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Students, faculty rally behind Binghamton professor censured for 'progressive stacking' policy

Binghamton University sociology professor Ana Maria Candela addresses a rally organized in her support. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)
Binghamton University sociology professor Ana Maria Candela addresses a rally organized in her support. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)
Candela web

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — Some students and professors at Binghamton University held a rally last week in support of sociology professor Ana Maria Candela, who came under fire recently for an affirmative action policy on her syllabus. 

About a hundred people gathered under the clock tower at Binghamton University for the rally on Friday. One person held a sign that said, “Kick Racism out of Bing.” Another sign, using an expletive, criticized the university's lack of respect for academic freedom.

Candela got national attention from conservative media last month for her use of a practice called “progressive stacking.”

With progressive stacking, less privileged students, like women and people of color, may get priority to speak during class discussions. But those with more privilege, like white students or men, may not always get a chance to speak right away. 

That was a problem for one student, Sean Harrigan. He told the New York Post that as a white man, he was worried his participation grade would suffer.

Harrigan also told The Post he filed a Title IX complaint against Candela for what he said was discrimination on the basis of sex. (Title IX complaints are more commonly used to report alleged sexual harassment or assault in schools.)

In a statement, Binghamton University said Candela had violated policies laid out in the faculty handbook, though some dispute that claim. A revised syllabus for the class now omits the section on progressive stacking.

But Winnie You, one of Candela’s former students, said the practice made the class better, especially for students of color like her.

"When I saw the progressive stacking, I was like, why is this the first time that I'm seeing this?" You said. "It literally makes so much sense. I feel like a lot of us have trouble speaking up in class."

Professor Tina Chronopolos also attended the rally. She said many of her colleagues think the university is setting a dangerous precedent in rebuking Candela.

"[Faculty] are worried that you know, whenever they bring up, quote unquote, 'these difficult topics,' that they'll get blowback from people who feel like they're being discriminated against," Chronopolos said.

One such "difficult topic" is critical race theory. The 40-year-old legal theory has become a buzzword for many conservative critics in recent years.

That fear of blowback has become tangible for educators in other states as elected officials move to restrict teaching of critical race theory. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick recently proposed revoking tenure from public university professors who study the theory.

Towards the end of the rally, Candela herself came up to speak. She said she’s heard support from many students. She said that's a sign affirmative action is still necessary.

"That tells you something about what students are experiencing on this campus," Candela said. "That you have to write a statement to help them to feel safe coming into the classroom space, to speak their voices, to have their voices heard."

Even as the crowd dispersed, about a dozen students, many of them women and people of color, lined up around Candela to thank her.