Balancing academic rights and responsibilities

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost Knowledge for Social Change co-author Ira Harkavy’s recent article that appeared in University of World News, an abridged version of a keynote address he delivered earlier this year.

In my judgment, there are two core purposes of higher education in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere. They are education for democratic citizenship and the creation of knowledge to advance the human condition, which significantly involves developing and maintaining a democratic society. These purposes can be powerfully achieved through university-community partnerships.

After a long period of disengagement, higher education leadership across the United States has increasingly recognized that colleges and universities cannot hold themselves aloof from their neighbors. The fate of the university and its local environment are intertwined. Given their resources, particularly their human capital (idealistic and able faculty, staff and students), higher education institutions can make significant contributions to the quality of life in their communities and cities.

The academic benefits of engagement have been illustrated in practice – and the intellectual case for engagement effectively made by leading scholars and educators. That case, simply stated, is that higher education institutions would better fulfill their core academic functions, including advancing knowledge, teaching and learning, if they focused on improving conditions in their societies, particularly their local communities.

Service-learning, engaged scholarship, community-based participatory research, volunteer projects and community economic development initiatives are some of the means used to create mutually beneficial partnerships designed to make a positive difference in the community and on the campus.

More broadly, a burgeoning higher education democratic civic and community engagement movement has developed across the United States to better educate students for democratic citizenship and to improve schooling and the quality of life.

Turning out informed democratic citizens

Given the current development of ‘illiberal democracy’, claims of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ and attacks on science and knowledge itself, universities have an increased and pressing responsibility to contribute to both the education of informed democratic citizens and the advancement of knowledge for the continuous betterment of the human condition. For this to occur, academic freedom and institutional autonomy must be maintained and strengthened.

Stated directly, significant levels of institutional autonomy and academic freedom are necessary for intellectual creativity, free inquiry and progress. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy, moreover, are intertwined with academic and institutional responsibility.

In her speech at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 2019 annual conference, Joan W Scott, former chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and professor emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, emphasized that academic freedom and institutional autonomy were needed to advance “the common good.”

She said: “The common good will not survive – and for that matter neither will individuals survive – without medical knowledge, knowledge of climate change, knowledge of history, knowledge of how structures of discrimination work at the economic, social, political and psychic levels to perpetuate inequalities of race, gender, sex and religion. Academic freedom protects the production and dissemination of that knowledge.

“It is that knowledge that nourishes and advances the common good. The future of the common good and of academic freedom are bound up together; the one cannot survive without the other.”

Threats to academic values

The interconnection of academic freedom and institutional autonomy with academic and institutional responsibility as well as the democratic purposes of higher education have been increasingly recognized across the world.

For example, in June 2019 a Global Forum was held in Strasbourg on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy (co-organised by the Council of Europe, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, the Organization of American States, the International Association of Universities, and the Magna Charta Observatory), involving participants from 41 countries across Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

The immediate background for this Global Forum was increasing concern that the values we have come to take for granted are now under threat in ways Europe and North America have not seen for at least three decades, since the fall of the Berlin Wall. While democracy has never been without potential for improvement, its basic premises are now questioned in Europe through nationalism and populism and attempts to advance ‘illiberal democracy’. Analogous developments are occurring in the United States.

There are, of course, differences. For example, the focus in the United States has largely been on academic freedom and its relationship to the right to free speech on campus.

In Europe, the focus has been largely on institutional autonomy. The traditional European emphasis on institutional autonomy concerns the legal relationship between public authorities and higher education institutions.

The different emphases in the United States and Europe should not be overstated however. The commonalities are much greater.

The interference of both the state and national governments in university affairs has increased significantly in the United States in recent years. The University of Wisconsin board of regents, for example, approved a policy mandating that students who disrupt speakers twice be suspended and those who disrupt three times be expelled.

Similar policies and legislation, while less punitive than those proposed (it was not approved by the governor) in Wisconsin have been passed in approximately 17 states.

Both houses of Congress have introduced similar bills that would apply to all public colleges and universities. The right-leaning Goldwater Institute has proposed and advocated for model legislation that has served as the basis of these bills requiring disciplinary policies for disruptions.

In a similar vein, President Donald Trump signed an executive order last March connecting federal funding to how colleges and universities enforce the right of free inquiry.

