I was born in Ghana and was two years old when my family immigrated to the United States. I am a 2004 graduate of Miami University, where I earned my master’s degree in student affairs. And I returned to Miami in 2012 as an Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership Department. And although I submitted my promotion and tenure materials on Aug. 15, I am still currently an untenured faculty member, which perhaps, makes me vulnerable. Even so, I attach my name to what I write below — Stephen John Quaye. I am not anonymous. I am a person — a parent of a nearly four-year-old, a friend, a brother, a faculty member and a human being who is deeply hurt by the comments by Anonymous Concerned Faculty Member on Nov. 4, 2014 in The Miami Student about international students. As a Ghanaian/African American man, I am underrepresented on Miami’s campus. Yet, I returned to my home of Miami as a faculty member to support students who might feel isolated and excluded on this predominantly white campus, students who might feel further isolated and excluded given the sweeping generalizations made about international students by Anonymous Concerned Faculty Member.
Dead weight. These two words reverberate in my head. Dead weight — not human, worthless, not deserving of space. Just weight that is extra, weight that is not alive, weight that is a problem. Dead weight — opposite of alive and full of vitality. Dead weight. I repeat these words — dead weight — several times for emphasis, to remind readers of the words of a faculty member on Miami’s campus. I am not one of the “many faculty members … who are afraid to come forward.” A colleague of mine believes certain students are dead weight. Do you see the severity of those words? If we, as faculty members, believe any of our students are dead weight, then we have given up on them. We have let go of our job as educators — to cultivate students’ passions, facilitate their learning and provide opportunities for them to grow, learn and develop. If we believe students are not worthy of even our time, then why are we here? Why do we teach? Why are certain students more deserving of your time, Anonymous Concerned Faculty Member?
I hurt for the international students in your classes who are trying — trying their hardest to succeed in a culture that wants them to assimilate. For the international students who are already marginalized on this campus and will feel further marginalized by your insensitive and hurtful words. For the international students who may walk around campus and wonder if the faculty member in front of them is the one who called them dead weight. How can you expect these students to succeed when the very people who are paid to foster their learning do not believe in their potential? Miami University has a campus climate that is often not welcoming to students who do not fit certain norms, and your words, Anonymous Concerned Faculty Member, do not help this climate at all. You are a faculty member – a privileged position you hold on this campus that grants you power and access to resources that few other people have. Imagine if you walked into another country and did not know the language or the norms. Wouldn’t you struggle to adapt, to succeed, to strive? Wouldn’t you want support from the very people who are paid to offer that support? Wouldn’t you want patience and grace to make mistakes in an effort to learn? Wouldn’t you want forgiveness when the norms are too great to figure out? Wouldn’t you want someone, just someone to hear your story?
Our words and our stories matter. When you sign your name anonymously, you do not give us the ability to hear your story. When you paint international students with broad strokes, you offer a dangerous single story about them, to use the words of Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. And here’s why this single story you have painted of international students is problematic — because there are not enough counter stories to challenge this single story. So, readers may believe your words are reflective of all international students on our campus. There are many stories told about faculty members, so I am not allowing your anonymous words to be indicative of other faculty at Miami. This is why your words matter. If you took the time to hear the stories of international students, you would see that they are not a monolithic group.
So, Anonymous Concerned Faculty Member, you do not speak for me. I am not one of those many faculty members you cited. I am Stephen John Quaye, a Ghanaian/Black Assistant Professor at Miami University who vehemently opposes your words. I am not anonymous and neither are the many international students who are on this campus who every day are trying to make in a different environment. We have stories, we have words, and they matter. And when you disregard these stories and words, you contribute to creating a toxic environment for these students. And I, for one, will not support that.
Stephen John Quaye