Editorial: Let’s talk about the Kitchen Table Talk

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On Jan 29, Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics posted a video to its YouTube page of Professor of Economics, Frank Gunter, giving a lesson on the “Three Myths of Poverty” as a part of the school’s Kitchen Table Talk video series.  

He claims these myths to be that “poverty is mostly connected to race,” “poverty is a generational curse” and that “the poor have no agency.” 

These statements are not only false and damaging, but are also blatantly racist. 

The Lehigh community is outraged. The video, and responses to it, were shared and reposted by many students across social media platforms.

Unsurprisingly, Lehigh’s response to this was, yet again, lackluster and disappointing. 

The Lehigh College of Business posted a statement on their Instagram account about how their Kitchen Table Talk video series is meant to encourage discussion, and based on the student responses to the video, they plan to post more videos on the topic of poverty and race with more diverse perspectives. 

Nowhere in this response did The College of Business disavow the falsehoods in the statements made by Professor Gunter. Nowhere did they apologize to Lehigh students and faculty for publishing the video. And nowhere did they acknowledge that this was an act of racism, and that by posting it, they were condoning and encouraging these racist behaviors within their curriculum as well.

However, they did decide to take down the video once it received negative traction. 

Lehigh continues to claim that they are in the process of making Lehigh an anti-racist institution. But if they think that they will accomplish this goal by inviting students to the occasional Zoom workshop to discuss race and diversity or by requiring the completion of an online inclusion training program, they are very wrong. 

Lehigh needs to hold themselves, and their faculty, accountable and stop denying the racism that is clearly present on our campus. And not just when they receive backlash for something they’ve done wrong after the fact.

Lehigh gave no explanation about the thought process that went into the publishing of this video, no apology and provided no references to plans or steps they will take moving forward in order to prevent something like this from happening again. 

This video may not be reflective of the thoughts of all Lehigh faculty and curriculum. However, as students we should be able to respect our professors  and accept what they teach us to be knowledgeable and truthful. 

The posting of this video begs the question: Is Lehigh comfortable with its  professors teaching  students false information? 

In an interview with The Brown and White, Gunter  said that he doesn’t care if people attack his data or his analysis, but took issue when his character was in question. “Attack me?” he questioned. “You don’t know me.” 

Gunter, choosing to stand  by his statements and not apologize  for his insensitivity during a time of heightened awareness toward race inequality, shows how greatly Lehigh needs to look at who  is  teaching its classes and better evaluate what professors are claiming and  producing on behalf of the school. 

Lehigh has consistently shown that they would rather remain idle with any potentially controversial issues, and will only ever speak up and do “something” when they have no other choice because their community is forcing them to do so. 

It shouldn’t have to take backlash from the Lehigh community for the school to even comment on these issues.

This reactive action method that Lehigh continues to take only takes us further from the university’s proclaimed goal of creating an inclusive campus and anti-racist institution. 

Lehigh must create a proactive plan of action that will not only help prevent the spread of racist misinformation, as displayed in this video, but will also encourage understanding amongst the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. 

If Lehigh wants their students to believe that change is going to happen, it shouldn’t wait for student outrage over acts of racism from Lehigh faculty for a statement to be issued. And more importantly, these statements should not call false and insensitive claims, as the ones Gunter made, a “positive” thing because it encouraged “discussion.” Rather, they should be called for what they are— racist.

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7 Comments

  1. These are some pretty big accusations that you are throwing the professor’s way. Do you care to rebutt what he’s saying or are you just going to make the de facto lazy argument and call his lecture racist?

    • Amy Charles ‘89 on

      Rebut. Not “rebutt”. Is misspelling obligatory for you guys?

      The arguments, which aren’t even good on a “you’re smart but wrong” level, have been thoroughly dismantled elsewhere. Nobody needs to go through it all again just for you; nobody here is your free tutor; nobody cares whether you’re convinced or not; nobody’s waiting, breath bated, to hear your opinion. Do your homework if you want those rebuttals, come back, try again.

    • Amy Charles ‘89 on

      It’s not just racist: it’s profoundly misogynist for reasons laid out by Planned Parenthood and other groups years ago. Frank’s deliberately blind to structural disadvantages women, especially non-white women, poor women in red states, and women in culty-religious families have in deciding when they have children, not to mention staying fully employed in recessions and when employers are as sexist as he is towards women generally and mothers particularly. But I’d expect no less from a guy who was treating his classes like this only a decade ago — you know, well into the 21st c.: https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/thebrownandwhitelifestyle/2013/09/economics_professor_engages_st.html

  2. How transparent can you be? Just because you don’t agree with someone’s statement or research doesn’t mean you can just say it’s false. There was evidence to support his claim along with dozens of other studies that agree. I’m black and haven’t had a single damn issue with racism here at Lehigh. I don’t know if you and your whiter savior complex need to be put in check or what it is, but you need to stop reaching for things and creating issues where there aren’t any. This was just a man stating what he believed in, but he also backed it up with evidence. Whether or not there even was evidence he still has the right to say what he wants. We have the freedom of speech here, not the freedom of you not to get offended. Don’t call this man out and say he’s teaching fallacies when he’s only showing the truth. Stop causing issues and hurting people when it isn’t necessary.

  3. A better response might be to invite a faculty member concerned with social trends and diversity to illuminate Gunter’s points as articulated in the piece on “agency.” Instead of an angry, reflexive response, let’s see some intellectual rigor in reckoning with impediments to achieving those conditions.

    With hopefully sincerity,
    A Parent

  4. Robert Davenport on

    I tend to agree with CSM. I see this editorial as more evidence that racist and insensitive have much the same meaning and that is: I disagree with what you said.

    “He claims these myths to be that “poverty is mostly connected to race,” “poverty is a generational curse” and that “the poor have no agency.”

    “These statements are not only false and damaging, but are also blatantly racist.”

    Blatantly seems to mean there is no truth in calling these three things myths i.e. these statements are true. Is it insensitive and racist to imply the poor have agency? The thought control you imply that is acting on the poor is necessary for me to believe what you are implying is their plight.

    I might not believe what Professor Gunter said, but I don’t believe most of what is written in this editorial. I certainly believe you believe it. The Professor Gunter’s presentation needs discussion and thought not damnation.

    The following was written in the blog Student of the American Civil War: “The Trumpian Lost Cause is, at its core, a set of beliefs in search of a history and a story. The question is, how long do these beliefs survive? The stolen election is the biggest of their beliefs, but they’ve got a lot of others: the liberals are coming for your guns, and liberals are coming for your taxes, and the liberals want to plow all your tax money into those cities for the black and brown people, and liberals are going to open up the border and continue this browning of America, and liberals are running the universities and taking them to hell in a hand basket, and so on.” The stolen election is fake news for sure but it seems as though at Lehigh, even though the liberals are not running the University, they are working toward that goal with the requisite faculty and student body in place for the takeover.

  5. Robert Davenport on

    Apparently my detailed comment didn’t pass muster. I don’t agree with this Editorial. I’ll quote Pope Francis from page 22 of his book Let Us Dream: “But the media also have their pathologies: disinformation, defamation, and a fascination with scandal. Some media are caught up in the post-truth culture, where facts matter much less than impact, seizing narratives as a way to wield power. The most corrupt media are those who pander to their readers and viewers, twisting their facts to suit there prejudices and fears.”

    The quote is not totally appropriate to this B&W work but there are some grains of truth.

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