on the events of this week with the exception of a statement from Jerry Hauser. This lack of communication is not indicative of the conversations, work, and writing that have occurred among various members of the Board of Directors and RSA’s officers.
We understand that communication from the Board and the President are essential, and we anticipate making such statements as soon as we can focus our energies on its content, discuss concrete steps that we can take in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, and craft the necessary language for those statements.
I want to recognize that many members of RSA, including members of its various leadership areas, signed and support the recommendations that were part of the “Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline.” That letter includes challenges to RSA to take active steps to evolve the Fellows of the society so that it reflects our Society’s growing plurality and to diversify its leadership, its committees, its membership, and its events. I support these efforts, but they cannot be the only concrete steps that we consider and pursue.
A statment from the Board is necessary, and it must be timely. This is a kairotic moment in which to speak and act. I am hopeful that we can develop that statement soon, as members of the Board of Directors take a breath from the work we have been doing in other corners of this struggle and turn our attention to what RSA can and must do in this moment.
My Best,

Kirt Wilson

President, Rhetoric Society of America

Kirt Wilson

June 12 at 9:26 PM ·

Earlier today it was announced on CRTNET that I agreed to edit a special issue of Rhetoric & Public Affairs tentatively titled, “The Politics of ‘Merit’ in Academic Disciplines.” The purpose of this special issue was to continue and advance the conversation among communication and rhetoric scholars about how the practices of review (for publication, awards, promotion, etc.) entail political and normative expectations that privilege some forms of scholarship and scholars over others. The immediate catalyst for this special issue is a controversy involving NCA’s Executive Committee, the Distinguished Scholars of NCA, and the editor of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Martin Medhurst.

I agreed to edit this special issue because the topic remains immediately salient to the daily lives of current and future scholars in our field. Members of our discipline have and continue to address the politics of review and publication, as evident in the published work of Carole Blair, Raka Shome, Lisa Flores, Karma Chavez, Erin Rand, etc., and on panels devoted to #rhetoricsowhite and #communicationsowhite. Yet despite these efforts, the idea that academic “merit” is neutral persists, and scholarship about and from scholars of color, women, LGBTQA communities, and human beings who cross nation-state boundaries remains undervalued. This fact is evident in the publication of Dr. Medhurst’s statement today and in the correspondence between the Distinguished Scholars of NCA and NCA’s Executive Committee.

I disagree with and do not endorse the arguments of Dr. Medhurst’s statement to CRTNET. His arguments raise serious concerns about our field’s gatekeeping traditions and procedures for how merit is determined. It is the reason why I thought this morning that a special issue devoted to the politics of merit was worth pursuing.

A special issue of R&PA is not a solution to concerns that have been raised, over many years, about the review processes of the discipline, its institutions or its publications. In addition, although I see value in a journal issue that engages with the question of how politics of merit continue to operate in rhetoric and communication, others will disagree and/or choose to pursue other means to achieve the changes that are necessary.

My immediate concern is whether or not this special issue can contribute productively to ongoing conversations and efforts to value wider and more diverse forms of scholarship or whether I am the appropriate person to help with that effort. To determine that, at least for myself, I want to consult with members of the R&PA editorial board and with rhetoric/communication scholars who already have published on these issues. I will also read the comments attached to this post and any email that is sent to me at kirtwilson@psu.edu.

The question that I come back to is not, ultimately, what is good for R&PA or its editor. The question is how can the discipline establish the structures/systems/norms that respect everyone who is part of our field today and the individuals who come afterward. If a special issue in R&PA on the politics of merit can be part of that process, then I hope to work with others to see that it published. If such a special issue would be a distraction or undermine the effort to establish structures and norms that value a wider array of scholarship in our field, then it would be better that the issue not be published at all.

Kirt Wilson

June 13 at 12:36 PM ·

I want to thank everyone who shared your comments to my Facebook post of yesterday, who emailed me directly, and who answered my phone calls. This afternoon I resigned from the R&PA editorial board and declined the opportunity to edit a special issue on the politics of merit in that journal. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue with another journal, with or without my involvement, or perhaps not. Regardless, the fact remains that these questions, challenges, and hard conversations need to happen.

In my case, a habituated tendency to analyze, critique, and educate about these issues caused me to lose sight of the larger racial politics in which I was participating. I was complicit in that moment, not with purpose or malice or forethought, but complicit.

This post was originally longer, talking about Foucault’s notion of specific intellectuals; the expectations and labor that faculty of color face in these situations; the need for consistency between what we research/present and what we do. There is honestly so much to discuss and understand about this moment. I hope, at some point somewhere, the experiences and discourses of this week will be examined extensively–something that isn’t limited to a Facebook Post.

In the meanwhile and especially for those of you who said that you wanted to see a special issue in R&PA, let me mention that Dr. Darrel Wanzer-Serrano‘s edited forum, #rhetoricsowhite, will appear in QJS by the end of the year. I encourage you to check it out.

Oh, and I forgot to say. I will need to announce this to CRTNET in the next day or so. It may take that long to get it there, however.

Claire Sisco King

June 12 at 8:00 AM ·

As an editor of a journal in the field of communication studies, I want to say I believe that diversity and merit are coextensive with one another. I welcome submissions from voices not often heard in other journals, including (if not especially) ones that take our field to task. I am grateful for the example of the leadership of WSIC that came before me—namely, Joan Faber McAlister, Kristen Hoerl, Lisa Flores, and Rachel Griffin—who have ensured this journal’s commitment to feminist scholarship that is intersectional, queer, anti-racist, and anti-ableist.

Kari Vasby Anderson

June 13 at 8:43 PM ·

I would like to share my thoughts regarding the controversy around the selection process for NCA Distinguished Scholars, and subsequent comments made by Professor Martin J. Medhurst. I am speaking as the editor-elect of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, as a longstanding member of NCA, and as a scholar who has deep ties to the journal and book series launched by Professor Medhurst.

As QJS editor-elect, I want to state unequivocally that “diversity” and “merit” are not in any way opposed to one other. Indeed, I cannot imagine assessing as meritorious any scholarship that ignores or resists the insights, perspectives, and practices which accompany diversity as a value. As noted in the editorial statement I crafted for QJS, my aim is to “facilitate a lively, ethical, and expansive scholarly exchange. I am mindful of the fact that this conversation historically has been bounded too narrowly, with too many voices and perspectives shuttled to the periphery or excluded altogether. Important strides have been made in this journal’s recent history, and I am eager to publish work that not only engages the rhetorical tradition but also challenges, interrogates, and even upends aspects of that tradition.” If you are a rhetoric scholar working in the margins of our field, I and members of my editorial board are eager to read your work. The acceptance rate of a top-tier journal means that more manuscripts will be declined publication than published, but our hope is that the review process provides each author with thorough, candid, and constructive feedback. I have assembled a diverse board, not only because I want qualified readers for essays espousing marginalized perspectives, but also because sometimes scholars who eschew discussions of race, gender, class, sexuality, and/or ability need to be challenged. One thing I’ve observed in the very early stages of my editorial tenure is how much good, hard work goes on in the private, unglamorous spaces of the peer review process. A journal is only as good as its submitters and reviewers. I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributes to the QJS conversation.

As a member of NCA, this situation has prompted me to reflect on professional service. Much of the professional service we undertake happens behind the scenes, spilling into public view only in moments of controversy and crisis. When that happens, we see how consequential professional service is. Creating award nominations and adjudicating applications is invisible, time-consuming labor. But it’s important. Determining who and what we reward as a scholarly community is a vital component of creating the types of professional communities in which we most want to work. I was pleased to discover how seriously NCA’s Executive Committee took the concerns articulated both by association members and by a few of its Distinguished Scholars. The poor representation of people of color and, to a lesser but still notable extent, women from the ranks of the Distinguished Scholars is indefensible. The problem is a systemic one, which is why new systems needed to be created. Is the Executive Committee’s fix the right one? We don’t know yet, but we do know, unequivocally, that the status quo was failing.

As terrible as this week’s events have been, I am encouraged by the resounding chorus of NCA members who support systemic change and demand recognition for those whose groundbreaking and path building accomplishments and contributions are routinely overlooked. Of course, I am writing this because not everyone joined that chorus. A majority of the Distinguished Scholars balked at the change. Some have revised their stances, displaying both discernment and humility. Some have doubled (or tripled) down. Professor Medhurst has resisted both the entreaties of friends and the explanations of his colleagues, casting his editorial as a catalyst for a “dialogue on issues of diversity, identity, ideology, and scholarship.” As I see it, the only group that needs to have that dialogue is those Distinguished Scholars who believe that a group characterized by homogeneity, privilege, and tradition are best qualified to determine merit.

Professor Medhurst has published the work of feminist scholars, scholars of color, and queer scholars in his journal and book series. I have benefited personally from repeated publication in Rhetoric & Public Affairs. I recognize my position of privilege in this system. It’s also important to note that the work that diverse scholars have contributed to R&PA enhanced that journal’s quality and reputation. A journal is a collaborative endeavor, an ongoing conversation, a co-creation involving the editor, reviewers, authors, and readers. But when the gatekeeper for one of the field’s important conversational spaces has failed to grasp the ways in which Whiteness permeates his own understanding of scholarly merit, and when he invokes a transgender scholar’s identity as a tool of legitimation, it’s understandable that people would lose faith in his ability to continue in his role. I was hopeful, after the first wave of criticism, that Professor Medhurst would reconsider his position and apologize to those most wounded by his statement. He didn’t. I concluded my R&PA board service in December of 2018, when I took over as editor-elect of QJS. Consequently, I have no post from which to resign. But as a longstanding board member, I will say that these events have convinced me that it’s time for another editor to take the helm at R&PA. Our conversation must continue. We must keep learning from and with one another.

Rona Tamiko Halualani

June 14 at 4:41 PM ·

For my academic colleagues in NCA/ICA and in Communication Studies, I usually keep my FB pretty simple but the NCA happenings require me to express my outrage and disappointment at Dr. Martin Medhurst’s editorial and Dr. David Zarefsky’s letter and its listed endorsements of distinguished scholars (capitalization stripped in my own eyes). (I have been on a bit of family respite so forgive my delay.)

I immediately felt pangs of anger when reading Dr. Martin Medhurst’s editorial and his oversimplification and privileged bifurcation of “diversity” and “merit” or “excellence.” Unfortunately, this is something I see a great deal of in the academy in terms of my own intercultural and diversity work.

What really kicked me in the gut (as well as for my cohort graduate peers of color and colleagues of various identity backgrounds and positionalities) was seeing the names of distinguished scholars who authorized their endorsement of Zarefsky’s letter that rebuked a processual change (albeit imperfect) to how distinguished scholars are selected. How could these individuals — so many that I have looked up to and thought of as allies — really presume that inclusion, inclusive excellence, access, and quality are NOT tied and or connected together? Something that I have tried to emulate since I was a young scholar. How could these scholars be so focused on the “audacity” of being stripped of a historical privilege that they would not recognize that some type of change is needed to recognize many distinguished scholars? Why could they not have provided the space for this consideration? Privilege will always trump the possibility of change.

I have been accused in the past of “getting” things because of my “diverse” background and not because of any marker of excellence that I have earned. I have had to fight that for my career and I know that MANY of you have as well.

Seeing the names of the over 60 distinguished scholars — some whom I took classes with at UC Davis and Arizona State University — surprised me and then perhaps I fooled myself all of these years.

For my part and in terms of the locus of what little power I have, I am trying to email all former and present NCA editors (since I have heard nothing from the Pub Board of NCA) to write a letter of response.

I am also the incoming chair of the WSCA Publications Committee and I would like to address this in that role as well (the diversity of journal editors is something we have been talking about and will try to engage in some action on).

Tina Harris and I are spearheading the NCA Scholar Office Hours for Baltimore and we are currently discussing how all of this may impact that program.

I admire you all — those of you who have spoken up and provided so much emotional and writing labor. Thank you for everything.

I know how upsetting and painful this has been for the last several days.

Always,
Rona

Leslie Hahner
12 June at 15:41
We, the undersigned rhetoric faculty at Baylor, felt the need to speak to the recent controversy.

We appreciate the efforts of the NCA Executive Committee to increase the diversity of Distinguished Scholars. We also hope that many other institutions will follow suit in their hiring and promotional efforts. We believe the pursuit of excellence and diversity are not oppositional, but instead, coexist as twin outcomes of conscientious praxis. We have fought for diversity in our local communities and will continue to do so in the best ways we can. We are always already immersed in a university, a department, and academic systems writ large that tie us to those we disagree with strongly on this issue. The recent circulation of our colleague’s opinion editorial and that of the current Distinguished Scholars makes this issue stark in its consequences. To be clear, none of us were included in the process or the development of any public argument. We wholeheartedly reject any claims that minimize necessary changes to the academy, and the promotion and recognition so many of our marginalized colleagues deserve. We have spoken directly to our colleagues on this issue. Our actions will not stop in house, as we recognize that this current issue is the symptom of larger problems in the academy in discussions of merit concerning graduate school admissions, tenure and promotion decisions, and the awarding of titles such as Distinguished Scholar.

As such, we are pursuing the nominations of several new Distinguished Scholars. We hope you will join us in these efforts. We recognize we are joining others already engaged in these efforts, and hope to follow, and commend, the model of these trail blazers in our field. We hope that our longstanding work within institutional politics and the positions forwarded in our research partially evidence our opposition to anti-diversity initiatives and the oppression of marginalized scholars. However, we also know that our positions do not go without saying. The whiteness (and discrimination generally) of the academy thrives on the silence of colleagues who shake their heads without raising their voices. We continue to push where we can and fully support larger, collective efforts.

Leslie Hahner
Scott Varda
Matt Gerber
Sam Perry
Jeff Bass
Rich Edwards

We would have individually posted earlier, but felt collective voice was more important in this particular moment, especially given the organizing essential to broader changes.

Here is the letter from officers of the Environmental Communication Division:

On June 10th, the editor of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Professor Martin Medhurst, released an editorial statement that was intended for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal. In this editorial, Professor Medhurst stated his opposition to the NCA Executive Committee’s proposed change to the review process for the Distinguished Scholars, which intends to make the review process more inclusive and fair. A review of those who have been recognized as Distinguished Scholars since the inception of the award in 1992 shows that nearly all of these awards have been given to white men and, to a lesser extent, white women.[1]

The officers of the Environmental Communication Division want to voice our strong support for changing the review process for the Distinguished Scholars awards. We also state our disagreement with Professor Medhurst’s editorial and a related letter from Distinguished Scholars to NCA’s Executive Committee, both of which oppose changes to the award review process.

Environmental Communication, as a subfield, believes that human and biological systems tend to thrive when diverse; in ecosystems and human communities, diversity is a source of strength, vitality, and creativity. The scholarship in our division is also deeply concerned with how inequity and forms of oppression are structural and systemic and how impacts, be they from environmental degradation or exclusionary academic review processes, are not borne equally. Through the existing Distinguished Scholars award review process, NCA has created an environment wherein diversity is suppressed and those who are most privileged in the academy, namely white scholars, have the greatest access to recognition. This needs to change.

We recognize that some Distinguished Scholars have made an effort in the past to be more inclusive and to seek to diversify this award but ultimately they have been unsuccessful. We ask that the NCA Executive Committee embrace the change in their review process and turn their focus to the broader values of NCA as an organization, and not to procedural misgivings.

We continue to support high standards of academic excellence, as well as the value of outstanding pedagogical and public service labor. We also want take this moment when the values of NCA as an organization are being contested, negotiated, and possibly transformed, to reaffirm our division’s commitment to supporting and learning from scholars who are People of Color, people who are colonized, people living in the Global South, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, religious groups, women, and those who intersect or represent other marginalized communities.

We reject the argument that academic merit stands in opposition to upholding values of diversity. We also do not believe inclusivity is something we can do once or even a few times and be done; we believe inclusivity is an ongoing practice that requires that we continue to reflect on our own division’s norms and assumptions. As a next step, we plan to assess our own awards to date and consider how we might improve our ability to reduce bias—conscious or not—when defining merit. Within NCA as well as in our home departments and institutions, we will continue to strive to build academic spaces and systems that are fair, equal, diverse, and inclusive for more just and sustainable organizations.

Respectfully;

Dr. Bridie McGreavy

Dr. Kathleen Hunt

Dr. Phaedra C. Pezzullo

Dr. Casey Schmitt

Josue David Cisneros: 

I want to thank John Murphy for posting this message for me. I have followed the campaigns about the NCA Distinguished Scholars and R&PA through emails and through text messages from a few friends. I’m sorry for not being on Facebook and able to participate in the conversations there. I have already registered my support through emails and petitions for the changes imposed by the Executive Committee to the Distinguished Scholar selection process. Last week I resigned from the editorial board of R&PA as well. 

This has been a momentous week. I respect many of the scholars who are signatories to the original Distinguished Scholars letter, and I’m glad to see that many of them have listened and are reconsidering their original decision to sign it. That letter was problematic not only in the way that it posited merit as opposed to diversity but also because it put insular issues of process above commitments to diversity and social justice. I also am grateful to Dr. Medhurst for the support he’s offered to me during my career, including writing me recommendations letters and helping me to publish my very first article, which was in R&PA. However, I vehemently oppose the viewpoints reflected in his editorial, the original decision to publish it, later rescinded, and lack of response to the hurt it has caused and to the wholly legitimate calls for change in the journal. I suppose at this point I don’t need to rehearse these critiques. I value R&PA and want it to be a scholarly space where traditionally marginalized scholars and scholarship can find a home, and that is going to take some upheaval. 

The voices and viewpoints making themselves heard now express longstanding and much needed challenges to the structural exclusions and institutionalized biases of our field. It’s been too easy for those who benefit from them to ignore and take for granted these structural and everyday exclusions and marginalization. I count myself as one of those who has benefited from this unearned privilege. Speaking to others like me, we shouldn’t let those who are the most vulnerable in their careers and/or in their positions shoulder this difficult work. I stand with my colleagues who are courageously calling for this change, and I commit to working to dismantling these structures of inequity, marginalization, and privilege. I realize my statement on this controversy has come late, and I’m sorry if my delay has hurt anyone or has betrayed your faith in me. Thanks for reading. And thanks to Anjali Vats, Ersula Ore, Lisa Corrigan, Karma Chávez, Bernadette Calafell and all those who are leading this change. I’m honored to call all of you colleagues. Please feel free to email me if you want to follow up.

