Concerns about professor

Two consecutive classes of HIST 283, the History of the Third World, were cancelled. On Friday, the class reconvened for an announcement made by the department chair of history James Carson.
Two consecutive classes of HIST 283, the History of the Third World, were cancelled. On Friday, the class reconvened for an announcement made by the department chair of history James Carson.

Updated on Friday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m.

A second-year history class has not convened in the past week.

Adjunct assistant professor Mike Mason has not attended his class since he announced that students had complained to the history department about terms used in his lectures.

According to students enrolled in Mason’s HIST 283, History of the Third World, allegations of racism and sexism spurred from the use of the terms “towel-head” and “mistress.” Mason declined to comment to the Journal due to legal reasons.

Tamara Gardner, ArtSci ’12, is enrolled in Mason’s class. She said Mason addressed the class last Wednesday, and since then classes have been cancelled.

After Mason spoke about the allegations last week, Gardner said the class had a 20-minute discussion on the topic, with students siding with him and against him. “I think it was definitely taken out of context,” Gardner said. “Racism is one of the issues affecting the third world and it’s what we’re there to study.” Mason also mentioned that this will be his last semester at Queen’s, Gardner said.

“I think it’s devastating for him,” she said. “His career, I think, is essentially over.”

Department chair of history James Carson told the Journal in an email that the department has policies and processes in place to protect the learning environment at Queen’s.

“Regarding the issues raised in this particular case, we are working with the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA,) in accordance with the collective agreement, to determine appropriate next steps,” Carson said.

QUFA officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Carson addressed the HIST 283 class this morning.

“I’m here to talk to you about what happened and the implications … and then what we’re going to do is move forward,” he told the class.

“These are things that need to be said that I never thought I’d have to say to a university class,” he said.

Carson said students had come to the history department to speak about the class.

“They weren’t complaints, they were concerns,” he said.

The concerns students brought forward were private, and shouldn’t have been the material of a class discussion, he said.

“They’re way more complicated than how they’re represented,” he said.

Carson said last Wednesday, the class discussion following Mason’s announcement created an unsafe space.

“It’s clear the class broke down,” he said, adding that students applauded to drown out the voices of the peers and the discussion led to some students walking out of the class “in tears.”

“I believe in university as a safe place to learn,” he said.

Following Carson’s address, students discussed the academic future of the class.

“Things are still in the works as to the plan for the remainder of this course,” he said.

Professors have volunteered to help. Carson said he’s working with the department to resolve the issue. Class is scheduled to resume next Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Sacha Stein, ArtSci ’12, said she was one of several students who brought concerns about Mason to the history department. “It wasn’t even the comments I was really complaining about, I was more complaining about the fact that we never learn,” she said.

Stein said she brought her concerns to the department after Thanksgiving.

She said she didn’t feel comfortable approaching Mason directly.

“It was just something I didn’t know how to approach,” she said. “I know I’m not the only student who complained.

“It wasn’t that he himself was racist or he himself was doing it on purpose,” she said. “I just felt really uncomfortable hearing certain terms used over and over again in class … I understood that he was trying to teach us the views of the past.”

Stein said she doesn’t think she personally instigated anything against Mason.

“I was just voicing a complaint,” she said.

“I don’t personally think he deserves to get fired,” she said. “At the very least I think he should apologize.”

– With files from Clare Clancy

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