Needless to say, the instances cited represent increased governmental interference in university affairs, significantly affecting institutional autonomy and academic freedom. They also represent the weaponization of free speech for political and ideological purposes, which resonates with the use of laws in some European countries to limit academic freedom to support the ideology of the state.

Threats to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, of course, come from many sources, not just government. Private funding has been given with specified conditions that have influenced the content of study and the hiring of faculty.

Equally troubling is funding from private sources that subvert the core values of the university. With the rise of the so-called neoliberal entrepreneurial university, profit for the sake of profit too often appears to be the primary purpose of institutions of higher education. This, of course, has negative impacts on both research and education for the public good.

Rights and responsibilities

Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are mediated rights that come with responsibilities. Working with and contributing to their local communities are essential if colleges and universities are to function as responsible institutions. In my judgment, it is also an institutional responsibility for universities to work in democratic partnership with their community, demonstrating openness, transparency, responsiveness and accountability.

One of the best ways to practice academic freedom and institutional autonomy as well as academic and institutional responsibility is to engage locally. Local participatory democracy is necessary for the development of a democratic culture that goes beyond the crucial act of voting and extends to all areas of life.

The benefits of a local community focus for colleges and universities are manifold. Ongoing, continuous interaction is facilitated through work in an easily accessible location. Relationships of trust, so essential for effective partnerships and effective learning, are also built through day-to-day work on problems and issues of mutual concern.

In addition, the local community provides a convenient setting in which service-learning courses, community-based research courses and related courses in different disciplines can work together on a complex problem to produce substantive results. Sustained local partnerships of this kind foster the civic development of university students while advancing their academic learning and knowledge.

The local community is also a democratic real-world learning site in which community members, academics and students can pragmatically determine whether the work is making a real difference and whether both the neighborhood and the institution are better as a result of common efforts.

As colleges and universities work collaboratively with their neighbors on locally manifested universal problems, such as poverty, poor schooling, inadequate health care, environmental degradation and climate change, I believe they will be better able to advance knowledge, learning and democracy.

In so doing, they will also satisfy the critical performance test proposed in 1994 by the president of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, William R Greiner – namely, that “the great universities of the 21st century will be judged by their ability to help solve our most urgent social problems”.

Higher education should, indeed must, stand for core universal values, including tolerance, diversity and inclusivity, open inquiry, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy as well as academic and institutional responsibility are necessary for universities to realize these values and to contribute to developing and sustaining fair, decent and just democratic societies for all.

Ira Harkavy is associate vice president and founding director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and Chair of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy. This is an edited version of his keynote to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation International Quality Group Annual Meeting: A Global Quality Forum on 30 January.

Making visible the afterlives of U.S. colonial and occupation tutelage in the Philippines and Japan

This week in North Philly Notes, Malini Johar Schueller, author of Campaigns of Knowledge, writes about benevolent assimilations.

While most liberal Americans condemn U.S. military strikes and occupations as manifestations of superpower domination by force, they view church groups and educational missions as signs of American goodwill and benevolence toward the world. After all, most Americans see Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations as civilizationally “behind” the U.S. Dedicated teachers and philanthropists, backed by the United States’ government to set up schools, universities, and libraries in occupied areas are thus signs of a kinder, gentler, democratic America that the world emulates. However, it is precisely because benevolent assimilation—as famously articulated by President McKinley was a strategy of U.S. colonialism—that we should be suspicious of such charitable undertakings overseas. This is especially true in cases where the United States wishes to take over hearts and minds. Take for instance George Bush, who shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 devoted his weekly radio address to informing a skeptical nation that the American occupation was designed to build a stable and secure Iraq through the rebuilding of schools via the personal intervention of American soldiers.

Campaigns_of_Knowledge_SMCampaigns of Knowledge tracks this pattern of America as savior, following its politics of violence with the benign recovery of education in two seemingly different locations—colonial Philippines and occupied Japan—in order to demonstrate the similarity of purpose: pacification through schooling. Amidst the throes of the Philippine-American war, American soldiers opened the first school in Corregidor, initiating a comprehensive system of education. Following Japanese surrender, the U.S.-led occupation commenced its educational reform in that country. The object in both cases was to inculcate values of individualism, self-reliance, capitalism, modernity, and a nationalism amenable to American influence. While both Filipinos and Japanese were often seen by educators as “Oriental,” they were contrasting subjects of racial management: Filipinos were undercivilized and had to be educated and civilized; the Japanese were overcivilized and had to be re-educated and decivilized.

