Tag Archives: Academia

The Right to Learn and Work in a Safe Place

April 9, 2012

By Anna NietoGomez

AnnaNietoGomezPartially presented at the 2012 NACCS Conference Roundtable Panel “’Callin’ it like it is’: Transforming Gendered, Sexual and Heteropatriachal Violence in Chicano Studies and Academic Institutions”

People who pursue knowledge and participate in social justice activities have the right to expect people of authority and influence to commit themselves to establish, and maintain a safe and respectful work environment that is free from verbal and physical abuse such as bullying, hazing, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment, sex discrimination, physical and sexual violence, rape and hate crimes.

Persons of authority and influence in educational institutions, Chicana/o movement, and other social justice organizations are responsible to prevent and stop these behaviors because we understand that bad behavior is about bad people abusing their privileges and our failure to take action would negatively affect the achievement of the goals of our organizations. We know that the truth eventually comes out, and when it is revealed that no action was taken and that abuse and violence were allowed to continue, the credibility of those with authority and influence will suffer and they will eventually come under scrutiny and be held accountable. When unacceptable behaviors occur, these institutions and organizations need to make public and generally well known that:

1) There will be consequences for these behaviors. Action will be taken against anyone regardless of their power of authority, privilege or social status.

2) People who report these behaviors are safe and free from reprisals and retaliation.

3) Complaints will be investigated and appropriate action taken.

4) Criminal behavior will be reported to legal authorities for investigation.

5) Victims will receive appropriate treatment and assistance to heal and recover.

Institutional Violence

Anything less than the above is Institutional Violence. Institutional Violence is when authorities of institutions and organizations know or should have known that these behaviors occurred but directly or indirectly allowed the violent behavior to re-occur because they:

  • Did not take appropriate action.  
  • Allowed the victims, and those who try to help the victims, to be directed away from receiving help and/or are shunned, blamed and/or intimidated.
  • Pretended to help but really acted to suppress and intimidate.
  • Sought approval and acceptance for not taking appropriate action by appealing to one’s commitment to “La Causa” or the organization and took  steps to do the following: ignore and/ or deny that the incident occurred, protect the one who is alleged to have promoted and or participated in these behaviors, appeal to the fear that something horrible will occur should appropriate action be taken. These actions or inactions demonstrate that the organization or institution is more important than the victim and that to take action “would be the end of everything we have worked for” or “bring disrepute upon the institution or organization.” The threat and fear is exaggerated and not based on the actual situation and the appropriate proposed action.

When persons of authority and influence in movements, organizations and institutions act in the above manners they allow people who thrive in hostile and unsafe environments to continue their unacceptable behavior.

Recognizing a Hostile Environment

Take a hostile environment assessment. Talk to people and evaluate what you observe. Ask yourself: Is it generally well known that the following behavior is allowed to occur?

  • Demeaning, isolating and discrediting others (often used to gain power, influence, control and dominance).
  • Pushing, shoving, threats to hurt or actual fights.
  • Unwanted sexual advances (sanctioned because they are viewed as harmless and/or as compliments).
  • Bystanders ignore, passively observe or encourage these behaviors.
  • A pattern of Institutional violence.
  • Action to stop the abuse involves removing the victim from the organization, rather than stopping those who are abusive and violent.

Avoid What Does Not Work

Conflict resolution and or mediation between the one who has power and one who doesn’t only serves to further intimidate and threaten the one without the power. Group treatment for bullies and violent people doesn’t work because it tends to reinforce bullying behavior in each other. Simple, short-term solutions such as in-service training, meetings, lessons taught by individual teachers have demonstrated ineffective in when it is known that action will not be taken against those who abuse, are violent and/or rape.

What You Can Do

Require that the educational institution or community organization to post a public statement that this behavior is not acceptable and consequences will result when it occurs.  The names and phone numbers of who to call for help should also be identified.

Confront the bullying and the sexual harassment openly, honestly and quickly and put everyone on notice that it simply won’t be tolerated.

