Educators’ Response to Dr. Asante’s Attacks on Dr. Monteiro

A Response to Dr. Molefi Kete Asante’s Charges against
Dr. Anthony Monteiro

By the Drafters of the Educators’ Call to Reinstate Monteiro

Monteiro and West at May 8 Rally 2014In recent radio and Facebook denunciations, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, descends to new levels of desperation in his attempt to defend Temple University’s “dismissal” of Dr. Anthony Monteiro after his ten years of distinguished service to its African American Studies Department.

Displaying an utter absence of ethical propriety, Asante publicly attacks Dr. Monteiro, his colleague of 10 years in the Department, with libelous caricatures of Dr. Monteiro as a “charlatan,” a “low-level purveyor of Marxism and anti-African ideas,” and more. Further, Dr. Asante flagrantly demeans distinguished national scholars Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, because they dared support Dr. Monteiro. Of their participation in a public gathering (see NPR coverage and photos at WHYY NewsWorks), Asante writes that they were merely “doing their Leftist duties” and, worse, he writes, “they were duped.” Dr. Asante then proceeds to excoriate white undergraduates involved in recent protests as a “cadre of white leftists,” who seek “to use the Monteiro issue to hijack the African American agenda.”

Dr. Asante’s brazen demonization of student protesters and his deployment of these racially divisive attacks are morally bankrupt and incompatible with his ethical responsibilities as chair of an African American Studies unit at a University. These claims have been effectively countered in a statement by leaders of the Philadelphia Monteiro movement (photo below, campus & communityfor Monteiro).

students_rally_for_monteiro_20140509_1102514185Further, Dr. Asante’s use of a naked and anachronistic anticommunism to justify baseless attacks on Dr. Monteiro’s integrity as a scholar and a teacher pose a dangerous threat to academic integrity and academic freedom. Dr. Asante’s statements against Dr. Monteiro are especially disconcerting because they reveal a deep seated, prejudicial contempt that has been longstanding. With his recent public statement, Dr. Asante inadvertently reveals that he used the power of his office as Department Chair to fire Dr. Monteiro for nothing other than political animus.

Together with previous, well-publicized charges of plagiarism and abuse of authority against him, Dr. Asante’s unethical conduct make him unfit to make decisions about faculty or lead an academic department. His pattern of unethical conduct brings disrespect upon his Department and Temple University.

Dr. Asante goes on to deride the entire national campaign’s “Call for Dr. Monteiro,” and its 250 signatories from across the nation, as having also been duped, and condemns Dr. Monteiro’s campaign as “slavishly selfish, self-indulgent and pathetic.” Will Dr. Asante next move to attack the Call’s headliners by name? These would be Angela Y. Davis, Gary Y. Okihiro, Gerald Horne, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Joy A. James, Joe Feagin, Howard Winant, Chris Hedges, Charles L. Blockson, James H. Cone, Lewis R. Gordon, Vijay Prashad, V. P. Franklin and Farah Jasmine Griffin.

Beyond name-calling, Dr. Asante gives no attention to the careful arguments made in the educators’ Call, which point to this dismissal as being a “retaliatory firing.” These are arguments that have not been seriously engaged by Dr. Asante.

The Call for Dr. Monteiro was publicized after carefully vetting it for accuracy with those who know the situation at Temple University, from both student and faculty perspectives. When drafting the Call, there were others who spoke with us only on condition that they remain anonymous, fearing retaliatory action from the Department Chair or other administrators.

Dr. Asante’s apparent role in the de facto firing of his colleague is especially offensive given that Dr. Monteiro helped support Dr. Asante’s appointment as Chair following a crisis of governance in the Department just last year.

Dr. Asante justifies the firing by repeatedly stating that it was simply time for Monteiro’s one-year contract to end. He downplays the fact that Monteiro’s contract was renewed multiple times over the course of 10 years, signaling the Department’s deep level of trust and respect for his teaching and scholarship over the years.

Dr. Asante also tries to justify the firing by waving away Dr. Monteiro’s status as a Du Bois scholar – even writing, “he is not a Du Boisian scholar.” He rages as if those of us who drafted and signed the Call for Dr. Monteiro have no basis for highlighting Dr. Monteiro’s distinguished record in Du Bois studies. We simply invite him to look at the record. Dr. Monteiro has multiple essays on Du Bois, in peer-reviewed journals, in academic books, and in other venues, too. He has a major manuscript in preparation on Du Bois. He has been the driving force for the annual symposia and lectures held at Temple University on Du Bois, drawing scholars of distinction to the lectures and symposia from Princeton, Drexel, UPENN, Brown and many other schools. His doctoral seminars on Du Bois are regularly attended by students of various fields of study. He was asked by UPENN to bestow upon Du Bois the Emeritus Professorship in Africana Studies and Sociology at UPENN.

Moreover, Dr. Asante seems not to know what it means for a scholar like Dr. Monteiro to work in the legacy of Du Bois. Du Bois wrote and organized against deadly mixes of racism and class repression, as these weigh heavily upon diverse groups (black and white, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, and more) and especially upon women of color. Contrastingly, the narrow Afrocentric traditions of scholarship which Dr. Asante represents have been less effective in displaying the integral relations between Du Bois’ blend of Pan-African, socialist and women’s concerns. Dr. Monteiro addresses these relations in his teaching and scholarship, advocating for all – in Du Bois’ language, for all the “darker nations” and for any who suffer the “anarchy of empire.”

It is time for Dr. Asante to cease posing as the deserving well-published scholar over and against Dr. Monteiro, whom he describes as the undeserving “elevated adjunct”/”charlatan.” Dr. Asante needs to remember that he, along with many of the tenured and celebrated university professors of this country, has been protected in his position, especially when he was most vulnerable. Even when three separate faculty committees at Temple University found sufficient evidence for a university tribunal to weigh Dr. Asante’s “grave misconduct” of plagiarism and misuse of a female colleague’s work in his publications – it was only a single Temple administrator, President Liacouras, in 1996, who protected him from the dire consequences of such a negative judgment by colleagues (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 14, 1996).

Dr. Monteiro deserves protection, but for something far better and more exemplary: his reputable and distinguished service for over a decade at Temple. Dr. Monteiro warrants that for which our Call has argued, what distinguished scholars world-wide have affirmed, and what scores of leading scholars recognize – namely, his reinstatement to the Department of African American studies.

Dr. Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College/CUNY, History Department and Black and Latino/a Studies*

Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary, Religion & Society Committee, and Theology Department*

*Institutions listed for identification purposes only.