As many of you are aware, there is a crisis in the Puerto Rican Studies Association. Five self-identified womxn and queer graduate students, untenured faculty, and contingent faculty, made public their letter of resignation which they had sent to the Board close to midnight on Friday August 7th. On the 9th, some of the remaining E.C. members met, as previously planned before their resignations, and decided to meet again when all the remaining members could be present to address the resigning members’ concerns and respond to their letter.
These scholars claim that their resignations are due to a “climate of sexism, infantilization, gaslighting, and racism within the Executive Board, which certain Board members have perpetuated with little consequence.” If I were an outsider, unaware of what transpired during the past few months- I would’ve signed the letter and unequivocally support their position, as many of you have done. However, I’m in the inside and some of these allegations are centered on my interactions via email with the members of the board in the past months. I was not named in their official letter of resignation, but I was mentioned in their previous letter to the Board.
Early in June, while the Board discussed the letter intended to notify the membership of this year’s conference cancellation and other issues- I wrote an email urging the Board to craft a statement condemning structural racism and the systemic extra-judicial killings, the murder of Black peoples, by police officers, and to express support for Black Lives Matter. For close to a week no one responded to my email. When Marisol Lebrón responded to the thread calling for a statement to be made, it ignored my previous message and so did the following emails in support of “Marisol’s initiative”. Being ignored by members of the board has been a pattern to which I got used to since I returned to PRSA in 2019. At the time it didn’t matter to me because all I wanted was that a strong letter in support of BLM and against the systemic killings of Black peoples came out as soon as possible.
When the first draft of the letter came out for revision, I suggested some cosmetic changes and perhaps stronger wording. Again, my reply was ignored just to be followed by a series of emails in which at least two of them suggested what I had suggested in my previous email as if I had never sent the email at all.
At that time, I sent an email speaking plainly, thinking I was in a safe space. I complained that there was a pattern of not only ignoring my input but also of taking ownership of my initiatives. I also commented that it may look divisive stating in our letter that in particular we supported Black “trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people” which according to some of the members, bore the brunt of police extra-judicial killings.
My issue with this statement was that first, it is not supported by evidence, and two; while it would please the academic bubble and the white liberal gaze, it could be read as alien and tone deaf by Black communities. I want to make clear that I didn’t oppose including language regarding how Black LGBTQ communities are affected by systemic police brutality and racism- my concern was with stating that they bear the brunt of police extra judicial killings. Again, to me, that would come as academic elitism. I have always been against the privilege and elitism of academia when confronting these issues- which is something I’m familiar with being a first-generation high school and college graduate from the Puerto Rican working-poor strata.
In response to my comments, they sent several emails and a letter in which they called me misogynist, anti-trans, anti-queer, racist, a supporter of “Al Lives Matter”, ignorant, and unaware of many things including white privilege and white passing among Puerto Ricans and Latinxs.
I responded asking for evidence of everything I had been accused of- and trying to clarify my position because I was still under the impression that we were having a conversation among equals. After all, I am also non-tenured faculty and I have always supported the work of the scholars in question.
When no evidence was provided and the discussion continued with more accusations- I wrote an email saying that if they couldn’t highlight how I was being misogynist, anti-trans and anti-queer and racist- then it was in their heads. I know it was a very poor choice of words, but this was after days of back and forth and unsubstantiated attacks against my persona. They also took offense when I commented that I was not ignorant of white privilege and passing among Puerto Ricans and that I had been writing about it before it became “cool” to do so.
There was an E.C.- planned meeting to engage in a dialogue with the hope of mending fences. In view of the deterioration of the conversation, I had planned to resign from my position during or after the planned meeting if we could not get to an agreement. This position I later reiterated to both the president and V.P. That meeting was not attended by the five scholars who instead sent a formal letter to the E.C.
A formal response to their letter sought compromise and mutual respect to which the five scholars responded with the letter of resignation now made public. No opportunity was given to the Board to respond before more accusations were launched arguing they were being ignored. That was not the case- the E.C. had mobilized seeking the earliest date where all remaining members could meet to address their concerns.
By the time you read this, the official response from the remaining Board will be out and my resignation tendered. As I mentioned before, I don’t blame anyone for supporting the scholars who resigned late last week- I would’ve done the same. However, I find hypocritical that some of the signatories of “Puerto Rican Studies Obituary” have abysmal records regarding sexism, sexual harassment, and inappropriate relationships with students, while others have consistently declined to serve in PRSA for years.
Thus, I resigned for two reasons. First, so PRSA can come out of this crisis. It would not be the first time I take one for the team, so Puerto Rican Studies continue to grow. And second, I resigned to clear my name. For even before I learned the academic language of inequality, I have been an active supporter and loud advocate for ending patriarchy, machismo, sexism, trans/ queer/homophobia, classism, and racism. Every single time I have been in a position to promote the advancement of justice and equality for the above mentioned- I have done so and I will continue to do so.
So I urge you to look at how I’ve conducted myself in the professional and private sphere, look both at my academic production and writings as a public scholar and my quotidian interactions, and try to find anything remotely resembling homo/queer/transphobia, misogyny, or a defense of “all lives matter”. I know you won’t find it because there is none.
Finally, many thanks to all you who have reached out during these past weeks to offer your support and to mediate, and for giving me the benefit of the doubt; and please consider fully joining PRSA which should not only survive this crisis but thrive.