More from Mohan Dutta

https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/why-talk-about-mediocrity-and-whiteness.html?fbclid=IwAR1WR5WQW6KzHj9L7LcaQ3oQ2c7bvPRtkcEPTwXHyZ94lMx2SkNbdb6T7Vo

Statement from Officers of NCA’s APAC/SD to NCA’s Executive Committee

June 16, 2019 

The elected officers of the Asian/Pacific American Caucus and Asian/Pacific American Communication Studies Division offer our thanks to the Executive Committee for recognizing nomination and selection processes that have structurally excluded scholars across a number of axes including race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and even epistemologies. We support the EC as it continues to implement changes to policies and procedures that recognize and embrace the diversity of its members as being both the root of its strength and the direction of its future.

We offer our strongest condemnation of David Zarefsky’s letter regarding the change in procedure around the selection of Distinguished Scholars. We join with our colleagues from around the NCA in expressing our disappointment in the Distinguished Scholars who signed his letter, and urge them to apologize and make amends to those whom they have advised, mentored, taught, and led who feel betrayed and hurt by their actions.  

We extend our condemnation of the Medhurst editorial asserting that intellectual merit and diversity are mutually exclusive. As an incredibly diverse caucus and division we recognize our members as embodying both of these ideals, and we urge those who doubt this assertion to take our classes, to read our work and cite us, and to engage with our ideas. 

Importantly, we want to remind the Executive Committee that this has always been about more than this latest incident. Our members exist in departments, programs, universities, organizations and other associations that similarly operate under the belief that intellectual merit and diversity are antithetical concepts.

Ultimately, we support and further urge the Executive Committee to continue its work changing the culture and procedures of our association. APAC/APACSD joins in these efforts by looking inward at our own structures of operation and vehicles of recognition to ensure that we too continue to meet the mandate of fostering and promoting a diverse and inclusive organization.

In solidarity,

Myra Washington, Chair 

Rebecca de Souza, Vice Chair

Shaunak Sastry, Vice Chair elect

Richie Hao, 2nd Vice Chair elect

Marissa Doshi, Secretary

Vincent N. Pham, Immediate Past Chair

Elizabeth Parks, Diversity Council Representative

Statement from NCA’s Health Communication Division Officers

The officers of NCA’s Health Communication Division cannot and do not wish to speak for all of its ~1,000 members. But, the debate over the selection of NCA Distinguished Scholars has inspired us to reflect on our own practices within the Health Communication Division and in the broader field. We appreciate the words of our colleagues who have spoken out against practices in the discipline that marginalize underserved groups, and we stand by the NCA Executive Committee’s more inclusive selection process for Distinguished Scholars.

Because issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are so crucial to individual and societal well-being, and because our division is committed to understanding and promoting better health outcomes for everyone, we are committed to increasing the representation of underserved populations in all facets within our discipline.

As stated by the National Collaborating Centres for Determinants of Health and Health Public Policy, “health is shaped by a multi-dimensional overlapping of factors such as race, class, income, education, age, ability, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity, indigeneity, and geography” (http://nccdh.ca/resources/entry/public-health-speaks-intersectionality-and-health-equity). Thus, we cannot ignore this reality, and we need to take greater steps to acknowledge these factors and integrate them in our scholarship and practices.

Moving forward, we will work to create actionable changes to increase DE&I within our division. Toward this goal, we will review our division’s bylaws and consider ways to eliminate exclusionary practices. We also welcome division members and non-members to offer suggestions for ways to improve our practices to create a culture of DE&I.

We will soon distribute a survey to solicit suggestions for promoting DE&I within our division and the broader field. We will dedicate a portion of the 2019 NCA Health Communication Division business meeting to share ideas collected through the survey and discuss how we can improve our practices to promote greater DE&I.

We are barely scratching the surface with our proposed actions, but we hope the self-reflection and discussions that will unfold from such efforts can lead to a long-term strategic plan to increase DE&I in our division, with the hope that our efforts will contribute meaningfully to DE&I in the broader field.

Co-authored by NCA’s Health Communication Division Officers:

Xiaoli Nan, Chair

Norman Wong, Immediate Past Chair

Jennifer A. Kam, Vice Chair

Kate Magsamen-Conrad, Vice-Chair Elect

Colter Ray, Secretary

Heather Voorhees, Graduate Representative

Statement from the Officers of the Public Address Division of the National Communication Association

The Public Address Division of the National Communication Association is committed to the study of rhetoric that addresses publics. Although some scholars in the public address tradition have operationalized rhetoric in narrow and exclusionary ways, including intentional and unintentional investments in white supremacy, the leadership of the Division reiterates its commitment to fostering more capacious understandings of the rhetorics and publics animating our academic endeavors. With a long history of attention to a narrow sense of discourse, one that was mired in whiteness and privilege, the Division has become one that seeks to disrupt assumptions that the only discourses worthy of critical attention are those emanating from whiteness and white masculinity. Today, the rhetorical study of public address strives to complicate our long history and advance a rich conversation that theorizes and assesses the full range of public discourse. We work with and across various critical and theoretical literatures as we ask questions at the intersections of discourse and power. In our scholarly work we aim to recognize all the ways in which we fail to undo the workings of privilege and whiteness, and we recognize and accept our obligation to learn more effective ways of doing so.

We welcome the opportunity to join with other stakeholders in the study of public address to continue to reimagine the aims of and outlets for our scholarship, including conference spaces, journals, and book series. We commit to re-examining our division’s awards procedures in order to attend to issues of diversity and equity. We acknowledge that overwhelmingly, white men and white women have been the recipients of our division’s awards, so we commit to revising these awards processes in the spirit of ensuring that public address scholars have equal access to awards that help constitute a distinguished career.

It is with these commitments that we, the officers of the Public Address Division, denounce the recent statements by Professor Marty Medhurst. We call upon the Distinguished Scholars who have not yet done so to renounce their endorsement of the statement sent by Professor David Zarefsky to the NCA leadership protesting the work of the NCA leadership to advance structural changes in the service of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Finally, we support the leadership of NCA in their efforts to eliminate barriers that preclude many of our colleagues from being recognized as Distinguished Scholars.

In solidarity,

Lisa A. Flores, Past Chair

Kristy Maddux, Chair

Isaac West, Vice-Chair

Belinda Stillion Southard, Vice-Chair Elect

Michelle Murray-Yang, Secretary

From Debbie Doughtery:

By now, we have all read The Editorial and The Letter regarding the Distinguished Scholars selection process. I recognize that many people are hurt, distressed, and angry about the contents of this letter. I see it in your social media posts. I see it in your faces. I hear it in your words.

I have made a decision not to attack the character of the DS. Doing so is counterproductive, increasing the likelihood that we will focus on people instead of the problem, which is the systemic nature of racism. Does the Distinguished Scholar letter represent racism? Of course. Racism is systemic, so a letter that asks us to “tweak” a system rather than rethink the system is likely to support the system that reproduces racism.

I come from the working class. Like most people from the working class, when a problem arises I immediately think about solutions (see Lubrano for a discussion of this issue). I recognize that many of my colleagues are not ready to go there yet. You are hurt, and angry, and exhausted. The ongoing trauma of your work being treated as less significant—as being on the wrong side of the important/insignificant binary, has to weigh on your spirits. I am so very sorry. When you are ready, please consider the following options. As a white woman and the Editor of Journal of Applied Communication Research, like the Distinguished Scholars, I also have been asked to address the entrenched issues surrounding diversity and scholarship. While I still have a lot of work to do on this issue, in consultation with Srivi Ramasubramanian, Associate Editor of JACR, and with other colleagues of color, we have implemented some processes that may prove helpful as we move this conversation toward solutions.

First, we need to change the criteria for the Distinguished Scholar award. I would like to see the following added: “the scholar’s work addresses important social problems that go beyond the boundaries of academe. Preferably this scholar will have had not only a scholarly/academic impact, but a social impact as well.” When I became editor of JACR, I required that all manuscripts address both an important social problem and a scholarly problem. Simply being applied is not enough to publish work in the journal. I believe that people who operate from the margins are more likely to orient their work around important social problems than do most mainstream scholars. Adding this simple criterion to the journal has increased the number of submissions from people of color and from other marginalized groups that undergo peer review. As a result, recent issues of JACR have represented a diverse group of scholars. If we want to increase the diversity of people who are given the Distinguished Scholar award, then changing the criteria so that it encompasses what counts as “distinguished work” by PoC and other scholars on the margins seems like an important first step.

Second, not only should nominations be open to the field, but there should also be a diverse nominating committee that selects outstanding scholars who meet the criteria for distinguished scholars. This should increase the diversity of the pool of applicants.

Third, the selection committee should be a diverse group of distinguished scholars—but not necessarily The Distinguished Scholars. Let’s establish criteria for this group (full professors, published extensively, focus on important social problems, etc.), and then elect this group the same way we elect other important roles at NCA.

Honestly, I think we need another significant award titled “Social Impact Scholar” or something along those lines. That is the award for which I would personally like to be considered. I think many of my PoC and cosexual friends would also like to be considered for that award.

So this is a start to what I hope will be a larger conversation. We can’t just “tweak” current systems and hope that it will be enough. As I was taught in Sex Ed class so many years ago, “hope is not a method.” Let’s not “hope” this problem goes away. Let’s take carefully considered steps towards a solution. We have considerable brain power in our discipline and I think we have the collective will to produce change. I would like to hear more about solutions (and I am not set on my own, so don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings). How do we solve this problem so that my friends who work from the margins can find their joy and some peace as they get back to work?

Sincerely,

Debbie S. Dougherty

Editor, Journal of Applied Communication Research

Professor

University of Missouri

Statement from the Officers of the GLBTQ Division

The officers of the GLBTQ Division of the National Communication Association, would like to join the cacophony of voices which have spoken out against Professor Martin Medhurst’s editorial statement and all the defenders of such negligent and irresponsible rhetoric. Over the last couple weeks, there has emerged an important set of conversations, partly in response to Professor Medhurst’s statement about NCA’s Distinguish Scholars’ review process and the tensions of naming particular commitments to diversity.

While an apology was offered—in the form of “I shouldn’t have been so sloppy”—we as a collective believe that action and critical introspection, for Medhurst and all who stood with him on this matter, is the only appropriate act. What has been clear for so many of us in the GLBTQ division and beyond, is how this moment of rhetorical heat reflects a response to the historical treatment of black and brown, marginalized bodies within NCA and the academy more generally. In other words, there are many Medhursts amongst us. This we should never forget.

As a collective, we could rehash the many important critical points that have been offered in response across various units, but instead we would like to understand this moment as a catalyst for a whole movement against white systems of meritocracy and mediocrity within NCA and beyond. At the core of the manufactured idea that such esteemed awards like the Distinguished Scholar, which require nomination by peers, would privilege diversity over merit—is an anxiety over the work of diversification more generally.

So often, the appeal to decenter diversity has been about not wanting to do the work; or, the unwillingness to attempt new ways to approach, think about, and recognize differences amongst us. This is the white mediocrity that plagues the academy and our organization. To hide behind this performance of mediocrity, many overemphasize the importance of scholarly merit. The latter is unnecessary for a recognition which has clear criteria and is granted by a body of scholars, who are attune to cutting-edge and monumental contributions to our field.

That said, what must be changed is the continuous and deliberate choice to not acknowledge the work of a diverse panoply of scholars, as well as the tendency to leave recognition of such excellence to the minoritarian units and caucuses. Since the Distinguished Scholar recognition is the way NCA recognizes several long-term contributors to the field, the absence of folks of color designs a false genealogy of excellence within our organization. This must end.

What is clear: across NCA, we have not quite figured out how to create diverse and inclusive spaces and/or retain an ethic of diversification—which understands the integral nature of many voices, within our organization and the world. The Distinguished Scholar recognition—which between 2008-2015 granted 28 awards, of which only one was a person of color—highlights the problem of bias and mediocre attempts to diversify at NCA.

This is not only an indicator that there is a lot of work to do, in terms of the almost “white only” space that has become this awards terrain, but it also illustrates that there is no infrastructure to attract or welcome folks outside of the
majority. The executive committee of NCA, in its efforts to move beyond white mediocre attempts at diversification, instituted a new review process and established clearer language which demands more labor—keeping the importance of diverse and distinguished scholars at the center of our organization.

In the GLBTQ division, we have recently seen the result of our labor toward diversity— as both our leadership and body represent a spectrum of backgrounds, both culturally and intellectually. This required an intentional call for diverse voices, a creation of diverse leadership, and a recognition of scholarship for/about diverse communities. While we are not yet perfect, we think this should be the direction for all of NCA. Indeed, the NCA Executive Committee’s attempt to address the unfairness and narrow scope of the review process for Distinguished Scholar recognition was an excellent move in this direction.

Yet, there are so many other places within our field where such strategic practice could be transformative. One need not look further than hiring priorities in our departments and the development of leadership through mentoring, that seems almost absent for minority faculty across the country. The work ahead is to create intentional avenues that do not just give the burden of diversity to scholars from marginalized communities, but to understand the significant role institutional and organizational cultures play in making this happen. Medhurst’s statement and subsequent supporting letters are emblematic of exactly how NOT to approach these critical needs and issues.

We, the officers of the GLBTQ division and many of our constituents, support a belief that academic excellence is where we can see rigor in research, alongside rigorous reception, retention, and radical inclusion of folks from diverse backgrounds. Thus, we particularly reject Medhurst’s tokenizing of a trans* scholar who submitted their material to Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Medhurst cannot simply mention one particular case to justify his commitment to diversity and inclusion of differences; this cheap move alone is indicative of how LGBTQAI scholars are used as tokens to claim inclusion in spaces that are hostile to non-normative gender and sexuality performances, such as in departments, committees, and conferences.

White cis-heterosexual male privilege manifests loudly, in occasions where trans* struggle is utilized as a resource to be deployed within the logics of neoliberal capitalism. In other words, the reality of our struggles are not a big deal for him. We are objects to be used, but not heard. The recognition and respect of black and brown, GLBTQ folks—particularly the work of cis/trans women of color—is essential to the evolution of our field.

Almost every dimension of academia has a cis-white-heteronormative past—and an infrastructure for white ascendency—all while other bodies having to be positioned as afterthought, or even an unthought. The time is now to shift the course of NCA away from this in body and thought, toward a climate where these debates of diversity or merit are most commonly understood as nonsense. The goal for the larger organization, our individual divisions and units, and the academy more broadly, must be toward developing systems wherein we celebrate diversity, through the facilitation of access, advocacy, and advancement.

This is the only way forward.

We collectively reject Professor Medhurst’s position and any support of these gestures toward an NCA, which does not do the necessary work of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Best,

Jeffrey Q. McCune, Chair

Robert Gutierrez-Perez, Vice-Chair

Shadee Abdi, Secretary

Shinsuke Eguchi, Immediate Past Chair

Here is the statement from the officers of the Communication and the Future Division…………………………………………………………………………..
Letter of Solidarity and Support for Our Marginalized ScholarsWe stand in solidarity with our division, association, and field’s marginalized scholars. We recognize that the Medhurst editorial and NCA Distinguished Scholars’ letter are emblematic of our association, field, and society’s systemic discrimination against people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, poor people, and the uneven distribution of benefits, costs, and harms across those lines and other interlocking systems of domination. To this end, the purpose of our letter is to stand in solidarity with and support of our marginalized scholars.Structural Discrimination. It is necessary that our division, association, and field recognize that marginalized scholars face discrimination stemming from structures in our field. It is well documented that female scholars are asked to contribute more to service and that scholars of color are “called upon to serve on numerous institutional committees to fulfill diversity policy requirements,” even though service often counts for little with tenure and promotion.[1] Though all junior scholars experience increasingly severe publication requirements, because marginalized communities constitute a growing share of junior scholars, this increased expectation disproportionately affects marginalized scholars.[2] At the same time that junior scholars are facing more severe publication requirements, journal editorial boards are often not configured to match the scholarly interests of many marginalized scholars.[3] These factors and others contribute to the fact that although “underrepresented minorities held 12.7% of faculty positions in 2013, up from 8.6% in 1993, they held only 10.2% of tenured positions.” The same is true for women, as female scholars held 49.2% of all faculty positions in 2013, “but just 37.6% of tenured positions.”[4] The Accomplishments and Contributions of Marginalized Scholars. In spite of the field’s structural inequality, marginalized scholars have contributed much to the discipline. The research, teaching, and service contributions of marginalized scholars have resulted in frequent association-wide awards such as the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award, Diamond Anniversary Book Award, and Douglas W. Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award, as well as numerous awards at NCA’s division level. Marginalized scholars, likewise, have established, transformed, and led numerous NCA divisions and association-wide committees. And marginalized scholars make oversized contributions to the mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as other faculty, by virtue of the fact that the composition of the tenure-track and tenured-professoriate is increasingly incommensurate with student populations.[5] This is not an exhaustive summary of the numerous, incredibly valuable accomplishments and contributions made by marginalized scholars; even in its brevity, however, it illustrates that our association and field is stronger because of the work that has been done and is being done by marginalized scholars.Standing in Solidarity. The Communication and the Future Division is indebted to the research, teaching, and service done by marginalized scholars. Marginalized scholars have contributed to our division’s research agenda. Marginalized scholars have served as our teachers and mentors. Marginalized scholars have led and transformed our division. Indeed, the composition of our current leadership committee is reflective of our division’s commitment to inclusion, equity, and justice: with 40% identifying as women, 40% identifying as ethnic minorities. Though our division has long prided itself on being a welcoming space for all communities, we know we can do better—we want to do better. To this end, we have proposed the following:• The Establishment of a CATFD Intercaucus and Sections Chair. The creation of this position recognizes the critical work being done for marginalized communities by our association’s caucuses and sections. This position will help to ensure that the CATFD remains accountable to and continues to stand in solidarity with our field’s marginalized scholars. This position will be responsible for establishing and maintaining open communication between the CATFD and our association’s caucuses and sections, as well as advising our legislative assembly delegates on issues pertinent to the needs and interests of our marginalized scholars. This position will advise the CATFD program planner to help ensure that our division’s programming reflects the diversity of our association. • Revise CATFD Bylaws to Explicate Our Commitment to Working with Divisions, Sections, and Caucuses Focused on Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. The principles of diversity, inclusion, and justice must be central to our division. Revising our bylaws to make this commitment explicit will help to provide guidance to our division’s members and future leaders. Likewise, it will provide our members a mechanism for ensuring that our future division leaders remain accountable to the principles of diversity, inclusion, and justice.• Affirm Our Support for NCA Executive Committee. The NCA Executive Committee deserves our recognition and support for advocating on behalf of our marginalized scholars. Numerous policies and initiatives have been implemented by this EC (and recent ECs) that offer significant benefits to all of our members, particularly our most marginalized. We recognize that NCA’s current EC is amongst the most diverse—if not the most diverse—Executive Committees in the history of the association, and believe their leadership is testament of what can be accomplished by marginalized scholars and allies.We wish to emphasize that this letter is only one part of a much larger conversation about the future of our association and field. We believe that diversity, inclusion, and justice need to be at the core of this conversation, and that our commitment to these principles must result in meaningful structural transformations: e.g., free or inexpensive conference childcare, waiving conference fees for graduate students and contingent faculty, policies designed to offset the environmental impact of conferences, etc. We look forward to discussing the proposals outlined above with our members during the 2019 CATFD business meeting, and to working with and learning from the other divisions, sections, caucuses, and scholars who have expressed a commitment to similar values.

