Endangered and Vulnerable: The Black Professoriate, Bullying, and the Limits of Academic Freedom

By Lori Latrice Martin, Biko Mandela Gray, and Stephen C. Finley


The very presence of black professors at predominately white institutions (PWIs) constitutes a problem, giving rise to bullying and limits on academic freedom. Black students played important roles in changing black faculty experiences. Yet the decline in black student enrollments and the dismal numbers of black faculty over the last twenty years place black professors at continued risk for bullying, especially at flagship universities, which many whites view as sacred white spaces. This article focuses on the implications of these trends for the academic freedom of black faculty and the erosion of civility toward them. We discuss how the threat of bullying, made more likely by low numbers of black students and faculty at PWIs, both disrupts and dismantles the pipeline to the black professoriate and how antagonism toward black professors leaves other historically disadvantaged faculty vulnerable and with few allies. We offer recommendations to address bullying and potentially expand academic freedom.

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