When Diversity Doesn’t Come Easy

Stacey Patton:

Leigh-Anne Francis wishes she had listened to her pregnant wife, who begged her not to leave the house that night. She could have been at home putting the finishing touches on her syllabi and lecture notes, instead of handcuffed to a bench at a local police station.

It was August 29, 2013, the night before the start of the fall semester at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, a midsize public college in the picturesque foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Francis, a Jamaican-born professor fresh out of graduate school, was prepping for her first lectures when she decided to make a late run to pick up Thai take-out. She was excited about starting her new tenure-track job in black studies and U.S. history at Oneonta—one she had landed months before earning a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University. (I studied history at Rutgers, too, and I took a few courses with Francis.) Francis and her wife Jenny, who is white, had moved from northern New Jersey just six days earlier.