This October, Penn graduate student and history teaching assistant Stephanie McKellop tweeted about her use of a controversial teaching technique known as “progressive stacking.” The tweet generated discussion on and beyond Penn’s campus about race and privilege in the classroom.
"I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC [People of Color] get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men," her Oct. 16 tweet read.
McKellop recently stated that she will not teach in the spring semester, but the school has remained tight-lipped about any findings it has made or steps it has taken since.
McKellop explained to The Daily Pennsylvanian in an emailed statement that her time off from teaching next semester stems not from action by the University regarding her use of progressive stacking, but rather from her need to study for exams.
“I am not being punished by the university — I am studying for my exams,” she wrote. “History PhD students teach 4 semesters as part of our funding, and I am still teaching 4 semesters. My comprehensive exams are coming up, and that is why I'm focused on those. Comprehensive exams are a normal part of a PhD process.”
On Dec. 5, however, McKellop tweeted, "I won't be teaching next semester due to some admin Choices."
McKellop said in a follow up email to the DP that she was referring to University policy governing teaching assistants when she said “admin choices.”
“I’m an eager person who loves teaching more than anything, and I would’ve loved to teach every single semester, but we are only allowed to teach for 4,” McKellop wrote. “Admin choices means it is literally impossible for all of the PhD students who desire to TA to TA in the department, so having a surplus of TAs without a matching number of classes that need TAs does not work.”
Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Steven J. Fluharty said in an October statement that the University was investigating the technique, but the school has not provided any updates since.
When asked for comment on any decisions or conclusions at which Penn has arrived, University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy deferred comment to Fluharty's office.
But School of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Loraine Terrell, who facilitated Dean Fluharty’s statement in October, declined to provide comment.
“Sorry, I have no additional information for you at this time,” Terrell wrote.
History professor Kathleen Brown, who is McKellop’s advisor, also declined to comment, saying, “I cannot violate my obligation to protect the privacy of my student.”
An undergraduate student in McKellop's class who wished to remain anonymous said that while they do not know whether the administration has taken any actions regarding McKellop, she has been “teaching as normal.”
In October, when news of McKellop’s tweets received public attention and controversy ensued, the student said that McKellop did not attend class or hold recitations.
In his October statement, however, Fluharty emphasized that “[c]ontrary 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.”
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