A University of Hawaii faculty member is causing a stir in conservative media circles by suggesting that white men need to quit their jobs to make room for minorities and women.

Piper Harron, a temporary assistant professor in mathematics at UH Manoa, is African-American.

In a May 11 blog post, Harron expressed frustration at the lack of minority and female representation in the work place, in particular academia.

“Not to alarm you, but I probably want you to quit your job, or at least take a demotion,” Harron wrote in the post, titled “Get Out The Way.” “Statistically speaking, you are probably taking up room that should go to someone else. If you are a white cis man (meaning you identify as male and you were assigned male at birth) you almost certainly should resign from your position of power.”

Harron continues:

“That’s right, please quit. Too difficult? Well, as a first step, at least get off your hiring committee, your curriculum committee, and make sure you’re replaced by a woman of color or trans person. Don’t have any in your department? HOW SHOCKING.”

Photos of the faculty of the UH Manoa Department of Mathematics. UH Manoa

At least five conservative websites are taking issue with Harron’s argument.

An article in The Daily Wire titled Racist Professor Tells White Men To Quit Or Be Demoted, describes Harron’s argument as “a new racist equation she wants to promote: white + man + job = her order for white males to quit or be demoted.”

Similar articles are posted on The Daily Caller, Breitbart and Heat Street, the latter of which characterized Harron’s blog as a “bizarre rant.”

Professor Piper Harron. UH Manoa

Another conservative website, Campus Reform, also posted an article and included this comment: “In a now-deleted post on social media that was uncovered by Campus Reform, Harron hit back against those who called her racist and sexist for her blog post, telling them to stop commenting on her post if they find her arguments to be ‘trash.’”

Inquiries to Harron were not returned Friday.

The UH Manoa Department of Mathematics referred media calls to UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl, who directed Civil Beat to a UH News website where UH President David Lassner defended the right of expression in a message delivered to faculty and staff systemwide:

“Some of you may have heard about a personal post by of one of our faculty members in a blog, managed by a major national professional association, that has received media attention. As a reminder, the opinions of individual faculty members exercising their free speech rights on open blogs do not necessarily represent the positions of the University of Hawaii.

“In addition, as I have repeatedly affirmed, most recently this past February, the university stands firmly committed to providing a safe and inclusive work and learning environment, free of discrimination and intolerance.

“We are also committed to the protection of constitutional rights of free expression and to diversity, including diversity of opinion. These commitments are stated plainly in our policies, including our employment policies, and have been longstanding and deeply held. I call on the entire UH community to help us all fulfill these commitments.”

Craig Bennett, a UH Manoa student currently on leave, is upset about Harron’s blog.

“Could you imagine if a white male advocated the removal of all Jews or all blacks from campus yet this type of extreme bigotry is tolerated against whites as if civil rights only applies to certain groups. Should we all not be treated equally and given the same rights?” he said in an email to local media early Friday morning. “Amazing how it falls under ‘academic freedom’ when a black (woman) spews this extreme bigotry yet everyone knows if a straight white male said anything close to that they would be rightfully fired.”

‘A Provocation To Think’

Harron holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University.

At the conclusion of “Get Out The Way,” she explains that she is trying to get white men to think differently in order to understand people like her as well as how American society favors white males.

“This is not about shame or guilt. Those things are useless. This is about shifting perspective. I know you’re not going to quit your job, but I want you to understand that you should. And to understand that by keeping your job and your other unearned privileges, you are running a continued debt to marginalized people and you should always be seeking ways to pay us back.”

She ends her article this way: “Not to alarm you, but statistically speaking you are the problem. Your very presence. I can’t tell you what is the best strategy for you to stop blocking my path. I can just ask that you please get out of my way.”

Adriana Salerno, editor in chief of the the American Mathematical Society’s AMS Blog where Harron presented her views, on Thursday posted, “Since last Friday, this post has been getting lots of comments, some of which are very inappropriate.”

That prompted Salerno to offer an explanation for Harron’s article:

“This is a blog post, an opinion piece, and a provocation to think. As Piper says, it is about ‘shifting perspective’. It is not being written by a university president, nor is it something we are acting upon. We are not actually firing anyone. A common argumentation device is to take something to the extreme to really help us do the shifting (and often with things regarding race and gender, this is an effective device, albeit upsetting for some). This also does not necessarily represent the opinions of the AMS and its members, it represents our point of view.”

According to The Liberated Mathematician, Harron’s blog, her interests are “Calculus II, intersectional radical feminism, Number Theory, anti-racism, etc.”

She states on that blog, “My view of mathematics is that it is an absolute mess which actively pushes out the sort of people who might make it better. I have no patience for genius pretenders. I want to empower the people.”

Harron also posts a curricula vita that outlines her academic and life experiences. Many of her views are similar to the “Get Out The Way” blog.

This screenshot from Piper Harron’s blog shows the UH professor. Screenshot: Piper Harron blog

For instance, listing her bachelors cum laude in Romance Languages from New York University, she says, “survived external and internalized misogyny” and “survived external and internalized racism.”

In another post, Harron responds to comments on an article she posted titled Hire Me.

White men ask me, but what are the solutions?  What can we do?

When a black woman centers herself and demands equal access, it is nothing short of revolutionary.

What you can do to change math? Make. Space. For. Me.

She also describes the difficulties in a woman of color obtaining tenure at “a top research institution … if I wasn’t playing by their rules.”

Now, you want me to tell you what needs to change? I don’t know! Whatever it is that makes you look at me and think, well, but do we really know whether she’d be worth it? Is it your sexism? Is it your racism? Is it your math hierarchies? That’s not really for me to say.

All I can say is that I will be on the job market. And many women and people of color and other marginalized people will be on the job market, if they make it that far. The system is biased against us.

Fight it.

Half Of UH Faculty Is White

In the fall of 2016, 51.8 percent of faculty at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the flagship campus of the UH system, were white, according to data from the University of Hawaii Institutional Research and Analysis Office.

About 42.7 percent of UH Manoa faculty were Asian or Pacific Islander and 1.4 percent were black or African-American.

The National Center of Education Statistics shows these numbers in 2013 for full-time faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions: 43 percent white males, 35 percent white females, 3 percent black males, 3 percent black females, 2 percent Hispanic males, 2 percent Hispanic females, 6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander males and 4 percent Asian-Pacific Islander females.

Graduates at the 2017 University of Hawaii at Manoa graduation ceremony. Compared to many mainland campuses, UH has a relatively diverse student population. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2017

Meantime, the same UH data shows 55.1 percent of the faculty at UH Manoa is male and 44.9 percent are female. 

The same semester, the majority of students were Asian or Pacific Islander: 10,368 out of 18,056 total students at the UH Manoa campus. The student body was also about 2,300 more female students than male. 

Controversial remarks about race by UH professors and in local society are not unusual.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, has written about Hawaii’s racial prejudice challenges.

Natanya Friedheim contributed to this article.

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