Signed:
Alison N. Novak, Chair, Assistant Professor, Rowan University
Robert Mejia, Vice-Chair, Assistant Professor, North Dakota State University
Kevin John, Vice-Chair Elect, Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University
Jessica D. Zurcher, Secretary, Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University
Kelly Merrill Jr., Graduate Student Representatuve

NCA Mass Communication Division Members:

The leadership of the Mass Communication Division (MCD) of the National Communication Association (NCA) affirms its ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence and expresses its solidarity with the divisions, interest groups, and members of NCA that have issued statements decrying the notion that identity/inclusiveness and distinguished scholarship are incompatible.

In light of the recent debate over how NCA selects its Distinguished Scholars, MCD leadership has come together to discuss ways that the division can continue to improve the access, support, and inclusion of all scholars working in our area, especially those who are underrepresented in our field and face systemic barriers. Our division has a history of electing leaders from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interests. The diversity of our division is one of our strengths, and we aim now to recommit to our acceptance and celebration of broad areas of scholarship that emphasize issues related to difference, otherness and marginalization. We strive to do better, and we can do better. We want to work with our members to make sure this happens, and to serve as accountable partners with the leadership in this endeavor.

We recognize that commitment must come in the form of actions and not just words. Accordingly, we will form a working group and hold group meetings prior to and during the upcoming convention to identify the best ways for the division to move forward with these objectives. As part of these ongoing conversations, we will evaluate our division practices as well as develop short- and long-term strategies that reflect our commitment as a division to inclusive excellence. Thus, we welcome all feedback and ideas as we continue to work on substantive improvements to make MCD a more diverse community of scholars and scholarship where the excellence of mass/mediated communication research is recognized.

-The Officers of the Mass Communication Division and Select Past Division Chairs

Statement from the NCA Disability Issues Caucus on the Distinguished Scholars Award Process

The officers of the Disability Issues Caucus [DIC] of the National Communication Association [NCA] strongly and unreservedly support the recent change in the process for the selection of NCA Distinguished Scholars. In our estimation, this change is overdue as an endeavor promoting conscious, sustained organizational attention to our longstanding need for more diverse scholarly voices and perspectives. We consider this changed Distinguished Scholar selection process, furthermore, consonant with the organization’s already ratified Statement on Diversity, Equity, Access, Justice, and Inclusion.

The caucus structure of the organization itself is a mechanism within NCA designed to raise the profile of both scholarly research and professional practices centered on questions of diversity, inclusion, equity, access, and meaningful representation of all members of our community. As one such caucus, DIC has an important role to play in initiating and supporting critical examination of, especially, equity-focused (rather than deficit or accommodation focused) access to full NCA participation among community members of all abilities. This ongoing process of critical examination, reflection, and action broadens the knowledge and dialogue possible in NCA–sponsored publications, events, deliberations, and meeting spaces; the caucus has only accomplished this important work through collaboration with the diverse group of colleagues and fellow caucuses represented on the Diversity Council. The officers of DIC express here our commitment to continuing such collaboration, an endeavor that includes as one of its components unwavering solidarity with our colleagues who created, and signed, the “Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline” during the week of June 10th of this year in lucid response to publicly posted objections to the changed process in the selection of Distinguished Scholars. We are grateful for their leadership and labor and affirm their effort to challenge an oppressive construction in the meaning and application of merit.

As Disability and Communication Scholars, we are aware how Whiteness and ableism (along with sexism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism, and other systems of oppression) are embedded in rewards of merit. We are committed to not allowing our focus on one area of marginalization to perpetuate another, and we are reviewing our own award processes to ensure that we celebrate scholarship that seeks to dismantle oppression, listens to the direction of diverse voices, and works for intersectional cultural transformation.

Sincerely,

Brian Grewe, Diversity Council Representative
Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, Vice Chair
Keith Nainby, Chair
Allison D. Brenneise, Vice Chair-Elect

In light of the current conversation around diversity and merit in the communication discipline, the Economics, Communication, and Society Division (ECS) issues the following statement:

As scholars sensitive to the interconnections between economics, communication, and society, we believe that merit functions ideologically at different moments in history to secure the powers and interests of particular classes. This privileging of merit has historically come at the expense of a range of marginalized bodies (articulated as racialized, sexualized, gendered, and disabled) who provide the labor and resources needed to sustain the overarching system. As Sharon Crowley explained many years ago, to use Aristotle’s Rhetoric as a standard of communicative excellence (i.e., merit) is to essentialize a fourth-century Athenian worldview (predicated on patriarchy, xenophobia, slavery, and ableism) as basically universal. Given this Western notion of merit lies at the foundation of communication studies in general, and rhetoric and public address scholarship in particular, it is little wonder that so few people of color, women, queer and trans folks, and disabled individuals have had a voice in the discipline until the last few decades. As a discipline, we should challenge this normative social order, while also recognizing that these issues are rooted in larger infrastructures and historical processes that extend well beyond the academy.

Because merit and meritocracy are also central to neoliberal regimes of governance, ECS would like to use this moment to bring attention to the underlying capitalist logic of exploitation and commodification that the communication studies discipline reproduces through its everyday practices and activities. There are more adjuncts in higher education today than ever before, and an increasing number of progressive-minded scholars are competing for an increasingly scarce pool of tenure-track jobs. These positions are awarded primarily in terms of disciplinary currency (e.g. publications, awards, etc.), while the demands of organizational and departmental service labor (not valued in hiring decisions) disproportionately affects marginalized populations more, further muddying this currency as a value-neutral metric. As a result, people of color, women, queer and trans folks, and disabled individuals are often left with the most precarious academic positions as their labor is valued the least. In addition to fully supporting the call to diversify the pool of NCA distinguished scholars and adopt broader measures to address issues of diversity and inclusion, ECS calls NCA to question the discipline’s complicity with neoliberal structures of capitalism and address the material conditions exacerbating its effects.

With this in mind, ECS recognizes that decisions to name distinguished scholars, the granting of editorial positions, and the awarding of tenure-track jobs have material consequence, especially for scholars at the margins who may lack institutional spaces and resources to share their subjugated knowledges and embodied perspectives. We are committed to making NCA, our academic homes, and our broader communities more inclusive and diverse places and addressing the material conditions that inhibit this possibility.

Signed:
Catherine Chaput, Immediate Past Chair
Joshua Hanan, Chair
Jessica A. Kurr, Vice Chair
Blake Abbott, Vice-Chair Elect
Christopher Duerringer, Secretary
Ralph Cintron, ECS Pre-Conference Planner
Crystal Colombini, ECS Pre-Conference Planner

Statement from the Leaders of the NCA Organizational Communication Division

We, as leaders of the Organizational Communication Division, wish to address the letter signed by 66 of NCA’s distinguished scholars and continued with Martin Medhurst’s letter that pitted diversity against merit. Many of the DSs and Medhurst have now apologized, moving toward recognizing the deeply-rooted problems those words represented. As organizational scholars and practitioners, we know that silence organizes just as words do. We, therefore, wish to speak and stand against biases that impact so many people specifically and civil society in general.
 
We endorse the sentiment expressed by President Star Muir, especially with respect to the need for real change that involves (re)designing procedures that recognize the many facets of excellence in our discipline. We also know that although organizations may be dynamic, organizational research demonstrates how organizing and communicative processes can generate an “iron cage” that thwarts and subverts the ability for organizations and their systems to evolve. In hearing the voices this NCA decision has elevated, we want to participate in and support public discussion about and action toward real diversity and inclusion at NCA that has the potential to transform the organization. Change is often difficult and in cases such as this one, transformation requires conscious choice and action, as well as a need to listen. So we are starting with processes to facilitate our listening.
 
To that end, we will:

  • Solicit feedback from division members and others who wish to participate using a survey we are currently developing to identify specific shortcomings that members report and actionable systemic corrections, revisions, or fully revamping practices.
  • Gather data about our division’s own inclusive practices (or lack of) and bring that information to our division for discussion and implementation of actions to continue to strive for an inclusive and diverse set of organizing practices as a division.
  • Facilitate a review of our bylaws with the goal of discussing any needed changes at the upcoming meeting of the OCD this November. 
  • Announce through CRTNET and other social media changes our division makes.

The importance of listening to our colleagues, to marginalized voices, to those with diverse experiences, to those offering suggestions and help and to those already advocating for change cannot be overstated. As we move forward, the OCD leadership is committed to prioritizing listening and tangible process changes and outcomes, including changes that may foster initial discomfort for ourselves, our members, and the NCA community.

Marya Doerfel, Chair

Rebecca Meisenbach, Vice-chair

Matthew Weber, Vice-chair elect

Jeffrey Treem, Secretary

Paul Leonardi, Immediate past chair

Angela Gist-Mackey, Awards chair

Statement from the NCA Activism and Social Justice Division Leadership

The Activism and Social Justice Division is dedicated to supporting and collaborating with community members whose lives are affected by oppression, domination, discrimination, and other sociopolitical struggles due to differences in race, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, and other identity markers. Within our professional work and everyday lives, we seek to intervene into and reconstruct unjust discourses in more just ways.

As such, ASJD’s elected officers unapologetically condemn the exclusionary nature of the Distinguished Scholars award and the statements supporting its exclusionary history. The facts undergirding the current controversy are mindboggling if not outright illiberal. As but one example: Out of 104 Distinguished Scholars since 1992, there have been only 23 women and only one person of color (see President Muir’s statement, p. 2). And the idea that some NCA members seek to justify this track record by arguing that meritocratic processes have nothing to do with sociopolitical positioning is troubling, to say the least. We fear that this woefully uninformed argument reflects and reinforces the worst of wider America: In brief, that historical and current day structures and discourses privilege the privileged while simultaneously ascribing self-blame to anyone who “fails” to ascend the ladder of social hierarchy. Thus, not only do we seek to disrupt and dismantle the colonization of the communication discipline, but also we aim to actively fight against racist, cis-heterosexist, classist, transphobic, ageist, ableist, and other “power-over” systems that enable, produce, and sustain “imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy” both within and outside of NCA.

It is obvious that the current situation has created—or perhaps more accurately, revealed—a fissure within the NCA community. The contention is unfortunate but not unproductive. Positive, constructive change often emerges from genuine, arduous, and painful conflict. If approached wisely and equitably, such conflict can produce auspicious opportunities replete with transformative potential. It is our hope that the current controversy leads to a more conscionable and socially just NCA that willfully and proudly moves beyond rather than reinforces various inequities and stratifications.

With this in mind, ASJD’s elected officials unequivocally applaud, support, and act with any and all NCA members who are taking efforts to create a more inclusive, just, and righteous National Communication Association in all forms and at all levels—be it the Distinguished Scholars award or otherwise.

To this end:

· We stand in solidarity with the NCA Divisions and Caucuses who have also issued statements;

· We stand in solidarity with the many individuals who drafted, signed, and continue to sign the Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline, in addition to supporting the recommendations contained within;

· We stand in solidarity with the social justice advocacy represented by the Executive Committee’s action to change the Distinguished Scholar process;

· We stand in solidarity with—and are open and eager to help conceptualize and enact—any and all social justice strategies aimed at transforming oppressive systems into more just ones, both within the National Communication Association and beyond.

In solidarity,

Jason Del Gandio, Chair

Patricia S. Parker, Vice-Chair

David Palmer, Vice-Chair Elect

Kristen C. Blinne, Immediate Past Chair

Jennifer Guthrie, Secretary

Letter from mid-career and junior faculty

Dear President Muir, Dr. Parry-Giles, and Members of the Executive Committee,

We’d like to start by thanking you for your service to our organization and discipline. We know this current situation cannot be easy, and we appreciate your leadership.

We’re writing as White communication practitioners, several of whom are relatively young in our careers. We’ve spent years attending and learning with and from fellow NCA scholars; it has been an important place for us to work through new ideas and to grow as teacher-scholars. We’ve valued our time, even as we recognize our organization is not perfect.

We fully recognize our beloved colleagues of color who draw our attention to the fact that #CommunicationSoWhite, and we are actively listening and learning to be better colleagues and advocates. We are encouraged by the EC’s decision to change the Distinguished Scholars nomination process in order to address the severe lack of diversity among the Distinguished Scholars, especially racial diversity. We understand that the Distinguished Scholars are just that, distinguished folks who’ve contributed significantly to the field. While that feels a long way off for many of us personally, there are scholars we follow and many of our own professors and mentors who we’d like to see listed among those members.

We want to urge you to continue the course correction you’re on so that the Distinguished Scholars better resemble the makeup of the organization (and the country, for that matter). This is not simply a matter of diversifying the optics of the pool of Distinguished Scholars. This is a matter of diversifying research processes, the knowledge claims we make, living our organizational and disciplinary values, embracing our accountability to communities beyond the discipline, and establishing expectations for future scholars who will come and take our place. We support your decision, and we are committed to doing what we can to help change the organization for the better. We agree with Dr. Muir’s letter to the Distinguished Scholars that 12 years for possibility with a less than one percent change is egregious. As you rightfully recognize, it is time for the EC to step in.

Please know you have the encouragement and support of many of us behind you. Thank you again for supporting the membership as we stand together at this pivotal crossroad for our discipline.

Sincerely,

Dr. Molly Wiant Cummins

Dr. Christina E. Saindon

Dr. Sandy Pensoneau-Conway

Dr. Miriam Sobre

Dr. Nicholas A. Zoffel

Dr. Brandi Lawless

Dr. Shauna M. MacDonald

Dr. Jennifer L Tuder

Dr. Derek M. Bolen

Dr. Katy A. Ross

Dr. Deanna L. Fassett

Dr. Rebecca Walker

Dr. Allison D. Brenneise

Dr. C. Kyle Rudick

Dr. Angela Glunz

Dr. Robert L. Carlsen

Dr. Jimmie Manning

Dr. Katherine J. Denker

Dr. Yannick Kluch

Dr. Jennifer Willis-Rivera–
— 
Cheers, Nic

Nicholas Zoffel, Ph.D. 

cel 408.835.6474 | tel 916.660.8095

nzoffel@gmail.com  l  www.profzoff.com 

nic@edoptics.org | www.edoptics.org

facebook: edoptics | @profzoff #edoptics 

Statement from the Rhetoric, Culture, and Advocacy Interest Group of the Western States Communication Association