Warn people who plan to join that it is a hostile environment and encourage them to seek an alternative place where activists and students are safe and respected.

GET HELP. If you or someone you know has been assaulted and or raped encourage them to get help. Rape survivors tend to deal the more effectively with their experiences when they take an active role in acknowledging that the rape did occur, disclosing the incident to appropriate others, finding the right help, and learning it was not their fault.

Organize at the local level and take action.

Educate. Organize a campaign to raise awareness of the problems and the appropriate actions.

Collect personal stories of harassment and violence and failures of persons of authority to act. Come to a collective agreement as to what actions can be taken and with individuals who are also able to make a commitment to take part in the agreed upon action(s). Pick a target that is manageable and easily accomplished and can lead to bigger actions or issues. 

For More Information:

  • The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education investigates complaints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group. A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by OCR for good cause shown under certain circumstances. For the phone number in your area contact 1-800-421-3481 or file a complaint form at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
  • Equal Rights Advocates’ Advice and Counseling Hotline is here to help you understand your legal rights. Free, discreet, individualized advice is available if you are facing sex discrimination or sexual harassment. Contact 800-839-4372.
  • http://www.rainn.org/get-help
  • Regarding Sexual Harassment on campus see “Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic” at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocrshpam.html
  • The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act at www.higheredcenter.org/high-risk/violence/
  • Stop bullying in schools and cyber bullying. Prevention, laws and policies available at National Center for Prevention and Control, Division of Violence site: www.stopbullying.gov
  • U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Bullying and Harassment Guidance (pdf): http://www.sprigeo.com/pdfs/DuncanPressConferenceTranscript.pdf

 You can write to Anna NietoGomez at encuentrofemenil@gmail.com


  1. Ktrion  May  10, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    Awesome post!

  2. Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    In April this blog site was visited 911 times — and your essay was accessed by many, so thank you Anna for sharing this valuable information and insight.

Remembering the Power and Satisfaction of Mentorship

January 23, 2012

by Ella Diaz

Mentorship, both the act of mentoring and being mentored, is a well-known practice amongst Chicana and Latina scholars, educators and activists. We know firsthand of its efficiency, and the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with offering and taking advice, of extending a hand in friendship and in solidarity with each other. Working against hyper-competitive workplaces, against the culture of silence to which we often conform in our universities and institutions, and against individualistic notions of success, mentorship is our intervention in capitalist structures and neo-colonialism.

I want to write about mentorship in my first blog for Mujeres Talk because it perfectly captures my experiences between 2010-2011 as a scholar and as a Chicana. Having graduated with my Ph.D. in 2010, and as an adjunct instructor, I entered a period of uncertainty. So many of us recent graduates enter this space—a disconnected zone where we are unsure of our next steps towards creating a career and a viable practice in our given field. The fact is, the times have changed, and with all signs pointing towards adjunct positions as permanent ones, academia needs new conversations and new professional strategies.

Photo by ASU Libraries

Photo by ASU Libraries

But, with this said, a fundamental dysfunction in academia persists, despite changes in the professional opportunities in our fields; that dysfunction is what I call the culture of silence in universities. No one tells you what the next steps are. There is no workshop, no final debriefing meeting in which the transition from graduate student, to ABD, then Assistant Professor is demystified. Failing to share our concerns, our uncertainty, our questions, is deeply alienating for us Chicanas and Latinas who often navigate terrains communally and in dialogue. Chains of migration, familial and social networks are not only a major part of our support systems and cultural capital; they are also integral to our epistemologies and research methods. So finding oneself in a void of silence in our doctorate programs and then in our professions can be doubly difficult for Chicana and Latina scholars and professionals.

As it has been said for three decades, this is why MALCS is invaluable. MALCS is single-handedly the most important mentoring organization for emerging and established Chicana and Latina scholars, institutional workers, and activists. I personally experienced the power and deep sense of satisfaction that comes with taking good advice and embracing hands extended to me over the last year. Here I offer my experiences with seeking and receiving mentorship in a series of tips and lessons learned. I am mostly offering my thoughts on how to be a good mentee.

