Tiffany Martínez is a first-generation college student majoring in sociology at Suffolk University in Boston. She is a McNair Fellow, a Dean’s List recipient, and has presented at national conferences all over the U.S.
On the morning of Oct. 27, her professor handed her back a paper she’d written wrote and announced, in front of the entire class, "This is not your language." At the top of the paper were the words, “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste,” presumably meaning the professor believed Martínez had plagiarized passages. On the second page, the word "hence" was circled, next to the note, "This is not your word." The word "not" was underlined twice.
Martinez responded by writing a blog post critiquing the racial biases apparent in such a judgment, and her disappointment at living in "a society where people like me are not set up to succeed":
My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth. These stereotypes and generalizations forced on marginalized communities are at times debilitating and painful. As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces...My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this?...There are students who will be assumed capable without the need to list their credentials in the beginning of a reflective piece. How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?
Martinez’s paper did not have a grade, only the words, "needs work." Hence, Martínez ended her blog post with quite the literary mic drop: "Academia needs work."
BuzzFeed reports that Martínez "has not spoken with the professor since the incident, but has brought it to the attention of the chair of Suffolk University’s sociology department, who has launched an investigation." In particular, the department’s head read over her paper, Martínez added, and "had nothing but good things to say."
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