Hiring a New Cultural Center Director, or the Token Diversity Position

Xavier A. Torres de Janon

When the former Director of the Lebrón-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center (and Dean of Community Advocacy) resigned last Spring 2015, few of us active members of SOURCE (Students of Underrepresented Cultures and Ethnicities) were surprised. She had been overworked to the core, drained of energy to the point of apathy, and had not been able to keep up with the radical, black-centered, liberation-focused ideology of her students. Many of us were heartbroken, because she was, despite it all, our emotional lifeline. The voice of laughter and support that actually cared for us and allowed for our anger to fit her office. The counselor when we did not trust Health Services; the advisor when our own were racist; the provider of food when our stomachs were empty; the awkwardness and joy that we needed to survive.

We were excited, too, about the prospect of a new Cultural Center Director. I was thrilled about going through a hiring process this important for me, for all of SOURCE. And then, no hire. The already overworked International Student Advisor was made Interim Director over the summer, with no concrete plan for the future. The office and center kept running thanks to her commitment and the help of a newly hired Community Advocacy assistant. Fall 2015 ended, and no hire. We were told that someone might be hired for Spring 2016. Nothing happened, and the Community Advocacy assistant resigned as well, overworked, overstretched, a black woman exploited to non-existence.

Then, come Spring 2016, we had multiple meetings with the Dean of Students to formulate the new Director’s position and job description. Skeptical interest took over many of us: here we were, given the opportunity to create the position we needed. Then, in late March, the Interim Director went on vacation, followed by medical leave, followed by more health complications, undoubtedly exacerbated by the stress of her impossible position. Followed by silence once again, uncertainty, temporary hires, international student frustration, Cultural Center student workers lost in the confusion.

And then, this week, the students involved in the process of crafting the new position were emailed with an update: the opening was live and searching for candidates. The email immediately received complaints from us, on how the position was unrealistic, impossible, not what we had negotiated, not what we had envisioned, not going to be able to hold our communities. This token position is scandalously reflective of the stupidity of diversity thought. Every single piece of ‘diversity’ has been attached to it. This ‘human’ is required to have a Bachelor of Arts, 5 years of similar job exposure, and organizing experience. They must understand critical race, decolonial and/or postcolonial theory. They should have previous international advising experience, as they “may prepare federally required updates to the College’s SEVIS F-1 program and serve as 24 hour on-call for student visa emergencies.” They must have an intersectional analysis that includes every ‘diverse’ piece of identity. Furthermore, they must be administrative masters of databases, budgets and word processing. And the cherry on the cake: “This full time benefited position requires occasional evenings and weekends.” It is the job of 3 to 4 people reduced to one, who in turn would be reduced to nothingness.

Hampshire College has historically failed SOURCE, and SOURCE has been forced to stand up for justice and, quite literally, our survival. But this— this is a mockery of SOURCE, a failure of Hampshire College, a perpetuation of the exploitation of our bodies. Students demanded that priority be given to a Black Trans/Gender-Nonconforming Femme body in the hiring process, but now, in doing so, we will be complicit in perpetuating Black Trans Genocide. This person would be murdered by the position itself and Amherst, MA after the first week of employment. I shame the embarrassing and oppressive audacity of this neoliberal school.

See position description here

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