Professor Publicizes Resignation Letter After Slurs


Former Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) professor Melissa Maldonado-Salcedo released her letter of resignation to Fordham members on Facebook after February’s racist and homophobic incidents. Two slurs found in February and one in March. Although Maldonado-Salcedo sent the letter on Nov. 17, 2011, to her department chair, the silence of her departure was broken after she asked her former student to repost the information on a Fordham group on Facebook.

In response to recent racial activities, Maldonado-Salcedo said on her Facebook page, “Given all that is going on in Fordham—I am posting my resignation letter—which speaks to all this… It is ridiculous that Fordham is trying to turn a blind eye to something that is pervasive and unacceptable.”

On Feb. 24, her statement was made more public when Vincent DeCesare, FCRH ’12, reposted his former sociology professor’s resignation letter on the “Fordham University 99 Percent Club” Facebook group with Maldonado-Salcedo’s permission, allowing all of its members to view it. DeCesare said, “I posted on the 99 Percent Facebook group because I know the members are sensitive to social justice issues and would thus be receptive to what Melissa had to say.”

DeCesare took Maldonado-Salcedo’s Social Change in Latin America course during the spring of 2011. He said that he was disappointed when he first heard about her decision to depart from Fordham, but knew she had been having problems at Fordham.

“I really think Fordham lost a great professor,” DeCesare said. “Maybe if there would have been more communication between her and her fellow faculty members or administration, then maybe things could’ve been smoothed out.”

In her letter, Maldonado-Salcedo said, “It is not my job to teach students how to ‘undo’ things that are deeply embedded in the social fabric of their lives. I’m prepared to face discrimination, but I will not be ‘politically correct’ about racism, anti-immigration, sexism, homophobia and classism.”  She continued, “It is not oversensitivity that fuels my decision, but rather a desire to run towards (and not away from) a place of inspiration, creativity and love/social justice.”

Dr. Allan S. Gilbert, chair of the sociology and anthropology department, who received Maldonado-Salcedo’s letter, said that she sent an “abrupt email” in late November just before Thanksgiving break. “Although we planned a class for her to teach this spring semester, she said that she was not going to do it and the fall semester would be her last,” Gilbert said.

“It seemed like she was very well liked by students and her student evaluations were very good,” Gilbert said. “So [the email] was entirely unanticipated and without explanation.” He was able to meet her in person after receiving the message so that he could understand her decision to depart. However, even then, he said that she did not reveal all the details behind her resignation.

He said that there were two main reasons for her decision. “First, a student, either making a comment or giving a report in class, said that minority women from a particular Caribbean location simply had babies in order to get more welfare money.”

He said Maldonado-Salcedo was insulted by the comment. “If that was a well-meant statement, then first off, it is misinformed, politically incorrect and very derogatory,” Gilbert said. “She took offense to that and I don’t know what went on in class because I am not sure of the sense in which the statement was made.”

Secondly, Gilbert said that certain statements written on a Fordham blog disappointed Maldonado-Salcedo. The specific blog and her comments to what was written on the blog were not mentioned, but Gilbert said that Maldonado-Salcedo’s reaction might have been an exaggeration. “My experience is that when you ask the public to comment on a topic that is controversial, you frequently get a lot of controversial statements,” Gilbert said. “I don’t always take them seriously because it isn’t like they are making the comments in the classroom.”

In addition, Maldonado-Salcedo told DeCesare that there was another reason why she was disappointed with Fordham. DeCesare said, “A faculty member called her ‘teacher’ and would not acknowledge her as a professor.” DeCesare said that she has her own “casual and unconventional style of teaching,” that some faculty may have viewed as unprofessional.

Both DeCesare and Gilbert asked Maldonado-Salcedo to reconsider her decision to resign.

“I talked with her and told her it could be great for her to stay and try to work through these issues because there’s always going to be those sorts of issues anywhere you go, but I guess she felt that she would be more receptive at Hunter College and I respect her decision when it comes down to it,” DeCesare said.