We, the leadership of the Rhetoric, Culture, and Advocacy (RCA) interest group of the Western States Communication Association (WSCA), wish to express our unequivocal support for the necessary changes made to the selection process to the NCA Distinguished Scholars Award endorsed by the NCA Executive Committee. Recent letters by Dr. Medhurst and NCA’s Distinguished Scholars reflect broader cultural patterns that draw on and perpetuate structures of oppression that negatively impact people at the intersections of difference including people of color, transnational scholars, poor people, women, LGBTQ+ people, and people living with disabilities. At the same time, we recognize those in the discipline who have long challenged these structures and who have called for change long before our current moment. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues who are marginalized by intersecting structures of oppression and who labor toward cultural and disciplinary transformation.As rhetorical scholars, we understand communication as constitutive of knowledge and our social world more generally. Communication is consequential as it impacts the lived experiences of actual humans, but those impacts differ depending on whose bodies are speaking and whose bodies are being spoken about. When those who have been given privilege and power through titles such as Distinguished Scholar imply diversity will override merit, they are brandishing “merit” as a means to delegitimize non-normative ontologies and epistemologies. “Merit” constitutes an alleged line of respectability or universal criteria assumed to be attainable and available to all. However, in weaponizing “merit,” we see that, for some, it is a line never meant for some bodies to cross. In this, those who use “merit” as a marker of respectability reveal the limits and emptiness of the term. Further, those who use “merit” as a cover reveal the limits of their own respectability and ability to self-govern in their own ranks. Moreover, pitting the “god term” of diversity against merit cannot help but also beg an ideographic read of both terms. <DIVERSITY>, with its signification to racial, gender, sexual, and ability otherness is contrasted with the opposing <MERIT>, signified by (white) masculine, individualism. Ideographs are employed by the powerful, often to limit our critical reasoning, preventing us from questioning asserted claims. We are intended to accept them as fact. However, as rhetoricians, we must question the use of such terms when they take on dog-whistle like qualities or are used to uphold assumptions that some scholars or their scholarship are somehow less rigorous, intellectually grounded, or sophisticated. The implications of <MERIT> signal that we should be wary and skeptical of the place of some bodies in powerful spaces, regardless of actual scholarly inquiry or “merit.”These ideographs should be recognized for what they are: tired accusations drawing on the same ideological scripts that are designed to always and already exclude those sequestered to the margins. “Merit,” “excellence,” or other similar descriptors that evoke the ideographic nature of these <MERIT> discussions are, as critical scholars have long noted, predicated on whiteness. From one’s theoretical and methodological commitments, to the legitimacy of the subject(s) of one’s research, to the tone of one’s prose, all become disciplined by notions of merit defined by the majority for the majority. Those outside these dictates are rendered abject, disorderly, sloppy, monstrous—or anything but meritorious.We recognize that regional associations are also complicit in the broader structural issues brought forth in discussions of NCA at large. Therefore, we take this moment to reflect on ourselves: What are our commitments to ensuring diversity in our interest group? What connections can we make with other interests groups to amplify the necessary diversification of our discipline beginning at the regional level? Indeed, we are writing with the recognition that our current disciplinary moment demands that all units across the discipline (departmental, regional, national, international) pause and reflect and act. To that end, we would like to highlight a recent change and outline ongoing and developing commitments. First, our interest group approved a name change from “Rhetoric and Public Address” to “Rhetoric, Culture, and Advocacy” at the WSCA 2019 convention. This name change reflects concerns that traditional modes of public address criticism excluded those whose work was outside the normative parameters denoting “rhetoric.” We wanted the name to be more inclusive and representative of the range of discourses, questions, and purposes our members labor under, especially those who have taken up the unceasing shift towards civic engagement and social justice. As a result, our interest group is working to meet our critical moment, which necessarily requires reconceptualizing core components defining the discipline. However, we are not suggesting that a name change alone is enough, but underscore the power of language to constitute representation. The renaming is, at best, a base entry point for sustained change. We are only just beginning.Second, program planners will be prioritizing and fostering a space for work that addresses the issues and questions raised in this kairotic moment, to question the whiteness of rhetorical studies in the discipline and/or that advances how we address and resist the same. The WSCA 2020 convention theme is Communication, Agitation, and Justice. This theme is especially efficacious for soliciting critical discussions that work against the whiteness of rhetoric.Third, we are committed to reviewing and assessing our interest group’s guiding documents to ensure diversity is a core mechanism driving interest group decisions moving forward. This includes, and is not limited to, ensuring continued diversification of leadership, awards, and submissions more generally. This is the first year we have a nominating committee for leadership positions, and this committee will use diversity as a criteria for reaching out and seeking nominations from our interest group. We will review and assess bylaws and award criteria. We will share our findings at the WSCA 2020 interest group meeting so as to hold future leadership accountable for our past trends and for ensuring RCA continues these efforts.Fourth, we will solicit membership feedback regarding diversity practices in the interest group. These findings will be presented at the WSCA 2020 interest group meeting so as to hold future leadership accountable for our past trends and for ensuring RCA continue to diversify how we recognize and award rhetorical studies in the region.We acknowledge these steps represent the beginning of a process and we look forward to engaging in the difficult and necessary work ahead.

In solidarity,

Michael F. Walker, Arizona State University, Chair

Benny LeMaster, Arizona State University, Vice-Chair

Roberta Chevrette, Middle Tennessee State University, Immediate Past Chair

Carlos Flores, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Secretary

Aaron Hess, Arizona State University, Nominating Committee

Amy Pason, University of Nevada – Reno, Nominating Committee

Statement from the Officers of the Argumentation and Forensics Division of the National Communication Association

We, the officers of NCA’s Argumentation and Forensics division, wish to add our voices to the chorus of communication at this pivotal moment in NCA’s history. We issue this statement as a declaration of solidarity with our colleagues speaking out against practices which further exclude marginalized populations and as a commitment to making tangible changes within our division rooted in these values. First, we applaud the Executive Committee of NCA for creating substantial changes to the selection process for Distinguished Scholars in an effort to recognize outstanding scholars in our discipline excluded by structural privilege. However, we do so while acknowledging that such efforts require consistent and active effort in the face of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and ableism. Thus,we also urge the Executive Committee to continue their efforts to recognize the vital work of scholars of color, queer scholars, trans scholars, and all those whose work has been dismissed because of their identity.

In our support of this change from the Executive Committee of NCA, we also firmly reject claims that discount the importance of recognizing historically marginalized scholars for their groundbreaking and foundational work in the communication discipline. We believe that rigorous, high quality, impactful scholarship and initiatives for inclusivity and diversity are not mutually exclusive. The positions espoused by some of our NCA colleagues do not reflect these beliefs. Important conversations with those colleagues, as well as our departmental, university, and disciplinary communities have already begun and we hope those continue. We intend to be part of those conversations as our organization takes up the task of interrogating systems of power, privilege, and marginalization within our discipline.
We recognize that the world of argumentation theory has historically struggled with inclusivity, as has forensics at all education levels and in all formats. In the broader discussion happening as a result of these recent events, the Argumentation and Forensics division must hold itself accountable to develop more conscientious practices. Therefore we, the officers, are committed to taking action to promote diverse voices in argumentation and forensics, to listen and learn from those who have been structurally excluded, and to work together to create a more inclusive division and discipline.

Thus, we will reserve time in the Argumentation and Forensics Business Meeting at NCA 2019 to discuss ideas for promoting more meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. We will also ensure there are online means of communicating ideas (Skype, Google Hangout, Snapchat video, and/or other mutually agreeable technologies) to include those who are unable to physically join us in Baltimore. We understand our obligation to open space for those historically excluded from Argumentation and Forensics and it is our hope that doing so will allow us to imagine a new vision of what our division can be for everyone.
Finally, we thank all those who have led the charge to radically challenge the status quo. Your work has invigorated thousands of scholars working to empower the unserved and underserved in higher education and beyond. For this and for all we know you will continue to do, we thank you, and remain in solidarity.


Dr. Stephanie Wideman, Immediate Past Chair

Prof. Christopher Outzen, Chair

Dr. John P. Koch, Vice Chair

Dr. Nick J. Sciullo, Vice Chair – Elect

Dr. Scott J. Varda, Elections Officer

Prof. Ashley Givens, Secretary

Statement from the Officers of the Political Communication Division

The Political Communication Division (PCD) of the National Communication Association (NCA) affirms an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. NCA’s statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion clearly articulates the centrality of these issues to excellence in scholarly achievement: “NCA believes that diversity enriches the academic understanding, analysis and use of human communication, which can be understood only to the extent that ideas from diverse spokespersons and perspectives are heard and valued. The highest quality criticism and research of communication requires an understanding and appreciation of diversity within and across cultures.”

Though we cannot speak for our full membership – which is large and ideologically diverse – the elected leadership of the division wishes to join with those who express dismay that the nomination and selection of Distinguished Scholars (DSs) has not fully reflected the intellectual richness within our field. We affirm the wisdom in NCA’s statement that we will not achieve our greatest intellectual potential if we are not diverse and inclusive. We therefore do not accept the premise that a system that generates such unequal outcomes can truly be free of implicit bias. We endorse the Executive Committee’s affirmative commitment to address this inequity.

We recognize the tremendous contributions of existing DSs to the founding and thriving of our own division. We hope for and invite collaborative, deliberative, and democratic engagement with all of our membership – especially including our DSs – as we continue to address the issues and practices of inequity that serve to reproduce homogeneity in our field.

We wish to affirm, celebrate, and lift up the meaningful work being done by scholars in NCA, including members of our division, who regularly face visible and invisible markers of difference. These scholars every day, but particularly recently, disproportionately shoulder the burden of conversations and trauma regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our elected leadership is painfully aware that this conversation must go beyond the selection of DSs. We must interrogate our own practices. We therefore commit to examining the biases that promote homogeneity within our division. We commit to scrutinizing and reforming the selection of leadership and award committees, as well as the nomination and selection of winners of our book, article, and dissertation awards. We acknowledge that the division must have intentional processes to ensure that we are celebrating the full spectrum of excellent work from all of our members.

We further commit to examining the biases that contribute to the insufficient diversity of our membership. We acknowledge that decisions about graduate admissions, faculty hiring, conference acceptance, and program scheduling are all influenced by our implicit biases. Our commitment to NCA’s statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion must be active and ongoing.

We invite division members and non-members to contribute to this self-examination as we work to align our actions with our organization’s mission statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Ben Warner, Chair

Sumana Chattopadhyay, Vice-Chair

Colene Lind, Vice-Chair Elect

Diana Zulli, Secretary

Mo Jang, Webmaster

An Open Letter from Communication Graduate Students re: Distinguished Scholars

Mentors, colleagues, friends—scholars we look up to:

We write this letter to represent, partially and imperfectly, the voices of communication graduate students across the country. We dream of joining your departments, earning tenure, becoming distinguished scholars (lowercase) in our own right. We sit in your classrooms, toil in tiny offices, and perform incredible amounts of labor for our schools. We subscribe to CRTNET, and we are watching how this conversation unfolds.

We are of course a varied group, and have incredibly different experiences—some of us are situated in such a way that becoming an NCA Distinguished Scholar seems possible. The majority of them look like us. We are white. We are perhaps wealthy. We are mostly male. We are probably straight, cisgender, able-bodied. The current academic system was designed for our success.

Others of us face a more difficult road—in attending college, in attaining a graduate degree, in landing a tenure-track position, in earning tenure, and yes, in being recognized for the brilliance and humanity we bring to the Communication discipline.

No matter where we sit, we recognize the existing inequitability in the selection of Distinguished Scholars (and beyond). This process does not reflect our values or adequately represent the scholars we know and look up to. We are not only proud to stand alongside our colleagues calling for change, but we refuse to accept that the status quo has brought us true success. What those in power have enjoyed is a fraction of the flourishing we know we can create when everyone has the chance to be their full selves and thus, do their best learning, teaching, and scholarship.

We stand alongside the diverse voices in the field calling for change, and we join them. The future of the discipline demands it.

In solidarity,

M.A./M.S., PhD, and recent graduate students of the communication discipline

Responses as of June 19, 2019 at 7:30pm MST

Emily N. Beach, M.A. (primary author)

Courtney Meissner (SDSU)

Danielle Biss, San Diego State University

Evelyn Puga, San Diego State University

Yasaman Sadeghi

Molly Flores, San Diego State University

Kara Sutton, San Diego State University

Matt Donovan (PhD graduate, Arizona State)

Sarah Tellesen, San Diego State University

Sophia Town

Robert J. Razzante, Arizona State University

Kory Riemensperger, Ph.D. student, University of Pittsburgh

Ana Terminel Iberri, PhD Student Arizona State University

Hannah R. Long, doctoral candidate, University of New Mexico

Arthi S Chandrasekaran – Graduate Student – Michigan State University

Erin V. Zamora, Doctoral Candidate, ASU

Corey Reutlinger, Ph.D. Student., Arizona State University

Ashley P. Jones, Georgia State University

Jessica S. Rauchberg, Ph.D. Student, McMaster University

Jessica Johnson, PhD, University of Denver

Kyle P. Colglazier, Ph.D. Student, Texas A&M University

Andrew Boge, Doctoral Student, University of Iowa

Elizabeth M. Jenkins, PhD Student, Ohio University

Carson S. Kay, Ph.D. Candidate, Ohio University

Caleb Green, University of Denver

Daniel M. Chick, PhD. Student, University of Kansas

Brandon McCasland, Ph.D. Student, University of Iowa

Will R. Silberman, PhD Student, University of Kentucky

Benjamin W. Mann, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Utah

Sarah Austin, Ph.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University

Ethan Hunter, Louisiana State University

Sarah Gonzalez Noveiri, University of Denver

Natalie Garcia, M.A., Louisiana State University

Jennifer Woody Collins, PhD Student, Ohio University

Michelle Flood, Doctoral Student, University of Iowa

Cassidy D. Ellis, Doctoral Student, The University of New Mexico

Hailey Otis, PhD Student, Colorado State University

Robert D. Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Abigail Reed, Ph.D. Candidate, Florida State University

Caleb McKinley-Portee, PhD Student, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Sophia Maier, Ph.D. student, Penn State University

Shelby Swafford, Doctoral Student, Southern Illinois University

Christopher Garcia, PhD Student, Florida State University

Ritika Popli, Doctoral Student, Ohio University

Cara Marta Messina, Northeastern University

Danette M. Pugh-Patton, Doctoral Candidate, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Kristiana L. Báez, Doctoral student, The University of Iowa

Kara StJonn Gonzales, University of New Mexico

Sophie Jones, PhD Student, University of New Mexico

Christopher Wernecke, Ph.D. Student, Georgia State University

John Cena, PhD student, Penn State University

Nick Sellers, PhD Candidate, Florida State University

Berkley Conner, Doctoral Student, University of Iowa

Emilee Shearer, PhD student, Arizona State University

Janice Hersey, PhD student, University of New Mexico

Vipulya Chari, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mahealani Yoshida (San Diego State University)

Katrina Marks, PhD Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nathaniel Rogers, San Diego State University

Max Plumpton, PhD Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Emma Gabriele, Doctoral Student, University of Iowa

Em Kohl, M.A., James Madison University/Bridgewater College

Naomi Q. P. Tan, Doctoral Candidate, The Ohio State University

Erin Drouin, Ph.D. student, the Ohio State University

To sign, please visit: https://forms.gle/2DiizkLNv71x8ZUr7

Call for Input from the NCA Interpersonal Communication Division Leadership

The executive committee of NCA’s Interpersonal Communication Division is giving the discussion circulating around the association’s Distinguished Scholars the important consideration it deserves. We recognize our division’s efforts to encourage and engage diverse viewpoints must be enhanced. While a subset of the IPC panels and papers tentatively programmed for Baltimore will help initiate and shape conversations around the urgent topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the division as well as NCA, there is much work to be done.

We are taking two immediate steps that will help direct our efforts: 

1. We created a brief, anonymous survey that asks questions about what we should do to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within the division and association. We invite IPC division members AND non-members to offer their input. Before the convention we will share the information gained from the survey. The link to the survey is below.

https://milwaukee.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5hidqivahEaZgnb

2. We will devote time during our 2019 business meeting in Baltimore for a discussion. We invite those who are NOT members of our division to attend and participate, as well. The conversation will benefit from having multiple perspectives and voices.

Our hope is that taking these actions will help us better understand the perspectives of (and about) the Interpersonal Communication division of NCA and in turn how we can lead our members in making positive changes in practices, structures, and discourses.

Paul Schrodt, Immediate Past Chair

Jennifer Priem, Chair

Erin Sahlstein Parcell, Vice-Chair

Maria Venetis, Vice-Chair Elect

Kristen Carr, Secretary

We, the undersigned past and present officers of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Caucus of the Central States Communication Association, stand in solidarity with the National Communication Association Executive Committee and especially the scholar activists who have both instigated and/or defended the organization’s decision to make changes to the selection procedures for the NCA Distinguished Scholars program. The lack of scholars of color, openly queer scholars, and international scholars—not to mention the disproportionate number of men who dominate the membership—more than illustrate that change was needed. We support this move by the National Communication Association and look forward to further actions that will enhance diversity and inclusion within and across the wider discipline.

We would also be remiss if we did not point out the troubling and potentially dangerous nature of the editorial recently put forth by Martin J. Medhurst in response to the changes in the Distinguished Scholar selection process. Specifically, in reviewing his editorial process for the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs he stated,

We recently received a submission from a scholar who identifies as trans. That scholar will receive the same consideration as any other—her scholarship will be judged on its merits, not on the identity category of its author.

We find this statement problematic for a number of reasons.

First, in such a small field we worry that pointing out the gender identity of a submitter is, in effect, essentially outing the person. Related, this action also calls into question whether or not the peer review process can be carried out with the standards of anonymous/confidential peer review that the journal promises.

Second, the phrase “identifies as trans” uses modifying language that implicitly questions whether the scholar is actually trans. In trying to exemplify an affinity for trans people, Medhurst instead demonstrated his lack of awareness regarding trans communication practices.

Finally, and to that point, the example itself tokenizes trans people. The history of the journal, especially its table of contents and editorial board, should make evident a commitment to equity when it comes to gender and sexuality. It fails there, as well as in its (lack of) racial, ethnic, and other forms of diversity.

Tony E. Adams, Bradley University
Ahmet Atay, College of Wooster
Rebecca Johnson, University of Kansas
Nicholas Lorang, South Dakota State University
Jimmie Manning, University of Nevada, Reno
Timothy P. McKenna-Buchanan, Manchester University
Justin Rudnick, Minnesota State University, Mankato
William Sipe, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Stephanie L. Young, University of Southern Indiana

The Executive Council of the Western States Communication Association (WSCA) is aware of a controversy around the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Distinguished scholars and its related issues. As the WSCA’s officers, we appreciate and stand by the NCA’s executive council and their effort to be more inclusive and diverse. Learning from the current situation, we reiterate our commitment to enforce the WSCA’s policies to work with the diversity and to improve our association’s practices. Thank you to all communication scholars, teachers, and practitionars who have spoken out about the controversy. We appreciate your labor.

Collectively Signed by 

Rodney Reynolds, President 

Christina Yoshimura, First Vice President 

Shinsuke Eguchi, Second Vice President 

Brian Heisterkamp, Immediate Past President

Heather Hundley, Executive Director

Statement from the Officers of NCA’s Family Communication Division

We, the leadership of the Family Communication Division (FCD) of the National Communication Association (NCA), write to affirm NCA’s Executive Committee’s recent changes to the nomination and selection process for the association’s Distinguished Scholar award. We support this move as part of the Executive Committee’s broader efforts to work toward a more just and inclusive association. We recognize and appreciate the labor of our colleagues who are scholars of color and belong to other marginalized groups who are currently and have been historically bringing issues of injustice and exclusivity to the attention of our discipline. In solidarity, we take this moment to reaffirm our commitment to NCA’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, Access, Justice, and Inclusion. 