Contrapuntally viewing colonial archives such as Senate hearings, educational reports, textbooks, English primers and political cartoons, alongside the cultural productions of colonized subjects including film and literature, Campaigns of Knowledge demonstrates how natives variously appropriated, reinterpreted, rerouted and resisted the lessons of colonial rule. Children’s primers such as Filipino educator Camilo Osias’s The Philippine Reader not only teach English but also articulate a nationalism that both questions and accommodates American rule. The specter of colonial and occupation schooling continues to haunt the imaginations of Filipinos, Filipino Americans, Japanese and Japanese-Americans and the book analyzes the varied nature of these hauntings in autobiographies, novels, films, short stories, and oral histories. Contributing to a transnational intersection of Asian American studies with Asian studies, Campaigns of Knowledge examines figures canonized in the U.S. such as Carlos Bulosan and Bienvenido Santos alongside those canonized in the Philippines and Japan such as Edith Tiempo and Masahiro Shinoda. More broadly, the book demonstrates the centrality of schooling to the project of American empire and the importance of racial difference to this project.

 

 

 

Temple University Press’ NEH-Funded Open Access Labor Studies Titles Find New Readers Among Rutgers Students

This week in North Philly Notes, we interview Rutgers University Professor Will Brucher about Temple University Press’ NEH-funded Open Access Labor Titles.

In 2017, Temple University Press and Temple University Libraries received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to make a selection of the Press’s outstanding out-of-print labor studies titles freely available online as part of the Humanities Open Book Program. All 32 titles are now available on the Temple University Press website, where they can be read online or downloaded in EPUB, PDF, and MOBI formats. The titles are also available open access on JSTOR and Project MUSE.

To get a better sense of how these books are being used by new readers, Temple University Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Specialist Annie Johnson recently spoke with Rutgers University Assistant Teaching Professor William Brucher about how he has integrated the books into his own course curriculum.

First off, tell us a little bit about the class you are teaching this semester.

Labor and Employment History is an online graduate class in the Master of Labor and Employment Relations (MLER) program of the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. There are 28 students enrolled in the class. Some are full-time students who will pursue careers as labor relations and human resource professionals in the private and public sectors, work for state and federal agencies like the Department of Labor and OSHA, or work as organizers and representatives for labor unions. Some are part-time students who already work full-time jobs in those fields.

How you are using the Temple University Press open access labor studies and work books in your class?

I have used several of the books in my weekly reading assignments. For instance, I assigned primary source documents from The Black Worker, Volume 1, edited by Philip S. Foner and Ronald W. Lewis, for a unit on race and labor in the nineteenth century, and chapters from Alone in a Crowd: Women in the Trades Tell Their Stories, edited by Jean Reith Schroedel, for a unit on gender and labor in the 1960s and 1970s.

In addition, each student in the class must complete an 8- to 12-page research paper on a labor history topic. This year, I asked my students to choose their topic based on the books in the Temple University Press labor studies and work collection, because it is such an excellent (and free!) resource. 

How are students approaching the assignment? 

The students have completed their first drafts and will do peer reviews before turning in their final drafts at the end of the semester.

They’re using nearly every book in the collection. Several students are exploring topics in women’s labor history, using Alone in a Crowd, edited by Jean Reith Schroedel; A Needle, a Bobbin, a Strike, edited by Joan M. Jensen and Sue Davidson; Labor Education for Women Workers, edited by Barbara Mayer Wertheimer; Sisterhood and Solidarity, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh and Mary Frederickson; Mary Heaton Vorse by Dee Garrison; and Sisterhood Denied, by Dolores Janieweski. One student is writing a comparative paper on women clerical workers in the U.S. and the U.K. using Woman’s Place Is at the Typewriter, by Margery W. Davies, and Sameul Cohn’s The Process of Occupational Sex-Typing.  