Gilbert also asked her to “think about the possibility that she as a teacher could make a difference to [the students she was offended by].” Although she is still a graduate student and a new teacher, he said that in the context of the classroom, these are learning opportunities for her to turn things around.

“Where is the line in the sand where someone is going to confront those ridiculous notions and explain why they are bogus if someone in anthropology or sociology doesn’t do it,” Gilbert said.

He said that he understood Maldonado-Salcedo is a Hispanic woman representing a minority group, so he could imagine that she faced discrimination in her lifetime. “I am very sympathetic to that, but I think as a teacher you need to get a backbone and you need to devise strategies to confront bigotry.”

Maldonado-Salcedo has since responded, pointing out that she has been teaching at the college level for six years and worked at the United Nations and House of Representatives prior to that. “Dr. Gilbert paints a very limited picture of what happened,” Maldonado-Salcedo said. “For him to even suggest that I have no backbone is unbecoming and misses the point of the resignation. Despite making more money and being in the midst of an economic crisis in the U.S., I choose to teach at Hunter and not at Fordham. My decision was based not on money but on convictions, which are not for sale.”

Maldonado-Salcedo currently teaches at City University of New York (CUNY)’s Hunter College. “She feels like she’s more wanted at Hunter College and she just feels more comfortable with the students there,” DeCesare said.

In an email sent by Melissa Maldonado-Salcedo, former Fordham sociology professor, Maldonado-Salcedo responded to the article:

 My intention with publicizing my letter of resignation was to stand in solidarity with the students who reached out to me concerning the recent bias crimes at Fordham. These students, prior to the events, felt discriminated, unwelcomed, and frustrated as a result of what others (who are not on the receiving end) call “isolated,” “exaggerated”, or an opportunity to educate. Yet, this is not a chicken and egg conundrum. Racism, just like homophobia and classism, pervades all social spaces…Fordham is no different. However, I chose to leave for many reasons that are going to conveyed decontextualized and somewhat “abrupt.” However, if I were to simply put it- Yes, I prefer to teach at Hunter because I feel more comfortable there because of the creative energy and freedom that inspires me. Do not get this issue of identification confused and reduced to an issue of public and private institutions/student bodies. My undergraduate studies were at NYU, and I received my first masters at New School University and my second at NYU. I went to a private prep school in Manhattan for high school. I taught in various private institutions prior to teaching at Fordham. Hunter College however is where I have grown the most as a scholar and student of life. Whether my teaching style is deemed unprofessional because I ask students to address me by my first name or the fact that I do not wear suits is beside the point. I could care less if I am called a “teacher” by colleagues. This does not define me.


My commitment to education is not contingent on an institution. I continue to meet with students who attend Fordham—helping them revise papers, write recommendations, and provide whatever support I can. When I resigned, I gave sufficient notice, had not signed a contract, and by the time I finished the semester- a replacement had been found. I am somewhat put off by the fact that my deeply personal decision is being trivialized. The personal is always political. I did take the opportunity to educate, by listing my reasons why a queer feminist of color like myself, would find Fordham’s environment oppressive and disturbing. I do not agree that rapid HIV testing cannot be done on campus, that birth control prescriptions are not honored by the school clinic, or that queer identities and issues are not defended and supported by the institution. I find it unsettling that Fordham stands as a gated community in the South Bronx, while the poor are under attack outside of their gates. This was just some of the institutional issues that did not sit right with me because they are in total opposition to my politics. Inside of the classroom, it is not my job to “undo” things that are deeply rooted in the social fabrics of their lives. At the heart of this debate is not really the significance of social justice issues in the classroom  but rather the value, or lack thereof, that Fordham has placed on the community outside of its gates or the people like them, inside the gates.  To say that this is an issue of some ignorant remarks being made, and me not knowing how to handle them, undermines my intellect and my agency in deciding where I sell my labor. I owe Fordham nothing. I do not want people speaking on my behalf, reading “into” why I decided to leave. I CONTINUE to teach students at Fordham…but by example, to stand up for what they feel is wrong because at the end of the day…the writing is on the wall, and it speaks for itself. I won’t let it speak for me. It’s a new day, wake up.