To illustrate our commitment, we have been working through several actionable items to improve and support the diversification of our membership and scholarship. Given that awards provide means to celebrate scholars and scholarship, our first set of actions relate to awards. We have developed language for a proposed change to the by-laws to create a new divisional award for an early career family communication scholar. As part of the evaluation criteria, the new award explicitly states that the committee will consider the extent to which the scholar addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This proposed award is currently under consideration by NCA’s Executive Committee and, if approved, it will be distributed to the division in the upcoming months for full divisional discussion and voting in November. Additionally, prior to Dr. Medhurt’s editorial, we were in the process of re-opening the FCD’s Distinguished Book Award for additional nominations. Given the current conversations surrounding injustice, this re-opening presents a timely opportunity for divisional members to nominate books written by scholars whose work might have been overlooked or underappreciated in the past. Personally, we pledge to form award committees whose members acknowledge the structural barriers that might impede the recognition of work by scholars of color or other marginalized groups. 

Second, recognizing that awards are only one means of increasing diversity, as officers of FCD, we call for additional research that examines inequalities in relation to contemporary families in all their diversity. As family communication scholarship attests, families socialize and shape the values, beliefs, and actions of the next generation. Thus, we support research that moves beyond centering predominantly White, cis-gender, college-aged, well-educated, English-speaking, and economic privileged populations. It is particularly important that research reflects that contemporary families are more diverse than they are homogenous. We affirm scholarship that represents these demographic realities and the structural barriers diverse families experience. Some ways scholars might reach broader populations include integrating more community-based sampling, working with translators, and engaging with populations outside of the United States. If we fail to do so, we risk reinforcing dominant structures that have historically oppressed and silenced the very people we have dedicated our lives to better understanding.

Third, we would like to engage the division in a critical reflection of divisional practices. We welcome recommendations for additional actionable items to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice within the division. We look forward to discussing these issues at our divisional meeting in November. In doing so, we hope to see tangible outcomes that will serve to strengthen our division and the field as a whole. 


Collectively signed by,

Elizabeth Suter, Immediate Past-ChairKelly Rossetto, Chair
Narissra Punyanunt-Carter, Vice-Chair
Pamela Lannutti, Vice-Chair Elect 
Kristina Scharp, Secretary
Veronica Droser, New Faculty/Graduate Student Representative

Richard Vatz, rvatz@towson.edu via CRTNET

Morality of Process in the Distinguished Scholars Award Controversy

Colleagues, it appears that those disagreeing about the Distinguished Scholars Award are, contrary to that in which our field ostensibly specializes, talking past each other.

One side is enraged about the winners’ lack of diversity, although, parenthetically, the conspicuous lack of /political/ diversity in our field has never troubled many.  The NCA Distinguished Scholars Committee, also concerned about the lack of diversity, is enraged at the lack of fair process, claiming, correctly it says here, that the NCA Executive Committee acts like a totalitarian Star Chamber, arbitrarily imposing decisions and usurping power without apprising the Scholars Committee or any other principals of its actions or deliberations.

Both sides are correct.  The conspicuous lack of diversity deserves some attention, given its arguable absence, without compromising the rigorous  criteria for the Award. But a democratic NCA should never accept the totalitarian style of governance of Trevor Party-Giles as Executive Director, nor by the Executive  Committee either, that violates the morality of process and that undermines the autonomy of the NCA Scholars Committee, illegally, arbitrarily and unfairly.

Kathleen McConnell, kathleen.mcconnell@sjsu.edu via CRTNET

Response to the national office post

I am the Review of Communication editor-elect. I am the journal’s seventh editor, all of us white, and the first woman to edit ROC. I don’t know if I am the first LGBTQ+ person to serve in this role. My whiteness, gender, queerness, my career trajectory and other aspects of my positionality should be subjects in a frank conversation about my appointment and the structure of NCA’s journals. I commit to making that conversation happen.

The purpose of this brief post is two-fold:

– To voice support for change in longstanding NCA practices and the kind of transparency modeled in the national office’s post and in Professor Muir’s letter.

– To share again that, beginning in 2020, ROC will run themed issues exclusively, most guest edited. The journal aims to contribute to the major issues that span the discipline and its new format lends itself to extended scholarly reflections on a question or topic: https://think.taylorandfrancis.com/review-of-communication-calls-for-papers/?utm_source=CPB_think&utm_medium=cms&utm_campaign=JOA07965

Please contact me via email. I do not use facebook or twitter, but my absence from those platforms should not be read as silence or indifference.

Dana L. Cloud, dlcloud@syr.edu via CRTNET

Comment re Distinguished Scholars

(performance note: capitalized nouns in this exchange to be pronounced distinctly and with a Small Flourish)

(for “family,” read “race”; and for “children,” read “designees.”)

Dear Scholars Distinguished by Your Distrust of Diversity,

Here is a little common sense:

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity.

For all people being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up their own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though themselves might deserve some decent degree of honors of their contemporaries, yet their descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. 

As no one at first could possess any other public honors than were bestowed upon them, so the givers of those honors could have no power to give away the right of posterity, and though they might say, ‘We choose you for our head,’ they could not without manifest injustice to themselves say “that your children and your children’s children shall reign over ours forever.” Because such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool.

Most wise people in their private sentiments have ever treated hereditary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils which when once established is not easily removed: many submit from fear, others from superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the king the plunder of the rest.

We are not submitting to your right (or to your journal).

Sincerely,

Thomas (I’m white,  but I’m not wrong) Paine

In solidarity with diverse scholars against the hereditary right to bestow honors.

Addendum to post re DS

I want it to be understood that I think critiquing the gatekeeping function of the group does not necessarily entail disrespect for individuals’ accomplishments. Although some individuals are spearheading the movement against diversity,  the problem is structural,  which is why the EC proposed a structural solution. I worry that white fragility is motivating the group, a fear that if diversity is prioritized,  the accomplishments of the current distinguished scholars will be undermined. I invite our distinguished scholars to reflect on their underlying anxieties, which historically have been   expressed in the rhetoric of anti- affirmative- action programs.

Bill Yousman, yousmanw@sacredheart.edu via CRTNET

Re:  “Merit” and “Identity”

Why do we assume that honoring intellectual merit and a just representation of diverse identities throughout NCA (and beyond) are mutually exclusive prospects?  We can only take this stance if we presume (A) whiteness/maleness/straightness, etc. are not identities, and (B) somehow straight white males have cornered the market on intellectual and scholarly merit therefore conscious efforts to widen the field can only result in the diminishing of merit. This assumes a zero sum game when in fact there is nothing of the sort at play here. Diversity is not the enemy of intellectual merit, it is a necessary component. Or, perhaps we just want to make NCA great again…

Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas, edesnoyerscolas@georgiasouthern.edu via CRTNET

#distinguishedschlarsohsowhite

There is a groundswell of conversations about the Distinguished Scholars ire of impending change of how NCA will pick DS members and it’s ugly.  This conversation should be public and this issue should be dealt with. Please read this link.  One thing NCA has to realize is the mere talking about diversity and the so called “support” of it is no longer something we can do as an organization. We need to be diverse from top down and show our rising scholars that diversity and the support and advancement of our scholarship is paramount.

https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/in-post-made-in-response-to-changes-to.html

Shawn J. Parry-Giles, spg@umd.edu via CRTNET

Support for Rhetoric & Public Affairs

I like many am very saddened by the debate that has unfolded over the controversy surrounding the selection process of the Distinguished Scholars. What started as a debate over how to select the Distinguished Scholars has resulted in many people resigning from the board of R&PA. The resignations began because Marty Medhurst announced his decision as R&PA’s editor to publish his editorial about the Distinguished Scholars in the pages of R&PA. The editorial never belonged in a journal devoted to research and Marty has rightly decided not to publish his troubling editorial in R&PA. Yet many of my colleagues on the editorial board of R&PA have opted to put their commitment to diversity into practice by resigning from the board. I understand and support these personal and political decisions.
Yet, I also want to at least acknowledge possible unintended consequences.

Whether or not we all resign is really not going to hurt Marty Medhurst as much as it is going to hurt our junior colleagues and our graduate students. Many rhetoricians built their careers, at least in part, by publishing in R&PA and other book outlets that Marty launched at Baylor, Texas A&M, and Michigan State University presses. Tenure and promotion would have been more precarious for many without these important outlets for our rhetorical scholarship.

Marty’s foresight and labor did change our field for the better by giving a generation of scholars more outlets for our important work. Our students and colleagues trying to get academic jobs and achieve tenure and promotion need as many outlets as possible for their scholarship. The new world of publishing is about profit. A boycott could easily result in a journal or series being shutdown rather than a new editor selected. Every new press outlet in Communication is integral to the health and well-being of our discipline.

Instead we need to do what we can to ensure that R&PA outlives us all. We need to ensure that our graduate students and junior colleagues do not feel as if their careers are jeopardized because they have published in R&PA. We need to ensure that we use all of the journal outlets we have to publish the important diversity scholarship that is taking place across our field. This is such a precarious time academically and politically. Let’s not pursue actions that could (unintentionally) shutdown outlets, discourage people from publishing in particular outlets, or deter people from reading scholarship because the editor expressed ideas that undermine our diversity principles.

Let’s instead use this moment to take stock in the important progress we have made in our diversity scholarship since R&PA launched in 1998. Let’s instead lay out a blueprint for the important diversity work that needs to take place over the next twenty years and beyond. That is the special issue we need in R&PA. That is the kind of legacy we need to leave for the next generations of Communication scholars. We need such diversity scholarship now more than ever. Let’s use this moment and the pages of R&PA to add our diverse voices to these all-important conversations. And let’s join boards and stay on boards to help support this diversity mission.

Rod Carveth, rodcarveth@gmail.com via CRTNET

Re: Distinguished Scholars

Chill, folks … it’s summer

I am afraid that since the current occupant of the White House was elected, our collective ability to go from zero to outrage has accelerated tenfold. The CRTNET discussion over the Distinguished Scholars is perfect evidence of this.

On the one side, there are those Distinguished Scholars who feel that criticism about how they selected Scholars suggests that they are racist. Folks, you’re not racist. But, if you can’t find exemplary scholarship from among NCA’s more diverse members, you are not trying hard enough. You were given years to do better. You didn’t. Changes needed to be made.

On the other side, there are folks representing those who feel that they have been unfairly shut out of being Scholars who are suggesting that the “communication discipline is bleeding.”  That’s a tad hyperbolic. The communication discipline has never been stronger.  The discipline is more diverse, and produces a higher quality of research over more domains than ever before. Is the discipline as inclusive as it should be? No, but it’s headed in the right direction. To suggest that the discipline is “bleeding” is to subscribe to James Chowning Davies’ J-curve Theory of Political Revolutions: that revolutions don’t occur when things are at their worse, but when they are getting better, just not fast enough for the aggrieved.

Look, folks, it’s summer. Time to enjoy the weather and relax. It’ll be good for your peace of mind.

Ted Sheckels, tsheckel@rmc.edu via CRTNET

Distinguished Scholars and Diversity

I do not wish to enter this debate because, frankly, I see excellent arguments on both sides. Furthermore, I think these arguments are being offered by colleagues of impeccable character. So, I do hope the discussion can proceed without either side disparaging the motives of the other. Everybody, it seems to me, wants to reward excellence; and no one is insisting on a single definition of that term.

But the term “diversity” comes into this debate in the curious way it always does-very quickly reduced to meaning diversity based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender preference, physical ability. These are important elements of diversity, but, in an academic context, they are not the only ones.

NCA features faculty who come from a diversity of institution types, not Ph.D.-granting and “other” (a dichotomy I offer hear), but a much longer list. And, although the major PhD-granting schools sometimes consider the other universities out there (the b to their a), they often fail to acknowledge the hundreds of liberal arts colleges, the hundreds of community colleges, the many HBCUs, etc.

And there is diversity when it comes to scholarship. I’m not talking about quantitative and qualitative or social science and rhetorical and critical. I’m talking about forms of applied scholarship or interdisciplinary scholarship, which do not fit neatly into these categories, and the scholarship of teaching, which is so often dismissed or trivialized in all academic organizations.

So, I would hope that, as different groups try to find ways to bring distinguished scholarship and diversity together (since they are not and should not be thought separate), they recognize that “diversity” takes on other forms within academe and there is often systemic discrimination against those who represent these other forms.

I don’t pretend to know how “distinguished scholars” should best be selected, but I do know that any process that might be critiqued by anyone as smacking of  elitism is one we should suspect and probably reject. My point in this posting is to suggest that if the vestiges of elitism have not served the desire for diversity well, we, as we affirm that conditional clause, recognize that “diversity” is, within an academic context, a broad term, a broader term than the debate thus far recognizes.

Mike Allen, mikealle@uwm.edu via CRTNET

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

The festering situation with the Distinguished Scholar designation by NCA is interesting. The solution will fail for a number of reasons, most importantly because it simply creates a different mechanism to continue the same power struggle. The level of outrage and naked power politics continues, just with different bosses. Consider this, if each Division designated the five top scholars, only a fraction of them could earn the current designation limited to five a year over the next decade. Regardless of who is in charge, there simply are not enough seats at the table to even begin to accommodate what each group would perceive as deserving.  The new structure relies on essentially the same zero sum selection process while altering a few of the seats at the table.

The problem is that NCA has grown in size and diversity. The continuation of a centralized power structure continues to exacerbate and increase tensions between groups fighting over various scraps dolled out by a centralized system. One way to avoid this is to decentralize the process. End the NCA Distinguished Scholars designation and simply have divisions designate Distinguished Fellows (much like APA). Each division would be responsible for creating and awarding the designations for the members of the division (a person may earn multiple designations, each from a different division).

NCA refuses to trust divisions with this or with running their own journals. So many divisions lack direct representation in the NCA set of journals (interpersonal, family, health, small group, organizational, social science mass media, technology, etc.). Divisional members are told to take the scraps that might be available in Monographs or figure out some way to make themselves relevant to other journals. So NCA continue to finance a journal structure that provides no hope of reasonable access to large number of members. The Distinguished Scholar designation is simply another venue for this and yes it perpetuates an existing power structure unable to provide adequate diversity or recognition to members.

Having large divisions be responsible for journals and distinguished scholar designations would create and reward diversity. Such actions would do so naturally.  Imagine the business meetings of divisions that are involved in arguing about what it takes to become a distinguished scholar or the directions of the journal for that division. These are serious debates, but need to held by the many communities of scholars that exist under the NCA umbrella.

The problem is that NCA, is no longer a single community (as if it ever really was). Believing that one can create a single entity that can serve all the various methods, ideologies, identities, and approaches simply becomes an exercise in how to reallocate power among the groups without changing the game.

So, members of NCA accuse each other of racism, sexism, suppression, lack of merit, etc. The statements by each side attack the legitimacy of the current DS as well as cast doubt on the next generation of DS.  Nice to know that any value of the designation has now been forever tainted by the exchanges.

I am old enough to have seen this in NCA before and cynical enough to believe no system fundamentally centralized in a large organization can ever serve the needs of the membership.  NCA leadership must grow up and start to address the needs of the members, all of them. The new structure continues to embrace the logic of what caused the inevitable failure of the first system.

Denise Bostdorff, dbostdorff@wooster.edu via CRTNET

Distinguished Scholars Controversy

I have immense respect for NCA’s Distinguished Scholars (DS), including David Zarefsky and Marty Medhurst, for whom I also have the greatest of affection.  Both men have contributed to our discipline in ways that can never be repaid.  As an editor, Marty has also helped forward the careers of a diverse range of scholars.  That fact makes his recent letter and the controversy over the DS selection process all the more difficult.

Because I teach at a small liberal arts college, I have been far less immersed in organizational matters at NCA than many others; the Distinguished Scholars designation and the selection process have seemed, to be honest, rather irrelevant to my life, and this past November was one of the rare occasions when I was unable to attend NCA’s conference.  As a result, I was rather clueless about this controversy until earlier this week when Marty circulated his editorial.  I was troubled by the false dichotomy of diversity versus intellectual merit that his letter seemed to propose and conveyed that to him, as others have, as well.  Still, I lacked context for the details and, when NCA posted the documents dealing with the controversy yesterday, I read them closely.

I was truly shocked to learn that only one Distinguished Scholar of color has been selected over the entire existence of the DS program, although the gender breakdown was not surprising.  While I am clearly examining these documents from an outside perspective of one who has not been intimately involved, I am puzzled by the Distinguished Scholars’ inability to consider structural issues beyond the nomination process-including who is voting-as a factor in who is actually elected.  This is all the more ironic, given that some of the Distinguished Scholars have, themselves, studied the impact of power on culture and institutions.  It’s not that individual people harbor animus for scholars who are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ, for instance, but that structures still tend to represent dominant values and those of us who are white and straight (and male) are so immersed in them that we tend not to notice.

I have observed this in my own career.  When I made the decision to leave a R-1 institution for a small liberal arts college, some people started treating me differently, as though I somehow did not “count” quite as much.  Power flows through structures.  Likewise and more pertinent here, over the years both in my role on editorial boards and just as a reader of scholarly articles, I have noticed how female scholars are far more likely to cite my work than male scholars are, even when the male scholars are writing on topics directly relevant to my scholarship.  I do not believe that the overwhelming majority of such instances were intentional, but I obviously have found them problematic nonetheless.  More important than my personal experience, however, we know from research on the subject, both within our field and without, that values embedded in our institutional structures negatively impact scholars who are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ.

Given all of this, the structure of DS, which incrementally added more members of similar backgrounds with everyone voting on upcoming nominees, seems to have been one that, albeit inadvertently, contributed to similar scholars being selected.  Other factors undoubtedly were involved, as well, but some of those may link to structures, too.  For instance, if scholars of color have not been part of DS selections for so long, it naturally will discourage nominations of such individuals. (And by the way, the lack of nominations is something that should rest on all of our shoulders-not just the DS, but the Executive Committee and NCA membership, as well.)

That said, we should also recognize that the EC may have erred in its lack of consultation with the DS about such a major change; it is possible, too, that the character of other communication between the EC and the DS further inflamed the situation. I also find myself agreeing with the DS that people on the Distinguished Scholars Search Committee should have a record of scholarship in addition to their record of service as a criterion for future membership.