Some students are writing about the experiences of Black workers using the volumes edited by Foner and Lewis. Others are writing about the difficulties encountered by unions in the second half of the twentieth century using The Crisis of American Labor, by Barbara S. Griffith and On Strike at Hormel, by Hardy Green. Another student is writing a paper on OSHA using Liberalism at Work, by Charles Noble, along with chapters from Alone in a Crowd and Workers’ Struggles, Past and Present, edited by James Green.  One student is writing about Philadelphia labor using Working People of Philadelphia, 1800-1850, by Bruce Laurie, and Philadelphia Communists, 1936-1956, by Paul Lyons and another is writing about Massachusetts labor using With Our Hands, by Mark Erlich and David Goldberg.

Can you talk about the importance of this collection?

There has been an explosion of impressive labor studies scholarship over the past 50 years published by university presses, including Temple. Unfortunately, much of that scholarship has gone out of print, and resides primarily on the shelves of university and college libraries, making it inaccessible to many. It is wonderful that Temple University Press and Libraries pursued an NEH grant to republish some of the Press’s out-of-print labor studies online and open-access, free and available for anyone to use. I will continue to use the collection in the classes I teach and in my own research. Other labor studies and labor education faculty I know from around the country are also excited about this collection and are using it in their work.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Thanks to the Temple University Press and Libraries staff for your hard work in making this collection freely available!

Temple University Press and Libraries Make 32 Labor Studies Titles Freely Available with NEH Grant

This week in North Philly Notes, we recap our work reissuing out of print Labor Studies titles with the help of Temple University Libraries and an NEH Grant.

In 2017, Temple University Press and Temple University Libraries received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to make a selection of the Press’s outstanding out-of-print labor studies titles freely available online as part of the Humanities Open Book Program. The titles were selected based on their impact on and ongoing relevance to scholars, students, and the general public.

As of October 1, 2019, all 32 titles are available on the Temple University Press website, where they can be read online or downloaded in EPUB, PDF, and MOBI formats. A print-on-demand option is forthcoming. All titles are also available open access on JSTOR and Project MUSE.

The books have been updated with new cover art, and 30 titles feature new forewords by experts in the field of labor studies. The forewords place each book in its appropriate historical context and align the content with recent developments in the field. The selected titles reflect a range of disciplines, including history, sociology, political science, and education.

The NEH grant also made it possible for Temple University Press and Temple University Libraries to host several public programs in conjunction with the reissued titles. A program in November 2018 featured Sharon McConnell-Sidorick and Francis Ryan discussing Working People of Philadelphia, 1800-1850 by Bruce Laurie. McConnell-Sidorick penned the foreword for the new edition. In April 2019, in support of Phyllis Palmer’s reissued book, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945, Premilla Nadasen spoke about how women of color organized after taking over domestic responsibilities from white housewives. And this month, William Jones will present a lecture entitled, “Remembering Philip S. Foner and The Black Worker,” reflecting on the eight-volume series The Black Worker, edited by Philip S. Foner and Ronald L. Lewis. Videos of the presentations will soon be available on Temple University Press’s blog, North Philly Notes.

Mary Rose Muccie, Director of Temple University Press, said, “Labor history is a key area of focus for the Press and today’s labor movement was shaped by many of the people and actions depicted in these titles. We’re grateful to the NEH for allowing us to reissue them without access barriers and help them to find new audiences.”

Annie Johnson, Scholarly Communications Specialist at Temple University Libraries added, “Thanks to the generous support of the NEH, we have been able to introduce these important books to a new generation of scholars, students, and the general public. We’re excited to continue to collaborate with the Press on other open publishing initiatives in order to further our shared mission of making scholarship widely accessible.”

About Temple University Press
Founded in 1969, Temple University Press chose as its inspiration Russell Conwell’s vision of the university as a place of educational opportunity for the urban working class. The Press is perhaps best known as a publisher of books in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as books about Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region. Temple was an early publisher of books in urban studies, housing and labor studies, organizational reform, social service reform, public religion, health care, and cultural studies.

About Temple University Libraries
Temple University Libraries serve as trusted keepers of the intellectual and cultural record—collecting, describing, providing access to, and preserving a broad universe of materials, including physical and digital collections, rare and unique books, manuscripts, archives, ephemera and the products of scholarly enterprise at Temple. We are committed to providing research and learning services, to providing open access to our facilities and information resources, and to fostering innovation and experimentation.