A few months before graduating I had made the good decision to present at a Latina/o Literature and Culture Society meeting. I did so because I needed a project to carry me through completing my dissertation that, well, wasn’t my dissertation. I also noted who the scholars were who were sponsoring the meeting of the Society. Thus the first tip I can share with you about seeking mentorship is you must make an introduction with a possible mentor that showcases your work. In other words, networking is good but it only carries you so far: it’s not about talking about your work or alluding to what you do; it’s about showing what you do. So plan panel presentations around audiences. Be bold enough to invite a favorite or inspiring scholar to one of your presentations. Mentors need to see and hear your work because, ultimately, it’s a two-way street. Of course, a senior colleague and established professional will want to work with new talent; but we must remember that part of our feminist practice and cultural heritage is dialogue and collaboration. Therefore, a mentor seeks an intellectual / professional partnership.

My strategy to present my best work at the Latina/o Literature & Culture Meeting proved successful. Showing my work through a polished speech complemented by slideshow brought me two mentors who connected with my work and then connected me with other scholars who they felt I could forge meaningful partnerships. Literally, one of my new mentors recommended I contact another scholar and share my presentation notes. I did so the next day and was invited to the MALCS Article Workshop. I participated in this workshop and was contacted by the editor to develop my work quickly for publication. I dropped everything else I was working on and developed the work. My first scholarly length article was published in Chicana/Latina Studies this fall 2011.

The next tip, then, is to follow up on every single piece of advice or instruction given to you by your mentors. Mentors experience a deep sense of satisfaction when you take their advice, run with it, and create successful outcomes. This is their reward, their payment, for guiding your path. There is nothing really quite like having your words, thoughts, ideas honored by careful attention and good listening skills.

Following up on these two experiences, I shared my professional documents with my mentors: my CV, my letters of interest for positions, my teaching statements, etc. They, in turn, gave me careful edits and some even shared their own professional documents. I revised all of mine accordingly. I strongly believe that my newly developed documents catalyzed the job interviews I recently received.

Upon receiving my first real interview, I met with my mentors, I spoke with them over the phone, and I emailed. At times it was overwhelming to compile all of their specific and general advice; but I created a document and recorded all vocabularies, scenarios, and strategies. I kept talking with them right up until the very day of the interview. I have been invited for a campus visit. Now, I can’t  tell you what happens next because I post this before I leave for the visit; but I will tell you that, after reflecting on this whirlwind of a year, I realize how carefully it was orchestrated by me and my mentors. Those two weeks of conversation, of taking advice, of listening to phrasings, practicing new vocabulary, and heeding strategies for preparation for potential questions asked at a job interview—all of it has been a training ground; it was literally a two week professional development seminar led by some wise, savvy, and thoughtful women. Whether or not I receive the position is not important; the training I received is invaluable and will assist me indefinitely.

So the final tip for pursuing mentorship is to be honest with your mentors. Share with them your fears, what you perceive to be your weaknesses professionally and/or academically. There is always an answer for every question and a solution to every problem. Speak candidly so that they can help you overcome your professional fears and foster the professional confidence that will propel you to the next leg of your journey. When they offer solutions, or unfamiliar options, digest them and try them out.

In closing, I hope you find my thoughts on making the most out of being mentored useful. I look forward to my upcoming posts and hearing your thoughts about them. Wishing everyone a happy new year!

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary.


  1. Anonymous  January 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM
    I’m so glad you are posting your experiences and expertise, specially right now that I’m close to my own transition from grad school to professional practice, and I haven’t find and/or figure out a way to prepare myself for that. I’ll take in consideration all your suggestions and will do as best will help me. Thank you Ella. Best, Erika. 😀
  2. Anonymous  January 26, 2012 at 8:18 AM
    Hola Erika, I am glad my thoughts are timely for you. And next tip: JOIN MALCS! Here you will find other artists and scholars who work with artists, as well as opps to publish. Saludos, Ella
  3. Anonymous  January 31, 2012 at 8:09 PM
    right on target. Very helpful. Saludos, ella