In closing, we need to think about how to make our disciplinary structures more hospitable, but my approach would be more Burkean:  that our DS colleagues are not malevolent, but simply mistaken.  We owe much to these individuals, and appreciation of their contributions-including their past support for diverse scholars-should not be discarded over this instance.  While continued discussion and deliberation of such matters is needed, we cannot delegate that responsibility, as we so often do, to scholars who are most impacted because they are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ.  Discussion alone is also not “the” solution to the problems that our discipline faces and, in this respect, the EC’s recognition that structural changes are needed and its willingness to act, even if we may have disagreements about the manner in which the DS change was made in this instance, represent an important step forward.

The officers of the Performance Studies Division of the National Communication Association wish to express our support of institutional changes intended to make NCA a more diverse and inclusive organization. We believe this diversity and inclusion should be reflected in the composition and scholarship of NCA’s Distinguished Scholars, but it should also be reflected throughout the association, including our division. These values are fundamental to the work we do as scholars and artists on the page, on everyday and aesthetic stages, and in the classroom–whether that be at an R1, R2, MSI, and/or teaching institution.

As members of a division dedicated to performance as scholarship, pedagogical enterprise, and transformational force, we recognize that equity, diversity, and inclusion add value to all institutions, organizations, systems, and frameworks. We will use this opportunity to review our own policies and practices (e.g., how candidates for offices and division awards are nominated) and we are actively invested in participating in culturally diverse collaborative work. In regard to the Distinguished Scholar selection process, we take responsibility to foster the nomination of our members to that body that, at this point, does not accurately reflect the contributions performance makes to a robust understanding of communication.

Additionally, at the upcoming Baltimore convention, we hope to collaborate with other divisions, interest groups, and caucuses to listen, brainstorm, and bring to fruition practical and creative ways to fight white supremacy, institutional racism, and other exclusionary practices attendant to race, class, gender identity, sexuality, ability, and more, on our campuses, in our divisions, and at NCA. This will include reaching out to those groups to identify performance-oriented panels we might co-sponsor to build stronger coalitions and generate increased member interest.

We wish to thank everyone who has been initiating positive and much needed change and dialogue within the association. We thank you for your labor, we support you, and we join you in your continued work.

Signed,

Lisa Flanagan, Associate Professor, Xavier University of Louisiana, Chair.

Shauna M. MacDonald, Associate Professor, Villanova University, Vice Chair.

Jennifer Tuder, Associate Professor, St. Cloud State University, Vice Chair Elect.

Jonathan M. Gray, Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University, Immediate Past Chair.

Sarah Jackson, Visiting Assistant Professor, Catawba College, Secretary.

Sharon Croft, Professor, Capital University, Archivist.


With gratitude, and in collaboration and consultation with:

Jennifer L. Erdely, Associate Professor, Prairie View A&M University, Member.

Craig Gingrich-Philbrook, Professor, Southern Illinois University, Editor, Text and Performance Quarterly.

Jade C. Huell, Assistant Professor, California State University, Northridge, Member.

Tracy Stephenson Shaffer, Professor, Louisiana State University, Member.

Patricia A. Suchy, Associate Professor, Louisiana State University, Member.

Elizabeth Whittington, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor, Texas Southern University, Member.

Caucus on LGBTQ Concerns Leadership Statement

As the “advocacy and political action arm for LGBTQ identified individuals in the National Communication Association” we, the elected officers of the Caucus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns of NCA, are committed, and call upon ourselves to take up a bolder and more active commitment to challenging and actively working to break down operations of homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, ableism, and all forms of hegemonic systems at work in the culture at large, and within the organization specifically.We stand firmly with the many voices who have already made clear statements and commitments to nothing short of the transformation of NCA and a careful and systematic reckoning with its cis hetro patriarchal history—a history that remains at the core of so many processes in our field, our organization, and our discipline. Much has been said by a broad coalition of scholars whose insights, labor, and quick and sophisticated actions need to be engaged, listened to and reckoned with. This requires labor, discomfort, and a willingness to not be silent and allow (or hope) things “cool off” by the Fall. No. We stand with and amplify the demand across the organization that denounces the normative order, stand behind current efforts underway, and call for greater resources, support, and attention for tangible and systematic change.Efforts are underway, and this work is being done—marking years of labor that should, in a better and more just NCA, be distinguished at the highest levels of the organization. NCA’s excellence is both incomplete, but also greatly diminished, without a detailing of the truly distinguished work of scholars of color who have not been properly recognized. Our story is a false and lesser story in the absence of these important voices.As the officers of the caucus, we join so many who are committed to the larger and more complicated discussion that moves past one nominating process, one instance of racist rhetoric, one group of distinguished scholars, to a broader and more insidious issue. While it should not be a surprise to anyone, the current moment has lit a fire under a long known, long felt, and long pacified realization—NCA (as does the larger culture beyond academia) enacts an insidious commitment to whiteness and continues to foster exclusionary, demeaning, and hostile practices towards scholars of color. Yes, there is a race problem in NCA. Like so many organizations and institutions, NCA is struggling to move past weak gestures of diversity that resist structural transformation and diversification. Our normative histories and commitments are dragging their feet and clinging to a hegemonic legacy that naturalizes and legitimates holding up and celebrating certain bodies, certain forms of scholarship, certain identities, certain modes of engagement, and certain ways of thinking and being in the world.Thus, 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 NCAWe stand with, and wish to mark the labor and the importance of the leadership voices of the GLBTQ division- a division that has made important strides toward transforming NCA. We echo and underscore their statement earlier this week, particularly their assertion that “The recognition and respect of black and brown, GLBTQ folks—particularly the work of cis/trans women of color—is essential to the evolution of our field.”We also strongly condemn the tokenization of all scholars of diversity and specifically oppose Medhurst’s mention and deployment of an example of a trans* scholar who has sent a submission to Rhetoric & Public Affairs. The example illustrates failure of careful introspection, the continued marginalization of bodies and identities in academia, and the superficial inclusion of diversity and difference that continues to uphold cishetero, white, male, able-bodied ideologies and structures of power.We stand in solidarity with the dozens of divisions and organizations that have already come forward, as well as the tireless work of associations members who have spoken up, spoken out, organized and labored to both name and trouble the legacies of white cis-hetero patriarchal hegemony within the organization, as well as propose concrete and necessary steps for the organization to make genuine efforts in the process of addressing its problems.We stand with and support the courageous actions of those scholars who have resigned from spaces that served to further the divides made visible by these conversations, those individuals who have acknowledged their own power and privilege and pledged to do better, and those colleagues and friends who have signed their names to letters of support, or retracted their work from journals in protest. We recognize that doing so can place those already on the margins (and especially our untenured, contingent, and student colleagues) in professionally precarious positions. As has been stated elsewhere by others, we will hold you up. We support the “Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline” posted by the Distinguished Diversity List on June 17, 2019. We applaud the organizers and the signers (current and ongoing) and mark their work, dedication, labor, and commitments, and support and honor their work for the organization.We wholly support all efforts in process, in development and forthcoming that work to address these issues, and insist that such efforts be actively supported by the organization. Specifically, with respect to the distinguished scholar selection process, we support the changes instituted by the EC of NCA. However, we do not feel that these changes are enough. The diversity council has made additional specific and substantive requests of NCA to do more to diversify their ranks (both of the leadership of NCA, the editors and editorial boards of their journals, and the ranks of the DS). We encourage the EC to continue to work with the diversity council to advance those priorities and ask that they implement the diversity, equity, and inclusion action steps advocated by the diversity council.

Andrea M. Davis, Chair

Amy Smith, Vice Chair

Dustin Goltz, Vice Chair Elect

Erika M. Thomas, Immediate Past Chair

Christopher Vincent, Secretary

Alice E. Veksler, Diversity Council and Legislative Assembly Representative

Kyle Colglazier, Publicity Chair

S.A. Welch, welchs@uww.edu via CRTNET

The distinguished scholar issue

I am getting concerned that the reiteration of “we don’t discriminate” is now being sent by every group within NCA.

I think with the message from the Board of NCA that is is (or should be) clear what the stance is of the various groups.

My suggestion is that now it is time to be proactive in action as actions speak louder than words.

A Statement on Inclusive Excellence from the Mass Communication Division

On June 18, 2019, members of the Mass Communication Division were emailed this statement along with a brief survey soliciting feedback and interest in participating in conversations about inclusive excellence within our division and discipline.

A Statement on Inclusive Excellence from the Mass Communication Division

The leadership of the Mass Communication Division (MCD) of the National Communication Association (NCA) affirms its ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence and expresses its solidarity with the divisions, interest groups, and members of NCA that have issued statements decrying the notion that identity/inclusiveness and distinguished scholarship are incompatible. 

In light of the recent debate over how NCA selects its Distinguished Scholars, MCD leadership has come together to discuss ways that the division can continue to improve the access, support, and inclusion of all scholars working in our area, especially those who are underrepresented in our field and face systemic barriers. Our division has a history of electing leaders from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interests.

The diversity of our division is one of our strengths, and we aim now to recommit to our acceptance and celebration of broad areas of scholarship that emphasize issues related to difference, otherness and marginalization. We strive to do better, and we can do better. We want to work with our members to make sure this happens, and to serve as accountable partners with the leadership in this endeavor.

We recognize that commitment must come in the form of actions and not just words. Accordingly, we will form a working group and hold group meetings prior to and during the upcoming convention to identify the best ways for the division to move forward with these objectives. As part of these ongoing conversations, we will evaluate our division practices as well as develop short- and long-term strategies that reflect our commitment as a division to inclusive excellence. Thus, we welcome all feedback and ideas as we continue to work on substantive improvements to make MCD a more diverse community of scholars and scholarship where the excellence of mass/mediated communication research is recognized.

-The Officers of the Mass Communication Division and Select Past Division Chairs

Statement from the Student Section

We, the current leadership of NCA’s Student Section, write this letter in support of the many critical scholars, divisions, and published letters who have demanded the transformation of NCA. Alongside those scholars, the NCA Student Section calls for an end to institutional exclusivity in the forms of racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and all other forms of hegemonic exclusion inside the organization and the field of Communication Studies. We also find the tokenization of scholars of color and other diverse backgrounds such as gender, abilities, and sexualities unacceptable.

We demand that our journals, conventions, departments, institutional hiring practices, and graduate student recruitment reckon with the ways they have been (and continue to be) complicit in upholding principles and values of whiteness. Within the Student Section, it is particularly important to us to continually examine how we organize our program for the convention in ways that (un)intentionally perpetuate the toxic “values” of our field—ones that exclude particular research, relegate it to the “personal,” or scoff at it as if it is not “real” research (but something else). We detest the idea that scholarship only looks one way and that communication is or should ever be limited to a tradition. In order to shift culture in NCA, we are willing to work in collaboration with other divisions. We firmly believe that these changes cannot be made without uniting NCA divisions and caucuses.

Finally, we would like to thank the scholars who are currently undertaking the emotional (and thus felt physically) labor to shift culture. As students who often feel as though we can only watch but not participate, we are grateful to see the immense strength and support across the field. We, the leadership of NCA’s Student Section assure you, we are not just watching. We are planning to make change happen.

Signed,

Logan Rae Gomez, Chair

Kiah E. Bennett, Vice Chair

Kristina Lee, Vice Chair Elect

Mikayla Torres, Secretary

Mohan Dutta: Theorizing Communication as a discipline: Erasures and White privilege

https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/another-morning-another-letter.html?fbclid=IwAR10EOFWG5KRyFZyQi0MheYvZwXBczaeiUi48YdcFd63tOcqLZ8x7-gHZQU

Statement from an Undersigned Group of Past and Current Journal Editors of National Communication Association (NCA), Regional Communication Associations, and Allied Interdisciplinary Journals:

We, the undersigned, stand as past and current journal editors of the National Communication Association (NCA) as well as past and current editors of regional communication associations and allied interdisciplinary journals.

Together, we underscore our support of the spirit of the National Communication Association Executive Council’s (EC) change to the Distinguished Scholar selection process in demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion. We also acknowledge the hard work of the EC, Publications Council, Diversity Council, and journal editors of the NCA, regional communication associations, and allied interdisciplinary journals for their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

We also reject the bifurcation of diversity and excellence or achievement. These notions are not mutually exclusive, and excellence is indeed constituted in multiple ways and by various positionalities and identities, methodologies, and paradigms.

As former and current journal editors, we recognize the importance of journals in the career development of scholars. As such, there should be continued attention to ensuring the diversification of elected journal editors throughout the nomination and selection process

While intentions towards and declarations of the commitment for diversity represent crucial first steps, we know that these need to be further demonstrated through impactful structural practices to transform dominant White, male, heteronormative, ableist, U.S. centric, and classed systems of power.

We encourage the EC, the Publications Council, and the NCA and regional communication association editorial boards to continue their focus on the following action items for the future. Please note that the Publications Council and the Diversity Council as well as NCA’s leadership have already initiated several of the action items below. We affirm their efforts and urge them to continue on this path for the future in the following areas:

1. The broadening and diversification of the pool of potential editors through increased outreach beyond current structures and processes;

2. The formal creation of structured and repetitive opportunities for discussion about equity, inclusion, and unconscious bias for publication governing bodies and current editors;

3. Emphasis on continuous attention to and accountability for diversifying editorial boards;

4. Dissemination of resources to editors and editorial boards to raise awareness of potential biases in editorial review processes; and

5. Advocacy for increased institutional support for editors to help increase the likelihood for diversification of nominees.

We stand ready to support NCA’s leadership in pursuing these and other actions in whatever venues and conversations are appropriate for current and past editors.

In conclusion, we stand in solidarity with those who have affirmed the need for and engaged in work for the disciplinary transformation on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Respectfully,

Rona Tamiko Halualani, San Jose State University, Past Editor, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication (JIIC), 2013-2016; Chair of WSCA’s Publications Committee

John Martin Sloop, Vanderbilt University, Past Editor, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 2007-2009

Devika Chawla, Professor, Ohio University, Editor: Departures in Critical Qualitative Research (UC Press)

Pat Gehrke, University of South Carolina, Past Editor, Review of Communication, 2011-2015

Bernadette Marie Calafell, Gonzaga University, Editor-Elect of the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication

Mohan J Dutta, Dean’s Chair in Communication, Massey University, Editor-Elect, Journal of Applied Communication Research, 2019-2023

Shiv Ganesh, Professor, UT Austin. Past Editor, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 2010-2013

Deanna L. Fassett, Professor, San José State University. Editor, Communication Teacher, 2017-2019

Bruce Henderson, Past Editor, Text and Performance Quarterly, 2007-2009

Stacy Holman Jones, Founding Editor, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, 2013-2018

Kathleen F. McConnell, Professor, San José State University, Editor-Elect, Review of Communication

Craig Gingrich-Philbrook, Southern Illinois University, Editor, Text and Performance Quarterly, 2019-2021

Kory Floyd, University of Arizona, Past Editor, Communication Monographs, 2013-2016

Mary Stuckey, Penn State University, Past Editor, Quarterly Journal of Speech, 2017-2019

Robert Alan Brookey, Ball State University, Editor, Critical Studies in Media Communication

Katherine Miller, Past Editor, Communication Monographs, 2010-2012, Past Editor, Journal of Applied Communication Research, 2014-2016

Mindy Fenske, University of South Carolina, Past Editor,Text and Performance Quarterly, 2016-2018

David H. Kahl, Jr., Associate Professor of Communication, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Editor-Elect, Communication Teacher, 2020-2022

Greg Dickinson, Communication Studies, Colorado State University, Editor, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 2019-2021

Deanna P. Dannels, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, NC State University; Editor; Communication Education, 2018-2020

Claire Sisco King, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Vanderbilt University, Editor-Elect, Women’s Studies in Communication, 2019-2022

C. Kyle Rudick, Associate Professor, University of Northern Iowa, Consulting Editor, Communication Education, 2018-2020

Kathryn B. Golsan, Instructor, University of Northern Iowa, Associate Editor, Communication Teacher, 2020-2022

Thomas K. Nakayama, Professor, Northeastern University, Past Editor, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 2008-2010

Todd L. Sandel, Associate Professor, University of Macau, Editor, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 2017-2020

Tamara D. Afifi, Professor, University of California Santa Barbara, Editor, Communication Monographs, 2016-2019

Jon A. Hess, Associate Dean, University of Dayton, Past Editor, Communication Education, 2015-2017

Barbara A. Biesecker, Professor, University of Georgia, Past Editor, Quarterly Journal of Speech, 2014-2016

Instructional Development Division

Statement Regarding Distinguished Scholars

The officers of the Instructional Development Division of NCA have been following the discussion surrounding the NCA Distinguished Scholars and are committed to giving this important movement our focus and attention. Like many, we have been inspired to think about the history and future of our own division and our practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We recognize and support our colleagues and graduate students who are using their voices to promote change in our discipline. We support the changes NCA has made to the selection procedures for the Distinguished Scholars.

As a division, we must do more to enhance our own focus on these important issues as they touch every part of the teaching and learning experience, inside and outside of the classroom. The instructional context, and its students and teachers, represent multiple identities, institution types, and levels of knowledge. Our scholarship, awards, and division membership must reflect this reality. In line with other divisions, we will create space during our 2019 Business Meeting for further discussion and encourage IDD and non-IDD members to join us. Our hope is that we have many voices contribute to the future of the division in ways that encourage, support, and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Thus, we propose the following immediate action items:

  1. We will review our bylaws, selection criteria for awards, and conference submission evaluation criteria to enhance inclusion.
  1. We also invite your participation in the divisional award selection process so that we can best reflect equity, diversity, and inclusion in our divisional award selections. In early August, we will post a formal call to CRTNET for submissions for the 2019 Distinguished Article Award and welcome divisional members to nominate articles for consideration. In the interim, we invite divisional members to email 2019 Distinguished Article Award Committee Chair Tiffany R. Wang twang@montevallo.edu nominations and self-nominations of divisional members and/or non-divisional members who would be interested in serving on the award selection committee by August 15th.
  1. In addition, we invite IDD and non-IDD members to share their suggestions and concerns through an anonymous survey (link provided below) so that we can more closely understand the pressing concerns of our membership. We will gather and review the feedback and share it with our members (and any other NCA members) at the Business Meeting in Baltimore as part of our ongoing discussion. https://ohio.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_55dNpyBBpxwmDhH

We know these are minor steps and that there is much more work to be done. We are hopeful that our division will make positive changes as a result of our collective efforts.