About The National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

The Value of University Presses

This week in North Philly Notes, we share “The Value of University Presses,”  which was developed by the Association of University Presses and captures the many ways the world needs presses like Temple. 

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The Value of University Presses

University Presses are at the center of the global knowledge ecosystem. We publish works and perform services that are of vast benefit to the diverse scholarly network—researchers, teachers, students, librarians, and the rest of the university community. Our work also reaches out to a broad audience of readers, and ultimately to the larger world that depends on informed and engaged peer-reviewed scholarship published to the highest standards. Each University Press brings a distinctive vision and mission to its work. Yet we are all guided by, and united in, core values—integrity, diversity, stewardship, and intellectual freedom—that define who we are, the work we do, and the goals to which we aspire.

University Presses and Society

1: University Presses make available to the broader public the full range and value of research generated by university faculty and by scholars outside the academy.

2: University Press books, journals, and digital publications present the foundational research and analysis that is drawn upon by policymakers, opinion leaders, nonprofits, journalists, and influential authors.

3: University Presses contribute to the abundance and variety of cultural expression at a time of continuing consolidation in the commercial publishing industry.

4: University Press publications provide deep insight into the widest range of histories and perspectives, giving voice to underrepresented groups and experiences.

5: University Presses make common cause with libraries, booksellers, museums, and other institutions to promote engagement with ideas and expose the public to a diversity of cultures and opinions.

6: University Presses help draw attention to the distinctiveness of local cultures through publication of works on the states and regions where they are based.

7: University Presses seek a wide readership by publishing in formats from print to ebook to audio to online and by making publications available in accessible alternative formats for those with print-related disabilities.

8: University Press translation programs make available to English-language audiences vital works of scholarship and literary importance written in other languages.

9: University Presses rediscover and maintain the availability of works important to scholarship and culture through reprint programs and through revival of key backlist titles, often via open digital editions.

10: University Presses encourage cultural expression by publishing original works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and the visual arts.

University Presses and Scholarship

11: University Presses, through their rigorous peer review and faculty board approval process, test the validity and soundness of scholarship in order to maintain high standards for academic publication.

12: University Presses add value to scholarly work through careful editorial development; professional copyediting and design; extensive promotion and discoverability efforts; and global distribution networks.

13: University Presses include in their community a wide array of institutions – including scholarly associations, research institutes, government agencies, museums, and international presses – thus representing a diversified research culture.

14: University Presses recognize important fresh perspectives in scholarship by sponsoring work in emerging and interdisciplinary areas that have not yet gained wide attention.

15: University Presses sponsor and develop the work of early-career scholars through publication of their first books, which establish credentials and develop authorial experience.

16: University Presses publish established and start-up scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines that contribute to a thriving ecosystem of article-based scholarship.

17: University Presses actively promote the translation of works by English-speaking authors into other languages, making their scholarship available to researchers, students, and readers worldwide.

18: University Presses commit to multivolume publishing projects and dynamic digital resources, partnering with librarians, foundations, and other organizations on works of wide scope and enduring importance.

19: University Presses collaborate with learned societies, scholarly associations, and libraries to explore how new technologies can benefit and advance scholarship.

20: University Presses publish books, journal articles, and digital projects used in undergraduate and graduate courses as essential components of well-rounded syllabi and reading lists.

University Presses in the University Community

21: University Presses extend the mission, influence, and brand of their parent institutions, making evident their commitment to knowledge and ideas.

22: University Press publishing programs span the humanities, arts, social sciences, STEM fields, and professional schools, representing the full expanse of university research.

23: University Presses demonstrate their parent institutions’ support of research in essential academic fields – particularly in the humanities and social sciences – that are rarely supported by federal or corporate funding.

24: University Presses extend their parent institutions’ efforts at community engagement and outreach by publishing books of interest to their local communities and to a broader regional readership.

25: University Presses raise the public profile and reputation of their parent institutions by generating positive news coverage and reviews, receiving book awards, and maintaining active social media presences.

26: University Presses play a leading role in experimenting with and developing new platforms for delivering and engaging with scholarship.

27: University Presses partner with campus libraries, digital humanities centers, and other university departments to advance non-traditional initiatives in scholarly communication.

28: University Presses provide distribution and other publishing services to other university units and also act as distributors for independent publishers, ranging from established presses to innovative scholar-led initiatives.

29: University Press staff act as local experts for faculty and administrators, providing guidance on intellectual property, scholarly communication, and the publishing process.

30: University Presses engage in the teaching and learning mission by providing substantive work study, internship, and apprenticeship experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.

This essential document, articulating the value of university presses, was originally created in 2000 by a working group of three Association board members, Douglas Armato (Minnesota), Steve Cohn (Duke), and Susan Schott (Kansas). In 2018, the Association of University Presses invited Armato to form a new author group to update it. Our thanks go to him, Lisa Bayer (Georgia), Mahinder Kingra (Cornell), Erich van Rijn (California), and Stephanie Williams (Ohio) for this renewed statement.

Approved by the AUPresses Board of Directors June 2019.

Temple University Libraries and University Press’ Diversity Statement

This week in North Philly Notes, we post the Temple University Libraries and University Press diversity statement that recently posted on the library’s website.

Introduction

In 2017, the Temple University Libraries & University Press (TULUP) Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee was charged with mapping the trajectory of diversity and inclusion initiatives at TULUP. The TULUP D&I Committee facilitated the creation of a Diversity Statement in order to guide TULUP’s commitment to the range of human representations in all areas of our work. In an effort to exemplify a commitment to engaging diverse voices, all TULUP staff were invited to share their input on the statement. The TULUP D&I Committee used these suggestions to shape the Diversity Statement you see below and continues to work diligently to facilitate TULUP’s upholding of the principles within it.

Diversity Statement

The staff of Temple University Libraries and Press strive to engage, include, and serve the full diversity of the Temple academic and local communities regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, culture, language, political views, citizenship status, or diverse abilities.

We are dedicated to the principles and practices of social justice, diversity, and equity among our staff, collections, and services.

While our staff is not as diverse as the communities we serve, we are working toward our commitment to the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.

We hope to act as a catalyst to our users to challenge their own assumptions and viewpoints, while also intentionally building collections and services that let users see themselves reflected. We strive to create safe spaces in our buildings and on our websites, and do not tolerate harassment or hate speech in any form.

We’re fully committed to eliminating barriers to learning and fostering access for our communities. The development of a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment is a continuous process. We’re taking small steps every day towards our goals, including regular attention to these issues and calls to action from our standing Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

How could we be doing better? Let us know at asktulibrary@temple.edu.

A Q&A with Judge Nelson A. Diaz

This week in North Philly Notes, an interview with Nelson A. Diaz, about his inspiring new autobiography, Not from Here, Not from There.

You came to America as a child—literally—in your mother’s belly. Can you discuss the experience of being part of the wave of Puerto Rican immigrants post-World War II?
During the 1940’s and 1950’s, many Puerto Ricans came to New York in search of greater job opportunities because the economic hardships confronting Puerto Rico after WWII. My mother came to New York to provide a better life for me. She was a woman who was ahead of her time because she was a working mom at a time when most mothers stayed at home with their children. She did not have a choice. She worked as a seamstress in a factory to make ends meet. Although I grew up in very humble circumstances, my mother always provided the example of love, hard work, and faith. The Marine Tiger where she landed was a famous ship used in WWII for transport of soldiers and many came to the shores of NY the same way having American citizenship since 1917. Public Policy in the availability of Public Housing made a major difference in our lives.

You grew up in Harlem and had some hardscrabble experiences. What was that period of your life like?  You talk about being in fear at age 15. What helped you get through that time and not just survive, but thrive?
Growing up in poverty does not give you many options. Violence, gangs, and drugs are all around. I had a lot of problems in school much of which stemmed from my inability to speak and read in both English and Spanish. Trying to live in two different worlds – Puerto Rican culture and American culture – was difficult. I was not doing well in school and was always struggling to get better grades. At the age of 15, I went from being a D student to an A student in one year through the saving grace of the church.

Through faith, I felt hope. Hope for my future, an expectation that better things lied ahead and a strong desire to work hard for it. Through faith, I no longer felt unworthy and I knew that I could achieve greater things, not only for myself but also for others. The intervention of people in my life made a difference.

