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Controversy At MCTC Following Lesson On Structural Racism

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A biracial instructor at the racially diverse Minneapolis Community and Technical College has been reprimanded for the way she made three white students feel in class.

The students complained of racial harassment during Shannon Gibney's "Intro to Mass Communications" class. Part of her curriculum included a lesson on "structural racism."

When the male students complained about Gibney's tone, school leaders sided with the students and reprimanded her.

But in an interview with Beck Kilkenny of City College News, the campus newspaper, Gibney said she's the one being treated unfairly.

"Those students were trying to undermine my authority from the get go," she said. "I tried to say, like, 'OK, you guys are taking it personally, this is not a personal attack. I'm not talking about all white people, you white people in general. We're talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.'"

MCTC is a two-year college on the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis where 58 percent of the students are non-white.

Students we talked with said they chose the school in part so they could hear different perspectives.

"There's just too much diversity to actually stress," said Jeremy Little, who is black.

"I mean yeah, you've got to bring up the white elephants in the room," said Cody Mehlin, a white student. "You can't just let them be there."

The editor of City College News, Verta Taylor, has taken Gibney's class and said she didn't consider it confrontational to whites.

"Race is not a comfortable thing to discuss," she said, "and I think it's completely fair for them to feel discomfort, but I think they should have asked themselves why they felt uncomfortable about it."

This is not the first controversy for Gibney at MCTC.

She's part of a class action lawsuit involving seven employees of color, alleging that the campus is a discriminatory workplace.

The three students who brought the complaints are not speaking publicly about it, and school administrators wouldn't go on camera, but released this statement:

"At Minneapolis Community and Technical College we believe it is essential for our students to understand issues of race, class and power, and we encourage the faculty to actively engage students in respectful discussions about these topics and create an atmosphere in which students may ask questions as an important part of the classroom experience. That's how we learn. As a diverse college we want to ensure that students, faculty and staff from all cultures and backgrounds feel welcomed and have an appropriate learning environment. We train our employees to ensure that these critical conversations around issues of diversity are constructive and lead to understanding.

The College has a thorough process for investigating and resolving complaints from students about faculty and from faculty and staff about students.

Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, we are unable to comment on private personnel or student data."

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