Peter Rutkoff

Antioch College
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00:00:30 - Professor Rutkoff introduces himself

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff is a professor in American Studies and originally from New York City.

00:01:24 - First impressions of Kenyon

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff came to Kenyon in 1971 and was astonished by how few African American faculty there were.

00:03:13 - Prof. Rutkoff in the History department

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff explains that the History department, during his first years on campus, was focused on European and American history.

00:03:26 - Expanding curriculum in the History department

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Segment Synopsis: There was a desire, by the younger faculty, to incorporate women's studies, non-western studies, and African and African American studies into the limited curricula. This was mostly a result of a sequence of new hires to Kenyon.

00:04:53 - Overlap of History department with emerging African and African American Studies (AAAS) program interest

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Segment Synopsis: Always envisioned African American studies as a interdisciplinary program, meaning that faculty would be also be involved in the History department or other departments. History department already had scholars in African and African-American history that would contribute to new program.

00:05:55 - Prof. Rutkoff and colleague independently working towards African American studies scholarship

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff reflects on his own involvement in the discipline through teaching is North by South course (first offered 1998-'99), which compared Black populations in cities of Northern and Southern United States. Prof. Rutkoff created this course in collaboration with Prof. Will Scott.

00:08:34 - Introducing experiential learning at Kenyon

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff recounts the importance of hands-on learning in the North by South class as students had first-hand contact with the course material. He also explains that the course emerged from previous scholarship of two collaborative books. Wanted to explore the Harlem Renaissance beyond a literary movement.

00:11:21 - African American experience segmented across different academic departments

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Segment Synopsis: African American studies curriculum isolated in small pockets across departments. 1990s gave opportunity to create more positions for African American scholarship.

00:12:14 - Black professor not given tenure

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Segment Synopsis: Faculty disagreement with this decision encouraged Kenyon to find and recruit Black professors. Led to more scholarship in African and African American studies.

00:13:34 - Creation of Crossroads faculty development seminar: 2001

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff and Prof. Will Scott propose a faculty development seminar to President Robert A. Oden. Goal to bring together faculty with interest in African and African American studies.

00:16:36 - Interdisciplinary approaches and the need for cross-cultural connections

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff reflects on the importance of creating scholarly bonds across departments and races. They were creating allies regardless of race.

00:17:48 - Desire to maintain white, conservative, and traditional ways of the History department

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Segment Synopsis: Some faculty in the History department were resistant to diversifying curriculum.

00:18:44 - Opposition to diversifying curriculum claiming to safeguard liberal arts

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff recounts the Political Science department's reluctance to admit new members, like women, Black people, and Latinx people, into the academic fold.

00:20:15 - Prof. Rutkoff's reaction to this opposition

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff felt that it was important for Kenyon to be more diverse in terms of the faculty, community, student body, curriculum, and college methodologies.

00:21:05 - Meeting to discuss interdisciplinary studies

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff recounts that in this meeting, called by the Political Science department, those against interdisciplinary studies had to admit they were attacking a topic that they knew very little about, after Prof. Rutkoff questioned their knowledge.

00:21:42 - Reasons for opposition to interdisciplinary and African Diaspora field

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff claims it was both ignorance and a security within opponents' own prejudice. They were comfortable with their understandings of what material to teach and did not want to expand outside of that.

00:23:12 - Prof. Rutkoff as a "contributing ally"

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff discusses his role as a participant in African Diaspora Studies program as a professor. He also mentions his role as a participant in the Crossroads faculty development seminar.

00:25:32 - Role of President Philip Jordan in appointing a special commission on diversity

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Segment Synopsis: President Jordan's committee helped to add more Black faculty to Kenyon and hired a Vice President for diversity. Prof. Rutkoff and Prof. Will Scott also suggested Prof. Ric Sheffield as a tenure-track faculty (mid-1990s). There was some pushback to Prof. Sheffield's hire.

00:27:33 - AAAS program as a concession for the inability to hire and keep faculty from diverse backgrounds

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff reflects on the inability to retain faculty of color. A couple of years ago, Prof. Rutkoff and other faculty realized there were no other faculty of color who were pre-tenure.

00:30:47 - Reflections on the current state of the African Diaspora Studies (AFDS) program and Crossroads

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff reflects on need to continue Crossroads faculty seminar and keep scholarship connected with other academic disciplines.

00:32:14 - No tenured position for AFDS program

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Segment Synopsis: Program depends on kindness of other departments to allow professors to teach for program. Need for endowed professorship. Reflects lack of commitment to the program by college.

00:34:00 - Incapable of acquiring more Black students

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Segment Synopsis: Kenyon College's inability to retain African American students. Prof. Rutkoff believes we need a more coherent plan of recruitment.

00:35:21 - Need an individual to have responsibility to increase African American student population

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff argues that a specific individual should be charged with coherent programming and recruitment for African American students.

00:37:39 - Prof. Rutkoff feels progress at Kenyon is constantly threatened

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Segment Synopsis: He reflects on his commitment to social progress in the United States being the same as his commitment to Kenyon.

00:38:24 - Recent events of racism on campus

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Segment Synopsis: Prof. Rutkoff recounts the recent conflicts of race and gender on campus as opportunities to make progress. These conflicts were "The Good Samaritan" play by Wendy McLeod, which included stereotyped characters of Latinx descent and another incident where an African American student was called the n-word (and the BSU's resulting "I am Not Your N-Word" campaign). Prof. Rutkoff also sees these events as "part of the political moment" as individuals feel supported in their prejudice due to the current U.S. president.

00:40:41 - African American students should feel at home at Kenyon

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Segment Synopsis: The African Diaspora Studies program, while it can serve as a home for African American students, should not be the only home. These students should feel at home in all spaces on campus.