Roderick A. Ferguson, esteemed author and professor of African-American and gender and women’s studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke at UW-Madison Thursday about how black radicalism can lead to change on college campuses.
Comparative U.S. Studies and the Young, Gifted and Black coalition presented the speech, titled “The Demand Behind the Demands: Black Radicalisms and the Details of a New Tomorrow.” Ferguson focused the speech largely on college but also discussed issues regarding intellectual autonomy.
Ferguson discussed phenomenon that he described as a general misrepresentation by the media and other authoritative voices of what campus protesters have demanded which often includes four reforms: diversity training, improved cultural centers, increasing faculty diversity and increasing student diversity.
These demands have often been mischaracterized as attacks on free speech or as a call for white leaders to step down just because they are white, Ferguson said.
Throughout history, he said activists have always been demonized by those in power, and he referenced examples including campus rallies in the 1960s and '70s, some of which happened at UW-Madison, and Vladimir Lenin before the October Revolution.
In addition to addressing the lack of diversity on many college campuses and within university faculties, Ferguson spoke of the need for intellectual autonomy in college, both for students and faculty, to challenge those in positions of power.
“Producing the independent, autonomously functioning intellectual is necessary, especially for the minoritized individual intellectual who does not see institutional favors, decorations and promotions as the goal of our work but understands that the creations of critical masses of minoritized subjects of all types within this stubborn place and others like is the prize,” Ferguson said.
The Board of Regents will meet Friday morning. The proposed tenure policy will be discussed and the BlackOut movement, led by UW-Madison students, will likely be there for their second BlackOut Board of Regents protest.