Inside Higher Ed reports this news from MIT:
James Sherley, who started a hunger strike February 5 outside the provost’s office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ended his protest Friday. Sherley, who is black, maintains that racism played a role in MIT rejecting his tenure bid and he previously pledged to fast until he was either awarded tenure or died. On Friday, MIT and Sherley jointly issued statements announcing the end of the fast. Sherley said that his demands remain, but that he was breaking the fast “in celebration of the attention that has been brought to bear on issues of equity, diversity and justice at MIT and in higher education.” MIT said that it “deeply regrets” the hunger strike, but said that it had “focused attention on the effects that race may play in the hiring, advancement and experience of under-represented minority faculty, and on ensuring that our grievance processes are comprehensive, fair, and timely.”
It is naive to assume that institutes of higher education are totally exempt from prejudices that exist in society as a whole. Nonetheless, it is impossible to know what role (if any) race played in this tenure case.
I’m encouraged by indications that the face of academia is changing (albeit slowly). The racial and gender mix of the students I see in doctoral programs is very different than what I’ve noted in most business school faculty. I hope the increased diversity of today’s student population does indeed translate into increased diversity of tenured faculty in future decades.