Campus Lockdown — Tenure for Andrea Smith!

Andy Smith is a leading scholar of Native American Feminism. As a founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, she challenged the “politics of inclusion” and helped define Women of Color Feminism within academia and grassroots movements for social justice. She fundamentally re-shaped the discourse around colonial violence, and was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize with her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

She was by far, one of the best professors I’ve ever had and continues to be an important intellectual influence in my life.

When the University of Michigan denied her tenure this week, it showed audacious disrespect for the field of study she helped define and the people whose lives have been changed by it. If it were not for Andy Smith and professors like her at the University of Michigan– Nadine Naber, Emily Lawsin, Sarita See, Maria Cotera and Jayati Lal, there’s a strong chance I would not have finished my undergraduate studies. I think the same could be said for hundreds of other women of color. And thinking back to the community of student activists I worked with at U of M, I knew just as many white men, men of color and white women who also had their minds blown wide open by the experience of learning from these women.

If it weren’t for these women, I might never have been exposed to ideas like “the three pillars of white supremacy,” “intersectionality,” Arab and muslim feminisms, or feminist oral history. I would not have read Borderlands, This Bridge Called My Back, The Salt Eaters, or The Color of Violence. I would also never have thought it was possible to be a brilliant academic and a deeply invested community organizer at the same time.

I think one of the main reasons why U of M is denying Andy tenure is the fact that she is able to be both. Of course there are undertones of racism and sexism at work in their decision. But it also reflects their priorities. By their decision, they seem to be saying, scholarship is only valuable when it is confined to the pages of obscure, academic journals. If it attempts to also speak to people outside the academy, or to those who are most marginalized within the academy, it loses credibility.

Andy Smith’s work transcends the academic/non-academic divide. She has the ability to break down the most complex ideas in language that is completely accessible. She injects humor into places where academics and activists alike would say, it doesn’t belong. She sees the world with an incisive clarity that leads her to draw conclusions that are visionary and often unorthodox to “leftist” thought. The major concepts she helped develop– seeing the Sate as the central organizer of violence against Women of Color, and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex as one of the greatest threats to our movements– are changing the way people act in their daily lives, their organizations and communities.

The truth is that these ideas evolved because of and spite of the fact that she was working within academia. As much as I may find myself hating on academia, I think it is vital that human intellect be given the space to flourish and evolve. In it’s best form, academia offers that space. Andy’s tenure case will determine whether future generations of brilliant community organizers will have the space within academia from which to make the kinds of profound contributions to scholarship and movement-building that she has done.


To Support Women of Color at Michigan and the Crisis of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies: Attend the student organized March 15th Conference at UM!!!! Campus Lockdown: Women of Color Negotiating the Academic Industrial Complex is free and open to the public. Speakers include renowned activists and scholars Piya Chatterjee, Angela Davis, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Ruthie Gilmore, Fred Moten, Clarissa Rojas, and Haunani-Kay Trask. For more information and to register, visit:

Native Feminism Without Apology!


February 25, 2008

Statement of University of Michigan Students and Faculty in Support of Andrea Smith’s Tenure Case
On February 22nd, 2008, University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) issued a negative tenure recommendation for Assistant Professor Andrea Lee Smith. Jointly appointed in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women’s Studies, Dr. Smith’s body of scholarship exemplifies scholarly excellence with widely circulated articles in peer-reviewed journals and numerous books in both university and independent presses including Native Americans and the Christian Right published this year by Duke University Press. Dr. Smith is one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time. A nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Smith has an outstanding academic and community record of service that is internationally and nationally recognized. She is a dedicated professor and mentor and she is an integral member of the University of Michigan (UM) intellectual community. Her reputation and pedagogical practices draw undergraduate and graduate students from all over campus and the nation.
Dr. Smith received the news about her tenure case while participating in the United States’ hearings before the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Ironically, during those very same hearings, the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that restricted affirmative action policies at UM specifically were cited as violations of international law. At the same time, there is an undeniable link between the Department of Women’s Studies and LSA’s current tenure recommendations and the long history of institutional restrictions against faculty of color. In 2008, students of color are coming together to protest the way UM’s administration has fostered an environment wherein faculty of color are few and far between, Ethnic Studies course offerings have little financial and institutional support, and student services for students of color are decreasing each year.
To Support Professor Andrea Smith: The Provost must hear our responses! Write letters in support of Andrea Smith’s tenure case. Address email letters to ALL of the following:
Voice your ideas on the web forum at

12 Responses to “Campus Lockdown — Tenure for Andrea Smith!”

  1. 1 aimbaby March 3, 2008 at 2:23 am

    seems women’s studies gave her a negative review. i’m curious about that.

  2. 2 blixx March 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Good post. If not for American Culture at U of M, I probably wouldn’t have graduated either. I was surprised when I saw that she was denied tenure because in my mind I associated AC with my professors like Andrea Smith, Nadine Naber, Vince Diaz, Michael Witgen, who were generally bad-ass, in terms of politics and teaching styles. Then I learned that it was Women’s Studies who didn’t support her tenure. It’s their loss, I suppose. I hope that there are other academic institutions that will recognize the opportunity and offer her positions.

  3. 3 Liz March 16, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Hi, my name is Liz and I am a member of MEXA de MSU. I went to the lockdown conference at U of M yesterday and it completely changed my life. Thank you for the information que viene with this blog.

    We, como MEXA de MSU are working quickly to circulate the petition for Andy as quickly as possible and organize on and off campus meetings to support Andy and fight against the continuing effects of prop 2 at MSU.

    Can we use some of the elequently written wording on this blog in our petition circulating letter?

    We appreciate a response ASAP.

    in solidarity. you are beautiful

  4. 4 chiara July 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    jenny, i was not sure how to get a hold of you.
    i have some questions for resources and ideas for a woman i met through ER advocacy.
    i know you are part of INCITE, and i was hoping you might have some helpful info.

    i included my email, so we communicate better.

  5. 5 Luigi Wewege March 6, 2015 at 5:56 am

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  1. 1 In Support of Tenure for Andrea Smith « Garlic Arm Trackback on March 3, 2008 at 11:39 pm
  2. 2 poetic propaganda » Blog Archive » a thank you letter to the advocate Trackback on December 13, 2008 at 2:10 pm
  3. 3 Ferhan Patel Trackback on February 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm
  4. 4 Freedom Mentor Trackback on February 26, 2015 at 9:10 pm
  5. 5 Arthur Falcone Trackback on February 27, 2015 at 11:36 pm
  6. 6 Imperial Advance Trackback on February 28, 2015 at 12:45 am
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