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Race on Campus: Book Discussion Series

Library staff professional development book discussion

Race on Campus - Library Book Discussion Series, Fall 2019

ebunking Myths with Data


Discussion Questions

Chapter 6: The Problem of "the Problem of Mismatch"

Topic: Mismatch and "Who Belongs" Where

Topic Leader: Susan Vega García

Meeting:  LMT 11.13

Please read the following & be prepared to discuss at our meeting:

  • Chapter 6: The Problem of "the Problem of Mismatch" -- pages  123-143

You can always read more from the book at any time, but this is one Chapter we will focus on in our discussions for today.

Note: This chapter focuses on the problematic yet widespread idea of students of color being a "mismatch" at selective or high prestige universities. While there's much here to discuss, our questions for this chapter will pivot to overarching questions of "welcoming" and inclusion.

Discussion Questions

1.  Chapter 6 frames the concept of "mismatch" with what Park calls "benevolent racism" (p124).  

  • What is "benevolent" racism, and can you give some examples you've seen in real life or in media?
  • Let's compare benevolent racism to what we might call flagrant acts of racism by hate groups. For example, is benevolent racism... 
    • visible, or invisible?
    • less common or more common? 
    • perpetuated by good people, or bad people?
    • conscious, or unconscious?

2. At its essence, the concept of "mismatch" speaks to perceptions of who belongs where. The chapter concerns URM students and colleges, but let's consider the following:

  • How might ideas of "mismatch" and implicit bias apply to the library environment? 
    • Consider the hiring process; committee membership process; leadership development process

3. Contrary to "mismatch" theory, Park's data show students of color and URM thrive at more challenging institutions that provide supportive environments. Rather than applying a deficit model to students (i.e., they should change), Park advocates for changing the institution to become more supportive of their specific needs. 

This resonates with the library's goals of becoming the most welcoming and inclusive land grant library, and the new Framework's statement that we are centering DEI in our work.

  • What does becoming "more welcoming and inclusive" entail, and what does "centering DEI" mean?
    • Centering example: Ask: "What does this service / space / policy / procedure look like from the point of view of ..."
      • a patron with a specific disability; a patron who is queer or trans; a patron who is a POC/URM, etc?
      • Cultural humility: "Is it possible that I, as someone who does not share those identities, may not recognize barriers or biases in these areas? Is it possible that spaces / services / policies / procedures that feel normal, fair, safe, welcoming, and inclusive to me may not feel or look that way to others?"
        • Note how cultural humility acknowledges our own positionality, our own privilege, and our own potential blindspots
  • What changes to the institution (the library) might be necessary to work toward these shared goals?