Lehigh professors Phillip Coles, Marilisa Jiménez Garcia and Oliver Yao. The three professors were recently published in national magazines and newspapers. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Banning books, growing mushrooms: Lehigh professors featured in esteemed publications


Associate professor of English and of Latino Studies Marilisa Jiménez Garcia and professor of practice in the Department of Decision and Technology Analytics (DATA) Phillip Coles have recently published articles in highly-regarded national magazines and newspapers. 

Oliver Yao, a professor and associate dean for graduate programs in the College of Business, was featured in Fortune magazine, but was unable to comment.

Garcia was recently published in The Atlantic. Her article, “Book Bans Are Targeting the History of Oppression,” explores the idea that banning historical books denies young people access to the past. 

In her article, Garcia analyzes books recently banned by schools like “Maus,” “So You Want to Talk About Race” and “The Diary of a Young Girl.” 

One thing these books all have in common: discussions of oppression. 

“What these bans are doing is censoring young people’s ability to learn about historical and ongoing injustices,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said banning these books from schools allows teachers and legislators to erase injustices and periods of oppression from their curricula — but not from history itself.

In her article, she references the decision made by a Pennsylvania school board to ban Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” because it was “too divisive.”  

Garcia also brought up the example of a Texas school administrator who made the decision to invoke a law requiring teachers to present “opposing views about the Holocaust in their classrooms.” 

“They seem to think the purpose of public education is so-called neutrality rather than cultivating informed participants in democracy,” Garcia said. 

Her main point conveyed in The Atlantic article is how book bans should be a thing of the past and students are only suffering from a lack of literary exposure to periods of oppression in history.

Phillip Coles was published in The Wall Street Journal. His story, “Hoarding Is a Bad Idea During Times of Supply-Chain Uncertainty,” delves into the idea behind hoarding, why we do it and why it is harmful from a supply-chain standpoint. 

Coles points to COVID-19 as an example of why many people started hoarding. 

“Every attic and basement in this country must be stuffed with toilet paper,” Coles said. “Hoarding is a natural human response during times of uncertainty.”

When the pandemic started, shoppers panicked and bought all the toilet paper off the shelves, but Coles said buying in bulk does not solve the problem — what people really need is the right materials. 

“Shorten supply chains and create flexible response strategies such as identifying alternative suppliers, transportation methods and materials,” Coles said. 

According to him, it is rare that a shortage is caused by too little inventory, but that it is rather caused by the wrong inventory or inflexible supply chains. 

“But it is hard to fight that normal urge to hoard,” Coles said. 

Before starting his teaching career at Lehigh, Coles worked as a mushroom farmer at Giorgi Mushroom Co. 

While working on the mushroom farm, Coles said he also observed unnecessary hoarding of materials. 

Coles said his boss ordered the workers to buy an extra 3,000 tons of hay for the mushroom compost, thinking that building their inventory was the best option during a time of hay inflation. 

$450,000 was lost after a storm caused the bales of hay to disintegrate into the ground. 

Coles’ main idea in the article is that maintaining excessive inventory is not the most viable option, which he conveyed through sharing his firsthand experiences with readers.

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