Thursday, February 20, 2014

Turmoil at Temple: Fired Dr. Monteiro demands his reinstatement!

By Charles Brooks

Temple University is embroiled in yet another controversy involving their African-American Studies Department – this time taking drastic action against Dr. Anthony Monteiro by refusing to renew his contract - after 10 years. Temple's decision to fire Dr. Monteiro has touched off a firestorm and has galvanized a tremendous groundswell of supporters who seek nothing less than Dr. Monteiro’s reinstatement to Temple University - with tenure. The Blackboard spoke with Dr. Monteiro about this matter along with a number of issues connected to his firing, which will be in Part II. But first, in order to get a true understanding of the issue at Temple, let’s understand who is Dr. Anthony Monteiro – a rare intellectual rooted in the very community he is committed to educate and be politically engaged with.

Dr. Monteiro is a W.E.B. DuBois scholar; has written over 100 essays published in various journals; has participated, moderated and put together countless lectures, seminars, and conferences; is well-known for his work around political prisoners, the Pan-African movement, as well as his critical role in establishing the Center for the Study of Race and Social Thought at Temple University.

Dr. Monteiro tells The Blackboard, “I consider myself as a scholar-activist and I don’t privilege scholar over activism. They’re equal in the way I see myself and in the way I do my work. I have a body of work that is anchored theoretically and philosophically in WEB Dubois but also includes the work and wisdom of James Baldwin and others. It is the activism that informs the scholarship.” Dr. Monteiro continues, “I’ve been involved a long time in the black struggle including the Pan African movement. I attended the 6th Pan African conference in Dar Salaam. I’ve traveled to a number of African countries, especially during the time of the armed struggle and the liberation movement in Southern Africa...I was in Angola, I was in Ethiopia at the time of their revolution. But I’ve also traveled to Cuba. And in 1991, I was part of a delegation that met with Fidel Castro where he informed us of the role of Cuba in the struggle against apartheid, especially their role in the war in Angola against the South African army.” He went on to talk about his support for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal: “I’ve been a supporter and active in the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, since he was arrested. He’s my homeboy. We lived in the same part of Philadelphia. We’ve known each other politically from (his) time in the Black Panther Party.”

The decision to not renew Dr. Monteiro’s contract is just the latest incident between Dr. Monterio and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Teresa Soufas. Just last year, Dr. Monteiro – an untenured professor - was removed from the dissertation committee, after a heated and very public battle over the faculty’s choice for African-American Studies chair. Dr. Monteiro tells The Blackboard of the “horrible” work environment consisting of bullying, harassment, retaliation and similar actions. Dr. Monteiro explains the firing, “You see it’s a matter of retaliatory and revenge firing by a Dean who was trumped by movement by community and students. She wanted to impose on the Department of African American studies, a white woman scholar as chair and we felt that it was inappropriate. The woman had no experience in African American studies and so we opposed her.” Dr. Monteiro continues, “As the struggle progressed we called upon her to accept the faculty’s choice for the new chair and that was Molefi Asante – he was finally appointed. The president and provost put pressure on the dean – not wanting to confront the black community of Philadelphia, especially of North Philadelphia. I was a pivotal part of that. And thus, she decided that she would get rid of me and this is what this firing is all about. It’s a revenge and retaliatory act and now we are organizing and mounting a nationwide struggle to overturn that.”

Administrators at Temple find themselves locked in a battle with the grassroot community based activists and organizations, along with scholars of the academic community. Support for Dr. Monteiro is growing every day; see their Facebook page here as well as the online petition amongst supporters in the academic community who are calling for Dr. Monteiro's reinstatement. Part of their statement reads, “WE SCHOLARS STAND VIGILANTLY BEHIND DR. MONTEIRO knowing that today, throughout the U.S. academy and nation, programs in African American and Ethnic studies are all too frequently attacked or neglected by small groups of deans, provosts and board members. (They) often use their power to foster or tolerate misrepresentation, harassment, repression and removal of reputable scholars of color and conscience – those most necessary for equipping us all with knowledge for promoting and guarding a truly just society.”

See an excerpted version of The Blackboard’s interview with Dr. Anthony Monteiro here:

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