Co-Signed by the Officers of the Instructional Development Division

Kerry Byrnes-Loinette, Chair

Angela M. Hosek, Vice-Chair

Zachary Goldman, Vice-Chair-Elect

Tiffany R. Wang, Past Chair

Brandi Frisby, Immediate Past Chair

Jordan Atkinson, Secretary

Ted Remington, ted.remington@wgu.edu via CRTNET

Wherefore awards?

I’ve watched the discussion about the Distinguished Scholar award unfold with bemusement that has morphed into sadness at seeing an award that few people know about and even fewer care about be the thing that we as communication scholars are roused to passion over—this, at a time when we arguably have never had bigger fish to fry as far as what our field (potentially) has to offer to the wider world.

I cannot think of many issues about which I care less than who gets to make decisions on the recipients of an academic award. For that reason, I wouldn’t bother to say anything about it, except that I saw Gerry Philipsen’s question in a previous post (#17208) and wanted to underscore it for fear it would be lost in the tumult, since I think he’s put his finger exactly on the “deep structure” beneath it all: “But would abolishing the system of awards altogether be a more constructive way to move from the way things are to the way that we want them to be?”

As a relatively disinterested observer, it seems clear that what has elevated this issue to the level of a cause célèbre are not differences of opinion about how a certain award should be allocated or how to best address the embarrassing homogeneity of recipients (which seem like topics about which reasonable people might differ), but the way in which the “Distinguished Scholars” have communicated their feelings, in terms of forum and tone.  In particular, the letter by Zarefsky that such a large percentage of DSers co-signed seems to have been the spark.

It certainly raised the drama.  We are told that changing the selection process “is one of the biggest mistakes” the NCA has made. The decision is a “disastrous error” that has caused “an egregious insult”, aroused “intense ill will”, and “alienated” the signatories from the Association.  Apologies must be issued!

All of this over the means by which what amounts to a gold star is placed next to someone’s name.

How embarrassing—and how much more destructive to the credibility of the award than any of the changes that spurred this response (even if one grants—for the sake of argument—that those changes were anything other than positive). 

Compare this act of rhetorical self-immolation with the cogent, thoughtful, productive remarks by communication graduate students, Emily Beach et al. (#17208). Which communicative act shows a keener understanding of elementary communication concepts such as occasion, audience, motive, ethos, etc.? I certainly have no doubt as to which group of scholars in our field I’d rather entrust the teaching of an undergrad survey class (or any other task requiring . . . you know . . . *actual rhetorical acumen*). 

A handful of DSers have since attempted to distance themselves from the letter, claiming something along the lines of, “Well, I certainly didn’t mean it *that* way!”

However, that doesn’t quite work.  The letter that the cosigners provided expressing common cause with Zarefsky explicitly states that they wish to associate themselves with not only the position vis-à-vis the means of choosing award recipients but also the melodramatic, self-righteous tone (“We share the emotional intensity and sense of anger conveyed in that letter”).

So, to the extent that the Distinguished Scholar award has been dealt a blow—perhaps fatal—to its ethos, it seems the DSers themselves are the sole agents of it.

And for that, I say, “Thank you, Distinguished Scholars!”

Why? Because it has raised a question that seems ripe for asking—the very one Gerry Philipsen highlighted: Is it time to give up the silliness of academic awards?

The fact that, not for the first time, the issue of who receives awards, who decides on them, and on what basis they are given has caused drama within NCA suggests the answer to that question might be yes.
Personally, my observation over my academic career is that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of importance placed on academic awards by an entity (be it an individual, an institution, or an organization) and the degree of self-confidence that entity has in the merit and value of what it does.  I realize, however, that my own blasé, even skeptical, attitude toward academic bona fides and awards is itself a luxury afforded me by privilege.

On the other hand, my sense is that more than a few people in the NCA might feel similarly.  From what I’ve gleaned from the discussion, it seems one underlying issue is that there is a small number of nominations put forward for the DS award (and maybe NCA awards in general). Perhaps this suggests that the larger membership of NCA (in their wisdom, imho) have stated tacitly yet clearly that this award isn’t terribly meaningful beyond a small minority of people.  Maybe we should listen.

Speaking only for myself, I don’t particularly need the official imprimatur of the NCA to identify who is and is not a “distinguished scholar.” I have my own list in my heart and in my mind. Sometimes, my list aligns with that of the NCA (e.g., the late and much-missed Bruce Gronbeck).

Conversely, there are several official DSers who don’t appear on my list (nope, not going to go there). By far the largest group are those whom I certainly consider “distinguished scholars,” but whose names don’t appear on any official list, often because they devote themselves to aspects of the academic life that tend not to be feted by national organizations or lead to them wearing so many colorful honorific ribbons at conventions that it would make a Soviet field marshal at a May Day parade blush—aspects that I feel are truly at the heart of what makes one a distinguished scholar.

In my more fanciful, exuberantly optimistic moments over the last week, I’ve entertained the notion that not only might this episode yield a positive result as far as questioning the inherently-hierarchical and always-semi-arbitrary nature of awards, but that this has been the intent all along.  Maybe, just maybe, the DSers, as the self-described “intellectual leaders” of the field that they are, have been playing three-dimensional chess with the rest of us. 

Perhaps this has all been a masterful communicative performance that has been meant to goad us to coming to a realization about the inherent emptiness of awards and that as scholars of communication, we are engaged in a communal journey toward a better life for all, one where manufactured agonistic dramas have no place.  Knowing that stating so directly would not have nearly the impact as drawing this epiphany out of us, the DSers have willingly caused themselves chagrin to bring us into the light, knowing that ego is nothing but a product of the vanity of human wishes anyway.

Sure, it’s probably not the case, but isn’t it pretty to think so?

Statement from the Executive Officers of the African American Communication and Culture Division and Black Caucus

We wish to recognize the labor of the 106th President of NCA, Dr. Ronald Jackson, II as it was under his tenure/administration that the changes to the Distinguished Scholar selection process were proposed. As members of the African American Communication and Culture Division and Black Caucus (AACCD/BC), we are proud of the work that Dr. Jackson has done to ensure that the DS reflects the diverse body of membership across the association. We express our support of the Executive Committee’s decision to make changes to the DS selection process that challenges the association’s historical complicity in structural racism as it manifests through awards, journals and editorial boards, raises and promotions, and conferences and conventions. Given the current political, social, and cultural climate, it is important, now more than ever, that the idea of merit should reflect the diverse membership of NCA, not the historically white leadership.

We strongly disapprove of the comments made by both Drs. Medhurst and Zarefsky as they undermine and trivialize AACCD/BC’s founding mission, values, and purpose. The fact that structural changes within NCA are difficult to make speaks to the deep-seated racism that the association itself was founded upon. While we recognize that this moment is unlike other moments in the association’s history, moments make movements. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge, listen to, and work alongside groups like the AACCD/BC who have been committed to building a better and structurally more inclusive NCA since our inception. We encourage the EC to remain engaged with its membership by being transparent about the structural changes it aims to undertake. In addition, in order to keep these conversations regarding power, privilege, and diversity going, we believe that the representation on the EC should continue to represent the diversity within the NCA.

Rather than restate what has already been eloquently stated by a number of NCA’s political caucuses and divisions, we wish to focus on the short term (the next 12 months) and long term actions that will ensure intellectual merit is no longer weaponized against marginalized communities.

AACCD/BC Actions Items:

1. We will remain actively engaged in measures of accountability because we truly believe that an organization is only as effective as the members that hold it to account. To those people who have publicly expressed an ongoing commitment to making space within spaces that have historically been hostile to the political activism of historically marginalized groups, it is not enough to just say we want a place at the table, we have to do the work to hold space as well as create space for others to do the work.

An important function of the accomplice is to listen and to hear directly from those who are experiencing the blowback of the policies we identify as harmful to the well-being of our membership and the future of the field. Additionally, accomplice-ship is an opportunity for those of the majority to use their power and privilege to create equitable, welcoming and sustainable spaces for those who are underrepresented.  In order to hold our  NCA accomplices  accountable, we want to hear concrete plans as to how they will leverage their privilege to support the larger movement for diversity and inclusivity.

2. Now that the DS is open to nominations from the NCA membership (https://bit.ly/2RxBmXP), the AACCD/BC will be crowdsourcing DS nominations because we have members, living and passed, who meet the qualifications, currently and posthumously, and we expect them to receive fair and credible consideration. To ensure our members qualify for the DS, AACCD/BC plans to make transparent the ways its members become full professors at their institutions now that the EC is open to ensure that the false dichotomy of intellectual merit vs. diversity doesn’t have any place to stand in our field and association.

By crowdsourcing this information across the PWI’s and HBCU’s, the AACCD/BC will be able to keep track of how members across institutions are doing in their respective progression towards full professorship. https://forms.gle/BYVTvrW8scfU41G28

3. During our  AACCD/BC business meetings in Baltimore at this year’s convention, we will discuss the creation of an ad hoc committee that will oversee the compilation of the necessary data we will propose and will be in charge of keeping the compiled data updated every two to three years. We strive to work in collaboration with other political caucuses and divisions to compile this information.

To conclude, NCA’s mission statement boasts that it “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.”

Sadly, the same concerns of exclusion that led to the creation of the Black Caucus in 1968 and the African American Communication and Culture Division in 1996 still exist. As we continue to stand in solidarity and work tirelessly through our scholarly contributions and service to NCA, what we hope to see most is how our allies will use this timely movement to do more. We look forward to seeing how the association will reposition itself to reflect one that is truly diverse, inclusive, and socially just; one that practices and honors the mission it preaches.

Signed:

Dr. Tara C. Reed, Chair, Black Caucus
Dr. Ashley R. Hall, Vice Chair, Black Caucus Dr. Creshema R. Murray, Vice Chair Elect, Black Caucus Dr. Elizabeth Y. Whittington, Chair, African American Communication and Culture Division Dr. Shardé M. Davis, Vice Chair, African American Communication and Culture Division Dr. Jayne Cubbage, Vice Chair Elect, African American Communication and Culture Division Jenny Korn, Secretary, African American Communication and Culture Division Shenita Denson, Co-Public Relations Chair, African American Communication and Culture Division and the Black Caucus Dr. Sean J. Upshaw, Treasurer, African American Communication and Culture Division and the Black Caucus Dr. Toniesha L. Taylor, Immediate Past Secretary, African American Communication and Culture Division Dr. Amber Johnson, Immediate Past Chair, African American Communication and Culture Division Dr. Nicole Files-Thompson, Past Chair, African American Communication and Culture Division

Myra Washington myrawashington@unm.edu via CRTNET

Response to Zarefsky

We wanted to offer a response to David Zarefsky’s CRTNET post. We have just finished a term as members of the Committee on Committees, now the Leadership Development Committee. On that committee, we received first hand experience talking to many NCA folks and asking them to commit to service and/or allowing us to nominate them for awards. That experience leads us to respond to Professor Zarefsky’s post here, since our job on that committee is comparable to the work NCA used to ask the DS to do. We are proud that our efforts led to a highly diverse leadership pool from which to choose.

Before 2015, the DS both nominated and decided who would be a DS awardee. Prior to 2015, the DS had only managed to select one man of color to join their ranks. Once the DS were made aware that their process excluded people of color and other folks on the margins of our discipline, why even then did they still not find people to nominate and select? Some responses—including Zarefsky’s—push the onus to diversify the nomination pool onto NCA administration and NCA members, conveniently absolving the DS themselves of their responsibility. Simply put, the DS could have nominated and selected significantly more diverse members but did not. The DS could and should have done better.

Professor Zarefsky—along with many others in this conversation—continues to draw a distinction between efforts to diversify, merit, and quality. Diversity creates quality; it is not an antithesis to it. Diverse ideas yield better knowledge and decisions; being more broadly inclusive yields more democratic outcomes. We know having more and different ideas, experiences, and bodies means a better, more expansive understanding of the world around us. At best, the DS were unable or not knowledgeable about how to handle this diversity. At worst, the DS did not value the quality and merit of marginalized people. What is clear is that the DS could not consider merit and diversity together.

While we, unlike Zarefsky, cannot know what was in Medhurst’s heart when he wrote his editorial, what we can do is read his words.

When Medhurst asks if NCA would be: one where selections are made on intellectual merit or one where identity is prioritized over intellectual and scholarly merit?, he quite obviously contrasts “intellectual and scholarly merit” to “identity,” suggesting they cannot exist simultaneously and implying that being a person from a marginalized community has no bearing at all on scholarly merit and quality. We patently disagree. We further answer Medhurst’s outrageous claim by echoing the numerous NCA divisions and caucuses that all have pointed out this false choice. Diversity does not simply happen in organizations ex nihilo; it is cultivated or driven out.

Let’s be clear: the DS was a fraternal order, sanctified with the ability to reproduce their own, and given that power that is precisely what they did. One cannot simply call for a focus on intellectual merit while championing only the similar and familiar. If one is serious about quality, then there must be diversity of ideas, bodies, and paradigms.

Between the two of us we have spoken to many distinguished scholars in our field (and there are so very many!) hoping to add their names to the DS nomination pool, only to come up against the reputation of the current DS as a body. People don’t want to be nominated for an award they feel they cannot win.

We will continue to do our part to ensure all corners of NCA reflect more accurately its members, and we hope NCA continues to act as an association that recognizes the value of its diverse membership and creates even more avenues for their continued inclusion, participation, and recognition. 

With love,
Myra Washington (U of New Mexico) and Vincent Pham (Willamette U)

Eric Grabowsky, EGrabowsky@msn.com via CRTNET

A Debate Challenge (Diversity in the Academy)

Resolved: Diversity in the Academy Should Be Its Most Important Goal. I and others are willing to argue for the negative side–against this proposition. Obviously, my challenge has been prompted by the ongoing DS controversy, but the debate does not have to be (and should not be) only about the DS controversy. It is time to look at the bigger pictures of the ends and means of higher education. We participate in an academic discipline that encompasses the study, teaching, and practice of human communication. A strong part of our disciplinary heritage pertains to rhetorical and dialectical argumentation.

We should be having such debates! Who is willing to have this debate? Once we have participants, folks from both sides can be in conversation to agree upon the format of the debate. I would ask the National Communication Association to consider featuring and sponsoring this debate at the national convention in November. Again, who is willing to have this debate?

Please contact me directly and/or post here to CRTNET if you are interested.

Distinguished Scholars (Statement from the American Studies Division Leadership)

The Leadership of the American Studies Division of the National Communication Association stands by NCA’s Executive Committee and their plan to recruit and select more inclusive and diverse NCA Distinguished Scholars. Within the American Studies Division, we will take responsibility to foster the nomination of our members to serve as Distinguished Scholars. 

Numerous divisions and caucuses have called attention to the ways power and privilege operate within and beyond NCA to perpetuate exclusionary practices related to race, class, gender identity, sexuality, and ability. We stand in solidarity with these divisions and caucuses.

Furthermore, we wish to respond to S.A. Welch’s recent post regarding “the reiteration of ‘we don’t discriminate’ … now being sent by every group within NCA.” As scholars invested in the power of symbolic expression, we find value in the articulation and re-articulation of our disciplinary and divisional commitments especially in response to the recent days of reflection and challenge on CRTNET.

However, we agree with Welch’s statement that “now it is time to be proactive in action as actions speak louder than words.” Toward that end, at the upcoming Baltimore NCA Convention, we will collaborate with other divisions, interest groups, and caucuses to continue the discussions regarding institutional racism and other practices in our discipline and in the academy that marginalize and exclude. We invite all members and the public to join us.

We will also seek participation from those who are unable to attend the NCA National Conference. Our words alone will never be enough.  We vow to do our part in bringing about systemic and lasting change and commit to using our preparations for and time during our 2019 Business Meeting to further our commitments to the values expressed in NCA’s Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Signed,

Julia Scatliff O’Grady, Chair
Joshua E. Young, Vice-Chairperson
Theresa Donofrio, First Immediate Past Chair
Meryl Irwin, Second Immediate Past Chairperson

Bill Yousman, yousmanw@sacredheart.edu via CRTNET

Debates and Framing

A recent CRTNET post proposed an NCA debate that would be framed in this way– Resolved: Diversity in the Academy Should Be Its Most Important Goal.

While ongoing debates throughout NCA are definitely needed, this framing of the current issue is a straw man version of the real issues at stake in the current moment of upheaval and crisis.  Framing the issue in this way is diminishing to the concerns being raised by many in the association about an egregious lack of diversity, representation, and… yes, justice.

Richard West, richard_west@emerson.edu via CRTNET

And now, for a little historical note on the DS issue…

Colleagues:

Just so you all know….and to inform you about how long this issue has stagnated:

Only a handful of people know that the selection protocol process regarding the Distinguished Scholars can be traced back to 2010!  During my tenure as NCA President, the issue was front and center again.  That was in 2012.  Yes, 2012!! 

In an August 1, 2012 email, I wrote to two spokespeople of the Distinguished Scholars group, with a cc to then Executive Director, Nancy Kidd. In it, I was, among other things, seeking to “diversify” the award. Here is an excerpt from the email I wrote to the two in the group:

“But, again, there is a bit of a mystery and insularity related to this NCA-sanctioned group and while not a deliberate strategy, the internal dialogues have resulted in questions and curiosities, as they relate to the final s/election of candidates.”

I (also) co-chaired a committee on how they are selected and some of the same people who were members of the DS group back then have written to CRTNET over the past few weeks.  I have every (!) email from that time and I cannot see one email that shows anything remotely related to making overt changes in the award structure.  I did read one email that stated “okay” and another one that indicated that the spokesperson “had no problem with the spirit of the message.” 

I’m sure like so many other academic initiatives, the people around the table (NCA EC, for instance) changed and so did the topic (although in that same email, I asked that we try to get clarification and process closure so that the “next EC” doesn’t take up the issue again).

Crickets.