Not From Here_smYou faced considerable discrimination in Philadelphia (e.g., passing the bar). Was there a particular experience that made you learn and grow?
Growing up as a poor Puerto Rican kid from Harlem, I always had to overcome the barriers of stereotypical attitudes: a school counselor who believes that you are not college material, or institutional or systemic bias in law schools and government, or law firms and corporate boards that lack diversity even though there are highly qualified people of color. That is why civil and human rights are important issues that I have spent my life fighting for. I have spent a lifetime breaking barriers so others can walk through the doors—whether it was becoming a founding member of Black Law Students Association and the Federation of Puerto Rican Students because I understood the power of coalitions of interest; or becoming a community activist to protest the lack of diversity and open up law school doors for others; or promoting economic development in the Latino community; or becoming the first Puerto Rican White House Fellow, where I worked for Vice President Mondale and was able to promote Latino diversity in the political arena and influence public policy both domestically and internationally; or becoming the first Latino judge in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; or becoming the first minority administrative judge and presiding over court reforms that brought seven years of backlogged cases to the present and saved the courts millions of dollars; or fighting for the human rights of Soviet Jews; or becoming the first American judge to sit on a Japanese Court; or fighting against segregation in housing nationwide; or promoting the inclusion and promotion of minority and women lawyers in the profession; or fighting for diversity on corporate boards. I may have been the first, but I did not want to be the last!

The history of anyone but Caucasian who had passed the Pennsylvania Bar demonstrates that until the Liacouras Bar Committee found discrimination in the Bar exam the Commonwealth of PA since its founding, the bar had only admitted 67 African Americas and no Latinos before 1969 when I entered Law School. It was apparent that it was impossible to believe that I might get admitted and the city was so segregated by neighborhoods with continuous racial conflict between neighborhood boundaries.

Eventually, your career took off with appointments as the General Counsel at HUD, and as a city solicitor who helped with immigration issues. Can you describe your experiences?
The White House Fellows program gave me an education on the world and lifted my profile in my professional life.  The Judicial appointment and election also changed the public perspective of me. Both of these appointments, including the Administrative Judge title, were avenues of increasing diversity in the workplace. Although I was flattered to have been asked to by Henry Cisneros, who is a trailblazer and friend, to become his General Counsel at HUD, I did not want to go to Washington, DC. Henry was persistent and I eventually agreed. By breaking another barrier—becoming the first minority General Counsel—I was determined to increase the numbers of minority and women lawyers hired, retained and promoted because of the shocking lack of diversity among the government attorneys. I have always felt that the inclusion of minorities and women is an important step to changing systemic bias that exists in most institutions. As Latinos, we need to select our own leaders and continue to help each other climb the ladder of success.

Your book’s title is curious, it suggests a lack of belonging. Can you discuss that?
The title of my book, “I am not from here and I am not from there/No soy de aqui, ni de alla,” is about being a Puerto Rican born and raised in New York. We are not accepted here because of stereotypes and prejudice and yet not accepted as Puerto Rican from the Islanders because we were born in the States. It begs the question so where do we belong? That is a difficult barrier to overcome. You continue striving for excellence, inclusion, and moving the agenda forward so there is equality for all. There are many examples of rejection on both sides of the Atlantic both professionally and community where Puerto Ricans resided.

My parents lived most of their lives in Puerto Rico while I lived all of my life in the United States. I visited regularly since the age of 10 was educated in the issues of both countries, despite my professional capacity and assistance was there rarely an opinion they sought or cared particularly as you can see from the major Hurricane Maria. When they used my help it was limited to educate their officials and not my expertise which normally was ignored. That never gave me pause to keep trying wherever possible.

Do you think you achieved the American Dream?
Latinos positively contribute to the wellbeing of this great country. My story demonstrates some of the many ways, Latinos contribute to America. I hope that this book is seen in a bigger context than just my story. In the backdrop of the negative and racist attitudes about Latinos being only “criminals and rapists” my story is one of many, Latinos who work hard every day to put food on the table, house their families as best as they can and educate their children to have equal opportunities for the future. Isn’t that what everyone wants – the American Dream? History has eliminated most of our contribution and we fail to tell the story of how we have made America better.  My book will hopefully inspire young people to strive for a better life.

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