warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC Professor Discovers Gender And Racial Inequality In Tenure Grants

Miguel Arreola |
December 7, 2012 | 7:32 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

USC president C.L. Max Nikias will make a decision about Cross's case.  (Flickr Creative Commons)
USC president C.L. Max Nikias will make a decision about Cross's case. (Flickr Creative Commons)

Dr. Mai’a K. Davis Cross, assistant Professor of International Relations, was denied tenure at the University of Southern California despite her outstanding accomplishments (see her list of accomplishments here.) In response, Cross is filing a federal grievance “challenging a pattern of gender and ethnic discrimination in USC’s tenure process.”

Cross is of Hawaiian and Asian ancestry. Upon her denial, Cross and her colleague, Dr. Jane Junn, began investigating the commonalities between the accepted and denied tenure candidates. Junn is a political expert on public opinion, political behavior, and polling methods and analysis as well as a Political Science professor at USC.

The results they procured were staggering. According to her press release, “Since 1998, 92% of white males who were considered for tenure got it.  During the same period of time only 55% percent of women and minority candidates were granted tenure.  Looking at ethnicity alone, USC granted tenure to 81% of its white candidates but only to 48% of its minority candidates.”

“I am pursuing USC’s internal grievance process to correct the unfair damage to my career, and to help assure that women and minority candidates will have the same chance to earn tenure as do their white, male colleagues,” Cross stated in the press release.

Cross’s hearing was held Friday before a panel of senior faculty. The hearing commenced at approximately 9:00am, but by 8:00am, undergraduate and graduate students began congregating in front of the University Club to greet and support Professor Cross. The students held up signs to protest the unfair treatment they felt Cross received in the decision-making process.

“We’re definitely turning heads,” Sean McGuire, a junior at USC, said. McGuire collaborated with senior Pia Bhathal to organize a student response earlier this week. The two spread the word via Facebook. Along with McGuire and Bhathal, graduate student Aleksandra Ristovic assembled a large group of her fellow Public Diplomacy graduate students to join the cause. McGuire, Bhathal, Ristovic and many of the other students present had previously taken classes with Professor Cross.

The three students were informed by email of the events unfolding.

“There had been a lot of rumors,” explained McGuire. “There was word earlier on in the year about Professor Cross not receiving tenure, and we were all astonished."

Student movements against the rejection of Professor Cross's tenure came much earlier on in the year, as one graduate student, Carolina Sheinfeld, produced an online petition to be sent to the Dean of USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Howard Gillman. Ultimately, the petition got 72 signitures.

"Last week, I received an email asking me to assemble a student response outside of the hearing,” continued McGuire. Bhathal and Ristovic received the same email.

In addition to the 20 students who stood outside awaiting the members of the panel, several passersby joined in, and many others stopped to inquire as to the protest’s purpose. Dr. Laura Pulido and Carol Muske-Dukes were swift to inform the curious inquirers of the issue at hand. Professors Pulida and Muske-Dukes were among two faculty members to join the protest.

The protest received positive feedback from many pedestrians, but the members of the panel were not so enthusiastic. Many members of the administration entered the University Club through the back door.

The content of the meeting was confidential, and a final decision will be made by President C.L. Max Nikias in the weeks to come.



Find more Neon Tommy coverage here.

Reach Staff Reporter Miguel Arreola here. Follow him here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.