Are Academics Culturally Taxed?

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Evidently, academics finally found a tax they don’t like.  “‘Cultural taxation,’  is a term coined by Amado Padilla in 1994 as a way of describing the unique burden placed on ethnic minority faculty in carrying out their responsibility to service the university,” Cecil Canton, a professor of criminal justice at CSU Sacramento, states.

Padilla is a professor of Psychological Studies in Education at Stanford. “He defined ‘cultural taxation’ as the obligation to show good citizenship towards the institution by serving its needs for ethnic representation on committees, or to demonstrate knowledge and commitment to a cultural group, which, though it may bring accolades to the institution, is not usually rewarded by the institution on whose behalf the service was performed,”  Canton tells us.

“This ‘cultural taxation’ phenomenon, as stated earlier, is the price that most faculty of color must pay for admission to and retention in the Academy,” Canton claims. “‘Cultural taxation’ is a stealth workload escalator for faculty of color. And like stress, it can be a silent killer of professional careers and aspirations.”

“Everyone knows and accepts the notion that minority faculty are expected to serve as role models and mentors for minority students.” This “cultural levy” is, according to Canton, a “hidden tax.”

“Yet, this expectation is never actually stated during the recruitment or hiring process,” he avers. “Even when institutions advertise in trade journals or magazines directed at underrepresented communities for faculty positions, there is usually never any mention of that viewpoint or responsibility.” Canton is also associate vice-president for affirmative action at the California Faculty Association, the college professors’ union in the Golden State.

“Clearly, serving on university and department committees as the ‘minority’ representative is taxing in itself,” Canton writes. “But being expected to ‘speak for your people’ as well’ is a form of ‘taxation without representation’ at whose mere consideration, would make most faculty shudder. “

“It is also not uncommon for faculty to be asked to serve as advisors to or sponsors of student organizations and clubs.  Often this request serves to indicate a recognition or acceptance of the faculty member into the student culture and environment as a ‘cool’ faculty member. (Someone these students can rely on or go to for advice and support.) “

“During my time at CSU, Sacramento, I have served as a faculty advisor for many student organizations. In fact, one year early in my tenure process, I was the faculty advisor of record for about 15 different student organizations. Needless to say, I was both overwhelmed by the responsibility and grateful for the students’ recognition. The institution has since changed the rules limiting the number of student organizations that a faculty member can advise at any one time. A change with which I concur!”

Canton is on the executive committee of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) -Collective Bargaining Congress. Doubtless many of Canton’s peers will sympathize with the way in which he is culturally taxed: taxpayers who pay actual taxes may be considerably less sympathetic.