Pomona Refuses to Rescind Job Offer to White Professor

Pomona College has decided to follow through with its hiring of Dr. Alice Goffman into the College as a visiting professor of sociology, after students, alumni, and “allies” of the Sociology Department demanded that the College rescind its offer to Goffman in an open letter issued last Friday.

Goffman—who was chosen over two Black candidates—has accepted the offer from Pomona, but the authors of the demand letter called for “the termination of her [Goffman’s] contract…[i]n the case that she has accepted the offer.”

However, according to an email statement sent to the Independent, a spokesman of Pomona College revealed that the College does not intend to terminate Goffman’s contract, and looks forward to welcoming Goffman in the coming academic year:

“We are pleased that this [hiring] process resulted in an offer and an acceptance, and we look forward to her joining our vibrant academic community in the fall as a visiting professor.”

The letter’s authors criticized “the flawed process of hiring Goffman,” and called for a student committee that would be “at the forefront of all current and future hiring decisions.” However, in the same email statement to the Independent, the College’s spokesman expressed confidence in the College’s current hiring process:

“We follow a rigorous process when hiring faculty. We are pleased that this process resulted in an offer and an acceptance.”

Although the letter complains that Goffman is “racist, sensationalist, and unethical,” and criticizes the College for hiring Goffman—a White female—over “the two other candidates for this position [who] were highly qualified Black women,” Pomona’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Audrey Bilger, defended the College’s hiring process as rigorous and diversity-minded, as the process “includes a range of activities, from a public presentation to faculty and students to meeting with our faculty diversity officer.”

Goffman is a well-known sociologist who attended the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University for her undergraduate studies and doctorate program respectively, and her book On the Run has received positive critical acclaim from leading sociologists such as William Julius Wilson. On the Run is also well-known in non-academic circles, making the New York Times’ “100 notable books of 2014” list.

Goffman also received the “2011 Dissertation Award” by the American Sociological Association for “the best Ph.D dissertation for a calendar year.”

9 thoughts on “Pomona Refuses to Rescind Job Offer to White Professor”

  1. Wow. It is incredibly journalistically irresponsible to not mention the massive controversy around “On the Run” when discussing this issue. I’m sympathetic to the decision to grant Goffman the job, but this omission is as blatant evidence as you can get for how one-sided the CI is as a publication. Do better.

  2. Wow. It is incredibly journalistically irresponsible to not mention the massive controversy around “On the Run” when discussing this issue. I’m sympathetic to the decision to grant Goffman the job, but this omission is as blatant evidence as you can get for how one-sided the CI is as a publication. Do better.

  3. Will, I used to be one of the CI’s editors. Were I your editor today, I’d make these suggestions for future coverage of this story.

    One, look into the scholarship and CVs of the other candidates who weren’t hired. You seem to be making the assertion they’re less qualified or less well-regarded. Supporting this claim (instead of implying) it makes your case stronger. Also, if you’re pursuing the completely reasonable angle that Pomona sociology students are being unreasonable or radical here — it’d be worth looking into the other professor’s work to see if they’ve got views that align with the student protesters.

    Two, look into Goffman’s past writing, scholarship, and the massive controversy surrounding “On the Run.” Goffman is not as squeaky clean as you’re implying she is. The “white sociologist writes about black people, catches flak” angle to this story has some merit. But it is not the reason the Goffman hiring is scandalous. You’re missing one heck of a story here.

    Pomona is hiring someone with a seriously shady past here. And they’re pretending none of it happened. In her book, Goffman fabricated stories, made up characters whole-cloth, lied about police behavior, and participated in an attempted murder. The fact that she won enormous praise from some sociologists isn’t an affirmation of her qualifications. Instead, it’s an indictment of sociologists, who fell over themselves praising a book pushing narrative they wanted to hear. It didn’t matter that Goffman’s work was sensationalist and misleading, it was trendy and so it became canonized.

    Seriously, somebody go write a piece about Goffman. Do the research, get it right, and write something more ironclad than the last two articles the CI has published on the Goffman issue.

    1. In May, an unsigned, 60-page, single-­spaced document was emailed from a throwaway address to hundreds of sociologists, detailing a series of claims casting doubt on the veracity of events as Goffman described them. The book, according to the anonymous accuser, has her attending a juvenile criminal proceeding that must have been closed to outsiders; it misrepresents the amount of time she spent living in the neighborhood; it describes scenes containing characters that by Goffman’s own account were by then dead. In one place, the document notes, Goffman says she went to nine funerals, while in another place she says 19. She claims that her close friend ‘‘Chuck’’ — she uses pseudonyms for all her subjects — was shot in the head but also describes him in his hospital bed as covered in casts. The allegations, some of them trivial in isolation, seemed in their profusion hard to write off.

      At the recommendation of her trade publisher, Goffman prepared, but did not distribute, an almost equally lengthy point-by-point response to the charges, and her department investigated the accusations and declared them without merit.
      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/magazine/the-trials-of-alice-goffman.html

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