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UPenn Teaching Assistant Faces Criticism for Prioritizing Students Based on Race, Gender

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TOM CICCOTTA

A teaching assistant at the University of Pennsylvania has faced criticism over a teaching tactic that involves calling on students based on their race and gender.

In an archived tweet, the teaching assistant, graduate student Stephanie McKellop, explained how the tactic of “progressive stacking” works in practice: “I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.”

McKellop since released a series of tweets claiming that the University of Pennsylvania was planning to publish a press release condemning her strategy. “Hi Friends, the University of Pennsylvania is issuing a press release condemning me and my teaching practices. It comes out tomorrow,” McKellop wrote, going on to suggest that the only people upset by this practice are “white nationalists” and “Nazis”: “Because this involves calling on Black students more readily than white men, the white nationalists and Nazis were very upset.”

In a statement, Steven J. Fluharty, dean of Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, said he is investigating to ensure that no students were on the receiving end of discriminatory teaching practices.

The university’s policies prohibiting discrimination are intended to reinforce our commitment to equity and inclusion. We are looking into the current matter involving a graduate-student teaching assistant to ensure that our students were not subjected to discriminatory practices in the classroom and to ensure that all of our students feel heard and equally engaged. Contrary to some reports, the graduate student has not been removed from the program, and we have and will continue to respect and protect the graduate student’s right to due process.

McKellop’s profile on Penn’s history department site says that her work focuses on the history of “marriage and the family, with interests intersecting in areas of gender, sexuality, the body, and race.”

Bret Weinstein, the liberal former professor at Evergreen State College who was targeted by rabid social justice advocates, condemned the practice, arguing that it would only serve as a loss for “social justice, equity, and harmony.”

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