Although I don’t need every NCA unit’s leadership to offer its impressions and/or Statements of Support, here’s what’s clear to me:

I am filled with joy to witness what I’m sensing now is/will be a visible and articulate effort to make changes to this process.  It was not undertaken back then but wow:

It. Is. Now.

For over a decade, my LinkedIn account states that I’m dedicated to “making the academy more transparent.”  In my academic home, this value is even more compelling to me!

Jason Munsell, JasonM@usca.edu via CRTNET

Statement from the Southern States Communication Association’s Administrative Committee


At our 89th Annual Convention this past April, SSCA’s Executive Council and Membership unanimously endorsed the National Communication Association’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  SSCA will continue to be proactive, continue to reflect and improve as we all do the necessary and hard labor of making sure our academic discipline bends toward justice.  To that end, our current president, Dr. Pam Bourland-Davis, will be appointing an ad hoc community to audit all SSCA policies and practices to ensure that our association is one in which the riches of diversity, equity and inclusion are realized.

Signed:
Jason B. Munsell, University of South Carolina Aiken, Immediate Past President
Pamela Bourland-Davis, Georgia Southern University, President
Shawn D. Long, Kennesaw State University, First Vice President
Wendy Atkins-Sayre, University of Memphis, Second Vice President
Jennifer A. Samp, University of Georgia, SCJ Editor
Jennifer Mize Smith, Western Kentucky University, Finance Committee Chair
Ashli Quesinberry Stokes, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Strategic Communication Director
Jerold L. Hale, Executive Director

HCTD Statement on Diversity

The Human Communication and Technology Division (HCTD) of the National Communication Association (NCA) affirms an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Technology has been a means by which marginalized individuals and communities can come together and find solidarity and has been a means of harassing and diminishing the inherent dignity of others. Technology has been and will be used to reify pernicious social structures, including structural racism and misogyny, but technology can also be used to unite, organize, and broadcast opposition to those structures. 

Although we cannot speak for our full membership, the elected leadership of HCTD supports NCA’s commitment to become more diverse and inclusive in practice and membership. We affirm the voices of colleagues speaking out against practices which further exclude marginalized populations. We recognize this conversion must go beyond the selection of distinguished scholars; thus, we are committed to making tangible changes within our division.

– We will continue to promote epistemological, methodological, and topical diversity to demonstrate the full spectrum of excellent work from all of HCTD members.

– We will reserve time in the HCTD Business Meeting at NCA 2019 to discuss how to best promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will ensure that there are online means of communicating ideas to encourage participation from those who are unable to physically join us in Baltimore.

– We will seek feedback from division membership and others to identify the ways our scholarship and practices at NCA conferences and beyond fall short or fail to reflect our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

– We are committed to scrutinizing the selection of leadership and award committees, as well as the nomination and selection of winners of our book, article, and dissertation award.

Our hope is that taking these steps will be the first of many to help us better understand the views of the HCTD membership and how the leadership can make positive changes in practices and structures to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is our goal to ensure that HCTD recognizes the plurality and multiplicity of scholarly excellence in our scholarly communities.

Eric Grabowsky, EGrabowsky@msn.com via CRTNET

A Debate Challenge (Diversity in the Academy), Part 2

I am grateful to those who have offered thoughts on my debate challenge (on CRTNET and elsewhere). With the details and directions of the relevant discourse, the proposition of my debate challenge is defensible (Resolved: Diversity in the Academy Should Be Its Most Important Goal). The proposition reflects what I and others are willing to argue against and represents the essence of the positions argued in CRTNET posts, on websites/blogs, on social media, etc.

So, once we have participants, folks from both sides can be in conversation to agree upon the guiding proposition and overall format of the debate. Who is willing to have this debate?

Please contact me directly and/or post to CRTNET if you are interested. Thank you! EG

Statement from officers of Public Dialogue and Deliberation Division (also sent to CRTNET):

To members of the Public Dialogue and Deliberation Division

We, the current and past officers of the Public Dialogue and Deliberation Division affirm our commitment to inclusion and diversity. We support NCA’s executive committee’s critiques of the Distinguished Scholar Award and are committed to transforming the processes in our discipline that support systematic exclusion and marginalization.

Theories of public dialogue and deliberation are premised on the idea that difference is essential for democracy. The research and practice conducted by scholars in our division strives to promote meaningful change in groups and communities by engaging people in honest, inclusive, and challenging conversations across difference. As part of a larger, interdisciplinary field, we try to be reflective about how our work as communication scholars intersects with questions about power, communication activism, and social change (see, for example, special issues of the Journal of Public Deliberation in 2016 and 2018). However, we also recognize that our own division struggles with the same structures of power and privilege that are highlighted in this larger conversation about the Distinguished Scholar Award. We are a small division and do not typically give awards, but of course this fact does not automatically shield us from exclusionary structures and processes.

Every year we use a portion of our business meeting to engage in conversation about important issues for our field. This year, inspired by a call from Dr. Ashley Mack, we will devote this session to reflect on questions such as: How could our division practices shift to address systemic exclusion? What can we do to best support those in our division who have been historically excluded, marginalized, and disenfranchised? We invite division members and other interested scholars to share your thoughts on this topic prior to NCA by emailing the PDD Immediate Past Chair, Laura Black, at laura.black.1@ohio.edu. We anticipate that the conversation at NCA will be part of an ongoing process of reflective practice as our division continues to develop.

We also humbly offer any help we can to contribute to efforts within NCA to engage in dialogue about these issues. Our work in communities shows us that dialogue on difficult topics is more productive when conversations are designed to be inclusive, honest, and open to making change. We acknowledge and appreciate the difficult work many scholars of color are doing to make meaningful change in NCA. If there is a place for us to aid in that work, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate.

Public Dialogue and Deliberation Division Officers:
Laura Black, Immediate Past Chair
Elesha Ruminski, Chair
Tim Steffensmeier, Vice Chair
Tim Shaffer, Vice Chair Elect
Cheryl Maiorca, Secretary
John Gastil, Past Chair
Lori Britt, Past Chair

Greetings ORWAC members,

Recently, Communication has faced yet another large scale conflict over questions diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Organization for Research on Women and Communication has long maintained a commitment to nurturing a supportive academic community while encouraging rigorous and innovative scholarship related to women, gender, feminism, and social justice. In particular, Women’s Studies in Communication remains committed to featuring intersectional scholarship engaging issues including but not limited to race, gender, and sexuality. Also, excellent scholars who identify with historically disenfranchised groups are consistently featured in WSIC’s pages and represented among ORWAC’s leadership. Furthermore, ORWAC maintains a commitment to our mentoring mission to promote the careers of the diverse scholars engaging in feminist work.

The ORWAC Executive Board understands that issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are not merely issues of having diverse pools or even representation, but rather of strategically strengthening the organization over time with strong commitments to reflexivity, accountability, and transformation. Thus, ORWAC and discipline of Communication must continue to learn, grow, and do better. ORWAC will be continuing the conversation about what, as an organization, we have done and what we could be doing to ensure that our actions align with our commitments, and we applaud other organizations that are engaging in similar work.

Best wishes,
Leslie J. Harris
President, Organization for Research on Women and Communication

From the ICA Executive Committee: 📷

On Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access: Statement from the Executive Committee of the International Communication Association (ICA)

The openness of the communication discipline to scholars of minority backgrounds, people of color, and researchers from the Global South has been the subject of much debate internationally. A number of important recent works have drawn attention to the lack of ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in communication research and published scholarship (Mayer et. al., 2018; Chakravartty et. al., 2019; Gardner, 2019), and have called upon the ICA to address questions of inclusion, diversity and access across all of its organizational structures and professional activities. Such calls have galvanized around the #CommunicationSoWhite movement, which was the subject of a pre-conference and sponsored session at the May 2019 ICA Conference in Washington, DC, and which has come to constitute an active online community ‘calling out’ dominant practices in the field. The statement below addresses the need to be more explicit about ICA’s collective efforts in this arena, and our plans for the future.On Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access: Statement from the Executive Committee of the International Communication Association (ICA)(The PDF version of this statement is available here).ICA leadership strongly supports the principles of inclusion and diversity and recognizes that inequities have long existed, and continue to exist, in the communication discipline and its constituent activities of teaching, research, scholarship, and praxis. These inequities include, but are not limited to, those based upon nationality, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. As an international association, ICA recognizes diversity in all its forms as being crucial to the advancement of the communication discipline. The Executive Committee of ICA recognizes the challenges of diversification as extending to every facet of our Association and, indeed, the field. We welcome the opportunity to further strengthen ICA through our ongoing process of rigorous introspection and change. We believe that instituting change and promoting mechanisms to enhance inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in ICA is intrinsic to our mission (see the most recent update of our mission statement, approved by the Board of Directors on 24 May 2019). ICA is an international association, comprising members from 87 countries. We recognize that questions of inclusion and exclusion, and of diversity and equity, manifest themselves in different ways in particular national contexts, and disparities in power dynamics differ from region to region. These dynamics are further complicated by intersecting categories of identity and social identification. Thus, our continuing efforts to diversify ICA need to be cognizant of all inequalities as they take shape differently on a global scale. Across all contexts, we robustly affirm that merit and diversity are not mutually exclusive principles, and we remain firmly committed to enhancing both academic excellence and diversity. We believe that diversity practices in any scholarly field are complementary to and aligned with academic excellence and that lived experience is essential to producing research in particular areas of communication. ICA’s commitment to diversity of thought and geographic representation exists alongside its commitment to diversity in terms of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and other bases of inequity. We are actively seeking continued, meaningful, and deliberate collaboration with multiple groups to ensure that, together, we effect real and lasting change in ICA.Such collaborations will allow the Executive Committee to gather full information from myriad stakeholders; identify opportunities and challenges in the short- and long-term; and assess recommendations from multiple perspectives. Only with the information gleaned from these conversations can we begin to make wholesale changes to infrastructures defined by the Association’s current bylaws. For instance, the Executive Committee is currently discussing the recommendations arising from the #CommunicationSoWhite article and related preconference and ICA-sponsored session held in Washington, DC in May 2019. These collaborations will build on, and add momentum to, recent developments in ICA’s ongoing diversification efforts:

  • The Board of Directors approved a new Code of Ethics for the Association in May 2019. Stemming from two years of work by ICA’s Task Force on Ethical Considerations, the new document codifies our commitment to: respect for human rights; scholarly and scientific enquiry; open communication; inclusivity and respect; and the Association’s social responsibility to enhance the public good.
  • After Board discussions in May 2019 about the need to address diversity, the Executive Committee has created the Task Force on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA). The Executive Committee is currently crafting the task force’s charter, which will include defining what diversity, inclusion, equity and access mean in the context of ICA, assessing the current state of affairs, and making recommendations for changes. Once the charter is complete, the task force will be populated and begin its work. Its deliverables will include preliminary recommendations to the Executive Committee within six months and a full slate of recommendations for discussion by the Board of Directors in May 2020.
  • The Executive Committee has worked with the ICA Fellows Chair each year since 2016 to make a difference in the gender, geographic, and ethnic diversity of Fellows inducted, with a substantial improvement shown thus far: 40% from outside the US, 43% female, and 21% nonwhite. Pre-2017 figures stood at 22%, 33%, and 8%, respectively. The Executive Committee will continue to work with the Fellows, and is asking the current Fellows Chair to lead a discussion among the ICA Fellows about what should be done to increase inclusion, diversity, equity, and access to election to Fellow, and to provide those recommendations to the EC. We will work with the Fellows to implement these and other ideas that will lead to increased heterogeneity among all aspects of the community of ICA fellows.

Our efforts to enhance inclusion, diversity, equity, and access have been ongoing, and we are committed to continued work that produces substantive change in the Association. ICA has worked assiduously to accommodate diversity of thought. Our international association now houses 33 divisions and interest groups. Our standing committees and task forces include a balance of qualitative and quantitative scholars from around the globe. Their deliberations reflect the broad swath of epistemological and methodological orientations about how communication is conceived of and studied.In the past few years, ICA headquarters has worked to increase inclusion efforts for attendees of its annual conference: transgender attendees, parents of young children, those with physical disabilities, and those with sensory issues, addictions, and other needs. To close the gap in the ability for parents to attend conferences, ICA now offers subsidized childcare and a nursing room. We have instituted other policies designed to provide an inclusive atmosphere for all attendees. Alongside a longstanding policy of providing over US $60k in travel grants for attendance by underserved and financially disadvantaged scholars, ICA has: funded ethnic minority students local to each conference with targeted attendance waivers and mentorship; implemented guidelines regarding demographic representation on panels; added pronouns to badges; and included indigenous land acknowledgements. Details on additional efforts can be found on our conference accessibility and inclusion page. Though these efforts do not yet reflect the full range of possible interventions, we strive to find solutions that increase access and inclusion for those who have not been served well in the past by our field.ICA is likewise committed to diversity in its own employment and workplace practices. ICA is an Equal Opportunity Employer, which in the US is defined as a commitment not to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability or genetic information.” ICA also provides fully paid parental leave for an employee of any gender who welcomes a new child into the family through birth or adoption, and provides health care for all employees.The ICA Executive Committee recognizes that long-term changes to the Association vis-à-vis inclusion, diversity, equity, and access will not take place overnight. Toward that end, and beyond the efforts noted above, we pledge to continue to work with ICA committees, task forces, divisions, interest groups, journal editors, program planners, and ICA Fellows to advance within the Association principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, and to ensure that the Association reflects the breadth of its membership across its constituent areas. Some changes to be implemented might necessitate changes to the ICA bylaws, which will require approval by the Board of Directors and membership ratification in the autumn election.We affirm our commitment to improving our diversity in its various forms, and by extension, improving how the Association can best serve its members, the discipline, and society at large. It is only with sustained collaborative efforts that we can strengthen our organization and our discipline, thereby promoting a truly international and inclusive scholarly field. Indeed, working toward such goals is intrinsic to the Association’s mission, and we strive for a discipline in which all are equally able to participate and be recognized for excellence.Signed,The Executive Committee of the International Communication Association

Peng Hwa Ang, General Secretary (Nanyang Technological U, SINGAPORE)
Claes de Vreese, President-Elect (U of Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS)
Terry Flew, President (Queensland U of Technology, AUSTRALIA)
Paula Gardner, Past President (McMaster U, CANADA)
Peter Monge, Treasurer (U of Southern California, USA)
Patricia Moy, Immediate Past President (U of Washington, USA)
Laura Sawyer, Executive Director (ICA Headquarters, Washington, DC, USA)

References

Chakravartty, P., Kuo, R., Grubbs, V., & McIlwain, C. (2018). #CommunicationSoWhite. Journal of Communication, 68(2), 254–266.
Gardner, P. M. (2018). Diversifying ICA: Identity, Difference, and the Politics of Transformation. Journal of Communication, 68(5), 831–841.
Mayer, V., Press, A., Verhoeven, D., & Sterne, J. (2018). How do we intervene in the stubborn persistence of patriarchy in communication scholarship? In D. Travers Scott & A. Shaw (Eds.), Interventions: Communication theory and practice (pp. 53–65). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Christopher Poulos, cnpoulos@uncg.edu via CRTNET

A brief reflection on the Distinguished Scholar controversy

So many passionate voices have chimed in, and many divisions, interest groups, and caucuses have come out directly and forthrightly in solidarity with our marginalized colleagues and friends. To those few who are still defending Dr. Medhurst’s editorial, or the letter from Dr. Zarefsky, I would like to offer a blinding flash of the obvious: It is not up to you to determine how your colleagues “should” respond, or to “whitesplain” (I love that term!) why/how people “misunderstood” what was intended by the authors of the editorial and the letter. Distinguished scholars should choose their words carefully, precisely lest they be “misunderstood.” 

Meanwhile, we communication scholars know full well that it’s not the intent behind your words that counts, so much as the impact. And the words (whether intended or not), have created pain and outrage in a wide swath of our colleagues and friends.

I would also like to say that, as one of the people who collaborated on writing the NCA Credo for Ethical Communication years ago, there are a few key points in that document that we might want to keep in mind:

– We believe that unethical communication threatens the quality of all communication and consequently the well-being of individuals and the society in which we live.

– We promote communication climates of caring and mutual understanding that respect the unique needs and characteristics of individual communicators.

– We are committed to the courageous expression of personal convictions in pursuit of fairness and justice.

– We accept responsibility for the short-and long-term consequences for our own communication and expect the same of others.

That last point is the toughest one. But it’s also the most necessary. Now is the time for deep listening, amends, and reconciliation, not explanations or defenses.

As for the award itself, I found myself wondering, from my space as a tenured full Professor, what that kind of award would do for me. I’ve received a few awards in my career, and I was certainly appreciative of my colleagues for nominating me, and for receiving them. Two of them came at opportune moments—one at tenure time, and another not long before my promotion to Professor. I’m certain recognition of my peers helped those cases.

Now that I no longer have space on my office walls for diplomas, awards, plaques, etc., I have my doubts about getting another. In my view, I fear that all this kind of recognition would do for me is to stroke my ego. (And I’m vain enough, thank you very much.) I very much hope some of my marginalized colleagues win. I won’t begrudge my marginalized colleagues this recognition; for them, recognition in the field is long overdue. In fact, I hope to help nominate a few.

Meanwhile, I prefer to devote my time to helping my colleagues attain awards and tenure and promotion. I chair a major award committee, and I’m a member of another. I take great pleasure when an Assistant Professor wins an award in competition with full Professors. And this summer, I will write three external reviews, one for tenure and promotion, and two for promotion to Professor. And I will do it happily. I turn my eyes and my helping hands to the next generation.

Dale Cyphert, dale.cyphert@uni.edu via CRTNET

DS Nominations Promised?

I trust the many folks who’ve created statements in support of diversity are thereby promising to nominate diverse candidates for the Distinguished Scholar award.  As nomination processes go, this one is not particularly onerous (https://www.natcom.org/calendar/2019-nca-award-calls).  Somewhere between our universal intent to improve access, support, and inclusion of all scholars and the actual honoring of such persons, there is a crucial step that appears not to be happening. One individual must take the time to write a nominaton letter.  If you honestly think a colleague’s scholarship is distinguished, then accept the responsibility for saying so.