A Modest Proposition

A Modest Proposition

Clint-Michael Reneau, Ioakim Boutakidis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7152-1.ch022
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


In an era when college completion dominates the policy agenda, matters of access and equity are critically important. Throughout higher education there are entrenched practices that reinforce inequities—leading to vastly different outcomes for first-generation, low-income students and for students of color. This chapter explores equity-minded practices educators can utilize in both the curricular and co-curricular while also exploring the concept of aligning behavioral goals and actions.
Chapter Preview

Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. —Parker Palmer



Up before sunrise. Jamal hated getting out of bed in the dark, but loved the payoff once he was dressed and jogging down the paths from his residence hall to the campus library in the first light, cruising and owning them almost alone. Sitting in the glow of the computer screen, Jamal completed his finishing edits and re-read his political science essay for the last time. Feeling the warmth of the pages coming from the printer, Jamal paused for a moment and looked out the library window. As the dawn light gained strength, he noticed the honey-colored bricks of Old Main, the building which housed his political science class. Walking towards Old Main, Jamal somehow felt taller; his broad shoulders expanded as he reached out to touch one of the century-old bricks that made up this longstanding structure, feeling the texture that has greeted intense summers and hailstones with such dignity. The moment impressed upon Jamal that he was the first in his family ever to have the opportunity and experience of stepping foot onto a college campus and write a political science essay on voter suppression. This topic directly impacted some members of the community from which he came in the rural south.

For Jamal, the tightly held essay was not only about demonstrating his ability and commitment to a campus he loved being a part of; the power of his words represented family members never allowed to express themselves on a college campus. As he reached for the maroon door handle of Old Main, some years weather-worn and in others sporting a shiny new coat, Jamal imagined the building’s pride in showing the campus it is still loved. Jamal felt that same sense of pride, the warmth washing over him as he turned in his essay.

A week later, the warmth that previously washed over Jamal was replaced with a cold chill as the professor tossed the essay onto Jamal's desk with a grade of “F” and the single comment, “You did not write this.” Staring at the “F” and the declarative statement written in red ink, seemed to possess all of the inadequacies Jamal ever felt and was amassed at that moment, the words screamed off the pages of the assignment, seeming to fill the entire classroom with their judgement and disdain. Jamal took a moment to gather his thoughts before approaching his professor after class; indeed, he thought this was a mistake as he recalled the hours he spent researching and writing this assignment. However, the words delivered from his professor's mouth were unmistakable: “You can't believe that I would think you, someone like you…from your background wrote that? The language in this paper did not come from you. You could see how I would think it, don't you?” Jamal stared at the professor in disbelief. Jamal was McNair Scholar, a participant in the federal funded fellowship that prepares undergraduates for doctoral programs and has consistently made the dean’s list, graduating next spring. The words coming from the professor's mouth seemed to echo off the walls throughout the classroom, each word stinging Jamal with embarrassment and humiliation. “Someone like you”—the words repeated in Jamal's head each time he walked towards the honey-colored brick building from then on; anxiety crawled around the inside of his skin every time he reached for the door at Old Main. The sturdy, imposing door with the solid wood frame, its polished glean no longer shined. Jamal thought, the image was similar to the lost shine in his own eyes. The large, sprawling campus Jamal once loved became suffocating and small: it was now the kind of place that leaves a mark of unease and pain.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: