2019 #Communicationsowhite Controversy

This website provides a timeline of the June 2019 #communicationsowhite controversy happening within the membership of the National Communication Association and scholars who study communication and rhetoric. 

Prior Years of Work

Scholars of color and white allies have worked for years to draw attention to the problem of #communicationsowhite and #rhetoricsowhite. Their work is deeply important to this conversation. These are the scholars responsible for doing the research that proved the problem communication has as a discipline and initiating the push for diversity across NCA and within the Distinguished Scholars.

Chakravartty, Kuo, Grubbs, and Mcllwain's article in the Journal of Communication documented the racial inequality in communication journals, research, and citations.

Chakravartty, Paula, Rachel Kuo, Victoria Grubbs, and Charlton McIlwain. “#CommunicationSoWhite.” Journal of Communication 68, no. 2 (April 2018): 254–66. doi:10.1093/joc/jqy003.


Before the June 2019 Controversy

These are the NCA documents leading up to the boiling point. These documents reflect a long-running problem in communication studies and give evidence of the work that has happened before June 2019 to address it.

These documents end with NCA President Stan Muir's letter to the Distinguished Scholars about the decision to change the selection process.


June 10th, 2019

Dr. Marty Medhurst, one of the Distinguished Scholars and the Editor of Rhetoric and Public Affairs, wrote an editorial that he planned to publish in R&PA. He sent the editorial out via email to some members of NCA. 



Martin J. Medhurst, Martin_Medhurst@baylor.edu Over the past 22 years, I have seldom used the pages of Rhetoric & Public Affairs to make editorial statements. I have not done so because I wanted to avoid the politicization that inevitably accompanies strong positions on important issues. The pages of our journal have been open to all perspectives-left, right, and center-and scholars of all identities-gay and straight, men and women, black and white and brown, believer and atheist, Christians, Jews, and other faith traditions, graduate students and full professors, and even a couple of undergraduates. We recently received a submission from a scholar who identifies as trans. That scholar will receive the same consideration as any other-her scholarship will be judged on its merits, not on the identity category of its author. And that's the way it should be. Unfortunately, a recent policy change by the Executive Committee (EC) of the National Communication Association (NCA) is based on precisely the opposite premise-that identity ought to control in areas where it has historically not been prioritized. The change is being pursued under the banner of "diversity," which is, of course a god-term of our age, and rightly so. I believe in diversity, and you probably do, too. But there is a difference in trying to promote diversity within a scholarly consensus about intellectual merit and prioritizing diversity in place of intellectual merit. There is a difference in running an issue of a journal that features two female scholars, a black scholar, and a graduate student, all of whose work has been accepted through the process of blind review versus saying to oneself, "I need to publish some female scholars and black scholars and graduate students so everyone will know that I believe in diversity." Along that pathway lies disaster, for once we substitute identity for scholarly merit as the first consideration, we have lost our reason for being academics. This is precisely what the EC of NCA is currently in the process of doing. It began with an attack on the association's own Distinguished Scholars. Since the establishment of the Distinguished Scholars Award in 1991, every year nominations have been solicited and new Distinguished Scholars selected from among those nominated. There are now 70 living NCA Distinguished Scholars. Since 2015, the nomination process has been open to the entire NCA membership. Prior to 2015, the NCA Distinguished Scholars made the nominations. The nominations were then voted on by the Distinguished Scholars, and anywhere from one to five new Distinguished Scholars were selected annually. For more than a decade, there has been a shared concern that the nomination process was not yielding many people of color. Expanding the nominators to include all members of NCA was one of several efforts made to expand the pool of nominees. Yet only a handful of people of color were nominated and only one was elected as a Distinguished Scholar of NCA. These are the facts. Unfortunately, the EC has chosen to react to these facts not by enthusiastically encouraging more nominations but by scapegoating the entire group of NCA Distinguished Scholars, blaming them for the lack of diverse nominations, and implicitly accusing them of racism for not selecting more people of color. The problems with these accusations are multiple. First, for the last four years the Distinguished Scholars have not been the primary nominators-the entire NCA membership has been. Yet even that expanded nomination base has not produced the desired results-very few people of color have been nominated-so why lay all the blame on the Distinguished Scholars? Second, the EC has chosen to strip the Distinguished Scholars of the responsibility for selecting the new scholars, thus taking away their one and only remaining responsibility and removing from the selection process the field's most qualified judges of scholarly merit. Since 1991, only the existing pool of Distinguished Scholars has selected the next group of scholars to join their ranks. Now, the EC has decided to remove the Distinguished Scholars as electors and replace them with a group selected by NCA leadership. No scholarly credentials are apparently required for this new group of electors-at least none has been announced. The new selection committee will be guided by "diversity," not intellectual merit. Third, the EC, in attacking their own Distinguished Scholars, has apparently overlooked the fact that most of the current group come from Research 1 and Research 2 institutions, where most of the minority, female, and other diverse populations obtained their doctoral degrees. It is the very group that the EC is attacking and implicitly accusing of racism that mentored, and taught, and advised, and published with the scholars they are now being accused of abandoning. What nonsense! But this is only the beginning. The EC chose to attack the Distinguished Scholars first because that group is the epitome of intellectual merit. The attack currently being waged is not just on the Distinguished Scholars. The attack is on using intellectual merit as the chief criterion, not only for the selection of Distinguished Scholars, but also for the selection of journal editors, and presumably, the selection of what those newly diversified journal editors will choose to publish-it is an attack on the very foundations of Communication as a research discipline. Most of the Distinguished Scholars, under the leadership of David Zarefsky, have protested these attacks and the removal of the Distinguished Scholars' chief responsibility of selecting their own membership. Some 66 of the 70 living Distinguished Scholars have signed a letter of protest, including seven members of the R & PA editorial board, all of whom I consulted during the preparation of this editorial. I, too, was one of the signatories. As important as the Distinguished Scholar issue is, the far more important issue is what sort of organization the NCA will be. One where selections are made on intellectual merit or one where identity is prioritized over intellectual and scholarly merit? One where new journal editors are chosen on their background, publication record, vision, and experience, or one where the color of one's skin or one's gender trumps everything else? Will we be a field in which journal submissions are judged by competent reviewers who are blind to the identity of the author, or a field where editorial boards are filled with the "right" number of people from the "right" categories. The EC has already issued a document that calls for populating editorial boards with more "diverse" people, whether they are scholars or not. Let me be clear: I strongly support diversity and recognize that social, cultural, and racial perspectives make a difference in what is studied and how it is studied. The work of the field has been enriched as it has become more diverse. That is a belief, I am sure, shared by the Distinguished Scholars as a group. We support diversity, but not at the price of displacing scholarly merit as the chief criterion for selecting Distinguished Scholars, choosing journal editors, and evaluating research. Only the concerted effort of the entire NCA membership can stop identity from displacing scholarly merit as the governing norm of the discipline. To register your concerns write to NCA president Star Muir (smuir@gmu.edu) and the members of the Executive Committee, whose names and addresses can be found at (https://www.natcom.org/.../what.../leadership-and-governance). We can have diversity within scholarship, but only if scholarship is our first priority.

Martin J. Medhurst Editor

June 10th, 2019

Dr. Medhurst's editorial begins getting very negative (according to many) and some positive (according to Dr. Medhurst) feedback on the email chains. Within 12 hours it is posted on Facebook pages of some activists within the communication discipline and on the Facebook pages of some of the NCA caucuses. The facebook reaction is uniformly negative.

June 10th, 2019

Dr. Mohan J. Dutta writes a full rhetorical analysis and critique of Medhurst's editorial (Please read on the author's original blog). 




Dr. Dutta's analysis is shared widely on social Facebook and Twitter. 


June 11th, 2019

Dr. Medhurst's editorial is circulated on Facebook and Twitter via posting in the caucuses, being copied in Dr. Dutta's critique, and being shared by those in Medhurst's original email.

June 12th, 2019

 The National Communication Association office makes available a webpage (linked at the top of this timeline, above) outlining the reason for their decision to change the Distinguished Scholars selection process.

Dr. Medhurst's editorial is also shared on Crtnet. He begins with the following statement, a change from his original plan to publish the editorial in the journal he edits.


Martin J. Medhurst, Martin_Medhurst@baylor.edu

The following editorial was originally scheduled to run in volume 22:3 of Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Because the NCA leadership has now made public the documents concerning the decision to remove the Distinguished Scholars from their role as electors, the chief purpose of the editorial has been achieved.

The secondary purpose-to open a dialogue on issues of diversity, identity, ideology, and scholarship--has begun. I am, therefore, pulling the editorial from the journal. Instead, I am pleased to announce that in place of the editorial R & PA will devote a special issue to the topic of "The Politics of 'Merit' in Academic Disciplines," to be guest edited by Dr. Kirt H. Wilson of Penn State University. Please direct all inquiries to Dr. Wilson at kirtwilson@psu.edu.


June 12th, 2019

Dr. Medhurst's statement on his Crtnet post is widely perceived by communication scholars active on Facebook and Twitter as his taking credit for the work of POC scholars and young scholars.

It garners even more vocal negative feedback. People begin reaching out to members of the R&PA board with their concerns.



June 12th, 2019 (late evening)


Kirt Wilson, who was named as the guest editor for the R&PA special issue on the politics of merit, asks (on facebook) for feedback about his agreeing to guest edit. He is overwhelmingly encouraged to withdraw his name and support.



June 13th, 2019

Inside HigherEd publishes an article titled "When White Scholars Pick White Scholars"


Two quotations in the article are especially relavant to the events of the rest of the week.

1.) Dr. Ragan Fox called for a boycott of R&PA 

"In addition to negative comments on social media, some association members have called for a boycott of Medhurst’s journal.

“Cut all ties to Rhetoric and Public Affairs. Don’t submit there. Don’t review. Don’t cite. Urge others to do the same,” Ragan Fox, professor of communication at California State University at Long Beach, wrote on his blog."


and 2.) Dr. Medhurst dismissed the boycott.

He [Dr.Medhurst] also said he wasn't concerned with the journal boycott, since those who seem to be supporting it don't interact with his publication.

June 13th, 2019

Dr. Sarah Jane Tracy posted an analysis of the current controversy titled "The communication discipline is bleeding" on her personal blog. The post was shared widely online via social media. 



June 13th, 2019

Kirt Wilson decided to resign from the R&PA editorial board and declined the opportunity to edit a special issue on the politics of merit in that journal. The text of Dr. Wilson's post is below.


I want to thank everyone who shared your comments to my Facebook post of yesterday, who emailed me directly, and who answered my phone calls. This afternoon I resigned from the R&PA editorial board and declined the opportunity to edit a special issue on the politics of merit in that journal. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue with another journal, with or without my involvement, or perhaps not. Regardless, the fact remains that these questions, challenges, and hard conversations need to happen. In my case, a habituated tendency to analyze, critique, and educate about these issues caused me to lose sight of the larger racial politics in which I was participating. I was complicit in that moment, not with purpose or malice or forethought, but complicit. This post was originally longer, talking about Foucault's notion of specific intellectuals; the expectations and labor that faculty of color face in these situations; the need for consistency between what we research/present and what we do. There is honestly so much to discuss and understand about this moment. I hope, at some point somewhere, the experiences and discourses of this week will be examined extensively--something that isn't limited to a Facebook Post. In the meanwhile and especially for those of you who said that you wanted to see a special issue in R&PA, let me mention that Dr. Darrel Wanzer-Serrano's edited forum, #rhetoricsowhite, will appear in QJS by the end of the year. I encourage you to check it out. Oh, and I forgot to say. I will need to announce this to CRTNET in the next day or so. It may take that long to get it there, however.


June 13th, 2019

Rhetorical Scholars begin resigning from the editorial board of Rhetoric and Public Affairs. 

A full list of resignations to-date can be found at the bottom of this page. 

June 13th, 2019

Former R&PA Editorial Board member and current Editor-Elect of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Karrin Vasby Anderson, makes a public statement about the controversy. 


June 13th, 2019

The NCA Women's Caucus begins circulating the following statement on social media.


Circulating this statement co-authored by the leadership representing NCA’s Women’s Caucus and Feminist & Women Studies Division:

In a recent editorial statement originally meant to have appeared in an upcoming issue of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Marty Medhurst complains of an “attack” on NCA’s “own Distinguished Scholars,” whereby previous awardees will no longer be entitled to select the next members of their ranks. What he calls an attack is an effort by the NCA Executive Committee to counter the exclusion of excellent scholars from recognition at the level of the Distinguished Scholar award, especially but not exclusively scholars of color. In his complaint about the loss of the Distinguished Scholars’ privilege of selection, Professor Medhurst posits a false choice between “identity” and “diversity” on one hand and “scholarly and intellectual merit” on the other. Without offering evidence, Professor Medhurst mischaracterizes the new policy as “prioritizing diversity in place of intellectual merit.” His complaint contains a number of moves long familiar to those who have sought to remedy intersecting systemic inequalities of privilege inside and outside the academy, including framing necessary changes to the field as attacks to those who have long been well-supported and rewarded in our field, the implicit casting of scholars at the margins as inherently less meritorious and, defensiveness around concerns of bias, all couched in the language of pure, identity-blind, neutral, competently judged merit.

Indeed, there is copious existing research on the racism (and sexism, homo- and transphobia, ableism, classism) inherent in the language of liberal meritocracy as it has been marshalled historically against efforts to remedy structural inequity (e.g., affirmative action practices).

Indeed, there is copious existing research on the persistence of inequities experienced by scholars from marginalized identities at all levels and various intersections from undergraduate training to who is admitted to our profession, who is hired, published, promoted, tenured, awarded, and selected into leadership. Scholars of color especially, even across inflections of class, gender, sexuality, and ability, have not only been overlooked in and excluded from traditional academic pathways of recognition and reward, but have also faced questions about the worth of their scholarship, their citational practices, and their voice each time a challenge is presented to the usual order of business. The Feminist and Women Studies Division of NCA was formed in response to this very sort of bias against methodology, objects/ subjects of study, interventionist orientations, and recognition that what and how we engage in scholarship is, at its core, political.

Indeed, even among the group Professor Medhurst calls “the epitome of intellectual merit” we have seen a dearth of nominations of meritorious scholars of color most notably, but also of disabled, queer, trans, and contingently employed scholars. Likewise, the Distinguished Scholars who signed onto the letter penned originally by David Zarefsky probably believed that they were communicating only to the Executive Committee of NCA. As such, the tone of this letter suggests a sort of familiarity and entitled positionality vis-a-vis NCA. By focusing solely on process at the exclusion of also articulating a clear commitment and plan for soliciting a more diverse and inclusive pool of nominees who might be considered both “distinguished” and “scholars,” the DS letter rehearsed a well-worn pattern of featuring process over practice, of privileging their own center at the exclusion of creating space for scholars in our midst who are extremely deserving of this recognition.

Medhurst emphasized his “strong support” of diversity, noting that he recognizes “that social, cultural, and racial perspective make a difference in what is studied and how it is studied. The work of the field has been enriched as it has become more diverse.” And yet, even a cursory glance at the editorial board for R&PA undermines his claim. Of the 40 scholars Professor Medhurst has seen fit to place on the editorial board for a journal that he has edited for 22 years, only a very few are scholars of color or sexual minorities, and only a quarter of the board identify as women. Furthermore, if diversity of scope, perspective, and/or voice were at the heart of R&PA's scholarly enterprise, a routine circulation of editorial perspectives would surely have been invited into the ongoing publication of this outlet. And let us be clear, while Professor Medhurst’s statement has so clearly highlighted the ongoing biases of our field, R&PA does not stand alone in its ongoing tunnel vision of “what counts” as meritorious scholarship.

It is not lost on us either that Professor Medhurst, in his efforts to demonstrate his commitment to diverse voices and perspectives, rehearses tired binaries and reductionist language referring to non-cis-masculine/ non-white/ non-straight folks. Professor Medhurst stated, “The pages of our journal [R&PA] have been open to all perspectives--left, right, and center-and scholars of all identities-gay and straight, men and women, black and white and brown” and then touted that the journal had received a submission from someone who “identifies as trans” ( using a modifying phrase that calls into question that this scholar is trans). As such, Professor Medhurst tokenizes specific marginalized identity categories as cover for a pattern of non-inclusion of other identities. R&PA and many other journals in our field have not been known to feature diverse gender identities, nor stoutly defend racial and other diversity, in either practice or principle.

For all these reasons, the leadership of NCA’s Women’s Caucus and Feminist & Women Studies Division strongly condemn the statement by Professor Medhurst and are extremely disappointed in the signatories that accompany Professor Zarefsky’s Distinguished Scholars complaint letter sent to NCA. For those designated as the most “intellectually meritorious” of our discipline to be so far behind even the belated scholarly recognition of persistent structural inequities in the academy and elsewhere is the real threat to the intellectual credibility, future, and sustainability of our discipline, not the changes proposed by the Executive Committee to ensure our excellent scholars are recognized and advanced. We support NCA and other caucuses and divisions doing the important work of combating structural inequities in our discipline across multiple vectors of marginalization. That we must make such a statement as this in 2019 is a reminder of why the Women’s Caucus and other caucuses were developed and why organizing and coalitional building amongst those who are marginalized, dispossessed, and oppressed at various intersections is still sorely needed in NCA.  


June 13th, 2019

An Open Letter on Diversity and in the Communication Discipline is posted and garners over 1000 signitures within 48 hours. 

The letter calls for Dr. Medhurst to resign and calls on R&PA board members to resign en-mass if he does not. The letter also offers suggestions for NCA, as well as the International Communication Association and the Rhetoric Society of America to respond. 

June 14th, 2019

Rhetoric Society of America Executive Director Gerard A. Hauser (a Distinguished Scholar) withdraws his support of the DS letter in the following statement. 


June 14, 2019

The last few days have witnessed controversy over a letter written by the Distinguished Scholars of the National Communication Association, of which I am one, in response to a change in the process for selecting its Distinguished Scholars, of which I was a signatory. Some of you may not be familiar with NCA’s DS designation, so permit me to provide a brief background. NCA established its DS designation in 1991 to acknowledge career achievement in the study of human communication. To be considered, a scholar must be in the discipline at least 20 years. The designation recognizes career achievements as a researcher, mentor, and influence on the study of human communication. Candidates are nominated with a cover letter and a separate unsigned one-page statement that provides a context for the candidate’s accomplishments. Self-nominations are disallowed. Candidate CVs and the one-page anonymous contextualizing are distributed to the DS group. Unlike RSA, whose Fellows are selected by the Society’s Awards committee, heretofore DS selection was made by the extant DS group, which ranked up to half or fewer the candidates under consideration. To become a DS, one must be ranked by 50% of the voters, with the highest ranked, up to a maximum of 4, selected in any given year. At the time I was named a DS, 2005, the 52 honorees included only 8 white women and no scholars of color. Several measures were adopted to address this imbalance, including opening the nomination process to the entire membership. The results have been positive but not stellar in the case of women scholars, with 14 of the 50 selected since then being white women, but only one male scholar of color. To address this glaring absence, NCA's Executive Committee determined that in the future the DS would not be selected by the DS group, as in the past. It established a selection committee to be named by NCA’s Leadership Development Committee (i.e., a committee on committees). The DS group took this action of being informed without consultation as a vote of no confidence in its ability to address the problem all agree exists. It responded with a letter to refute the action. There were two key responses to the DS letter—a letter by Star Muir, NCA President to the DS and one by Marty Medhurst, a DS and editor of Public Affairs, in the form of an editorial intended to run in his journal. Medhurst’s intended editorial, unfortunately, instantiates how a position of privilege can make us blind to the consequences of actions that reproduce that privilege. That letter has led me to reflect on my own commitments and, because I signed the DS letter and also have an official capacity in RSA, recognize this is an important moment to publicly address RSA’s commitments and my own. I will start with my commitments. I am a white male in his 70s. That position has consequences. Being a white male in the US, I recognize that every day I must work at reassessing my privilege that comes with being a white male of a certain age. I recognize that I do not always succeed. I did not succeed in this particular case because I lost sight of the problem that transpires when a homogeneous group of predominately male and almost exclusively white scholars assess the impact and contribution of scholars whose work may address issues outside a white person’s experience. As one who has been named a Distinguished Scholar of NCA I am less concerned with how that designation is made than I am that NCA be welcoming, supportive, open, and fair to all its members. That value can only be lived if I learn from scholars whose research reflects the full range of lived experience. My signature on the original DS letter did not reflect that value. As Executive Director of RSA, it is important that my commitments to inclusivity, to a welcoming Society, and to learning from perspectives beyond my experience are reflected in my own actions and in the exercise of my influence as a person in a position to strengthen RSA in these regards. RSA now has the most diverse board in its history. I work for them and for you to make the board’s composition an opportunity for RSA to embrace more completely and openly the way rhetoric shapes our lives and society. As its Executive Director, I strive to aid the board and officers to make its processes, its committee composition, its events, and its publications reflect these values, and where there are perceived problems, to address them. RSA is not perfect; it is a work in progress. For example, two weeks ago the board charged its president to examine its awards structures to address concerns of bias. The same imperative holds that I strive to learn from its officers, board, editors, and administrative offices about the myriad ways RSA is experienced and how we might continue to improve. Regardless of my intent at the time, I regret that signing the DS letter was not conducive to expressing the principles that I value or the aims that I seek as Executive Director of RSA.

Gerard A. Hauser

Executive Director The Rhetoric Society of America ©2019

Rhetoric Society of America

5465 Centennial Trail

Boulder CO 80303-1267

USA 614.392.1558

Email: Info@RhetoricSociety.org


June 15th, 2019

Celest Condit, a Distinguished Scholar, makes the following statement withdrawing her support of the original DS letter. 


Dear Colleagues: ​I wish to join Mary Stuckey, Gerard Hauser, and any others who have made public retractions of their signing of the now-infamous letter from the Distinguished Scholars to the NCA Executive Council with regard to the issue of the lack of diversity in the NCA Distinguished Scholars. As those who were party to the on-line “discussion” (an email thread) will tell you, at the time of its drafting, I objected to the sentiments of the letter. I urged that instead of expressing anger at the Executive Committee over retraction of our rights or privileges that we propose an alternative means to accelerate the diversity of the DS’s. Other women Distinguished Scholars also expressed their concerns. David Zarefsky incorporated my proposal as a possibility, although he did not rewrite the document to fit the emphasis we would have preferred. Although I still found the overall sentiment of the letter objectionable, I felt that I needed to sign the letter to have a “place at the table” to participate in what I (naively) hoped would be future positive discussions between the Distinguished Scholars and the Executive Council. ​ It is now obvious that I was mistaken about the possibility of future positive discussions. Having been made aware of the errancy of my hopes, I withdraw my support of the letter. I apologize for what may seem to others as perceived slowness in doing so. I am not on CRTnet or social media, and my dear, caring former students have had to make me apprised of the context that makes it imperative for me to take this public action. ​I look forward to a rapid increase in diversity among the Distinguished Scholars of NCA. I thank Mary Stuckey for posting this letter on my behalf and for her leadership in modeling withdrawal of support for the letter by Distinguished Scholars. Sincerely, Celeste Condit

June 15th, 2019

All faculty members at Penn State University who are distinguished scholars withdraw their support for the original DS letter in the following statement. 



Earlier this year, the Executive Committee of the National Communication Association changed the process for selecting the association’s new Distinguished Scholars. That decision was based on the fact that existing institutional practices throughout the academy and the discipline have excluded scholars representing diverse intellectual communities from the ranks of the Distinguished Scholars. In response, almost all of the NCA Distinguished Scholars signed on to a complaint about the unilateral change of policy by the Executive Committee. In doing so, the Distinguished Scholars called out a technical or procedural error in what is instead a moral issue. We, the NCA Distinguished Scholars of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State, are committed to learning from our colleagues and students and to understanding the implications we previously failed to appreciate. First and foremost, we are learning that the experience and assertion of privilege shapes much of what we do in ways we do not realize. This is a lesson we cannot comprehend without listening to our colleagues who embody diverse experiences and perspectives. We are also learning that there are various approaches to a problem, and our vision of what is a good or feasible is shaped by privilege. We are learning that efforts to improve access to an academy, as conceived of by the people who got to create it, isn’t the same as embracing diversity and inclusion. We are learning that our discipline is stronger when we recruit, include, and celebrate all of our strengths, because intellectual diversity leads to more rigorous, complex, and textured argument. We are learning that celebrating excellence throughout our discipline means we have to enable people to imagine that they can be part of our discipline’s definition of excellence. We are learning that this problem belongs to all of us. We are undermined as a discipline when we diminish perceptions of excellence in any of our diverse intellectual spaces. We are undermined as a discipline when our most taxed scholars – those who embody excellence and diversity – are called upon to devote their energy to fighting a fight that belongs to all of us. We are learning that we have a lot to learn if we are going to help our discipline mitigate power differences and develop an appreciation for diverse lived experiences, for complicated personal and scholarly paths, and for the sacrifice and commitment that leads to excellence in all its forms. As NCA Distinguished Scholars, we should have engaged this discussion differently from the start. It was not a moment to critique the actions of NCA’s Executive Committee; it was a moment to support diversity and inclusion within our discipline. On that latter issue, we have no ambivalence. We stand ready to serve the entirety of the NCA community, and we are committed to listen and to learn how to do so.


Thomas Benson

Stephen Browne

James Dillard

Dennis Gouran

Jon Nussbaum

Mary Stuckey

June 15th, 2019

Patrice Buzzanell, a Distinguished Scholar and Department of Communication Chair at the University of South Florida, posted her personal response on the Department's news and events page. 


June 15th, 2019

Statement from the Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus: The Executive Committee of the Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus, composed of Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, and Raquel Moreira, unanimously disapprove of the comments made by Martin Medhurst in a recent CRTNET post meant for publication in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and of the signatories of David Zarefsky’s complaint letter to NCA’s Executive Committee. Specifically, we 1) express our indignation at the notion that identity and diversity, so-called “god-terms”, are mutually exclusive from intellectual rigor, 2) our indignation at what Martin Medhurst conceives of as an attack on NCA’s Distinguished Scholars, and 3) our indignation at the notion that distinguished scholarship belongs solely to whiteness. Grounded on the history of the colonization of our continents, the erasure of our languages, the destruction of our cultural legacies, and the ongoing and unending reclaiming and decolonization of our heritages, alongside our two-spirit allies, and alongside our brothers and sisters of different races and ethnicities across the globe who continue the fight against colonial, white supremacist patriarchy, we condemn actions that seek to undermine decades of decolonial work under the banner of meritocracy. Underlying Medhurst’s grumbles are a series of well-known rhetorical moves, what Hasian & Delgado, Hurtado, and Squires call pendejo games, wherein members of a dominant sector of society feign ignorance toward the ongoing historical oppression of racial minorities. Such hypocrisies have been used to defer and deter radical change, safeguarding systems of privilege, inequity, and oppression, alienating scholars of color from the academy, from their own intellectual labor, and from the material conditions wherein they might create new spaces to pursue their intellectual endeavors. We deplore the tokenization of scholars of color and diverse gender identities, sexualities, physical abilities, and backgrounds. Perhaps Medhurst expected an ovation as some sort of white savior. Perhaps Medhurst expected gratitude. Nonetheless, the tokenization of the unnamed transgender scholar only proves ineptitude at the face of the perceived changes in the academy—changes feared as attacks on the privileges of white, heterosexual, cisgender male scholars. In his message, Medhurst provides little to no mention of the scholar’s own intellectual merit, begging the question: why bring this up, if not for self-aggrandizing and self-defense? While we do not speak on behalf of the transgender author, and while we do not wish to “out” this author, we want to emphasize that our division has, from its beginning, sought to serve as a place of safety and inclusion. We take this moment to remind our allies, and in particular our gringo allies, of the ample research that ought not be forgotten or dismissed in a moment like this: research on the violent discrimination inherent in the language of American exceptionalism, bootstrap mentality, and liberal meritocracy. Many of our members grew up being told we are not good enough, intelligent enough, and in short, not worthy of existence in the academy and beyond. The myth of meritocracy that at one point, perhaps, led us to think of the academy as a place of belonging, now forces us to reconsider our aspirations, to continue our unending struggle in the decolonization of the academy, and to reify our commitments to the creation of a world without injustice. Let us not forget the Zarefsky gang, who perhaps too aware of their audience, appear to have no trouble placing and patrolling the baseless border between “distinguished” and “diverse.” For some, this may appear as a mere result of the current political climate. They might tell us to chill and enjoy the summer. To throw on a pair of cargo shorts, break out the Birkenstocks and socks, and enjoy a margarita. Summer time is the grinding season. But the signatories must not be ignored. The same bordering practices that allow Central Americans to be thought of as “immigrants” are central to our concerns in the study of Latina/o/x communication studies. And such bordering practices are clear in the actions of those who seek to claim indigenous land as their inherited territory. This practice predates Trump and the signatories. Let us not dismiss this as a symptom of the times and, instead, address this as the reality of centuries-long colonization. From the historically-grounded perspective of the Executive Committee, LCSD/LRC has aspired to serve as a space where Latina/o/x scholars can feel safe and where their work can be valued, not just by friends, but also by intellectual colleagues in the field of communication studies. In that spirit, we want to assure those who seek asylum within the warzone that is communication studies that our division and caucus stand alongside its less privileged members and will advocate on their behalf. The leadership of NCA’s Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus strongly condemn the statements made by Professor Medhurst. Moreover, we are disappointed in the signatories that accompany David Zarefsky’s Distinguished Scholars complaint letter as well as the displeasure with the numerous white scholars who continue to write about Latinx issues is various subfields of communication, but remain silent when it comes to making space for scholars of color. We want those involved to know that while we are disappointed, their actions do not necessarily surprise us. Deep inside, we always knew there was a reason to distrust whiteness within “our” institutions. In their actions, they have undone decades of coalitional and decolonial work. We would like to say that it’ll take time to rebuild alliances, but, historically-minded as we are, we know—and they have shown—that such an expectation is far from reality. Signed: Michael Lechuga, Immediate Past Chair Leandra H. Hernández, Chair Sarah De Los Santos-Upton, Vice Chair José Ángel Maldonado, Vice-Chair Elect Shantel Martinez, Secretary Raquel Moreira, Parliamentarian 

June 15th 2019

Español El Comité Ejecutivo de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza, compuesto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah de los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, y Raquel Moreira, unánimemente reprueban los comentarios de Martin Medhurst hechos en CRTNET e intencionados para aparecer en la revista Rhetoric & Public Affairs, y al igual, reprueban las acciones de lxs signatarixs de la queja al Comité Ejecutivo de NCA escrita por David Zarefsky. Expresamos 1) nuestra indignación frente a la noción que la identidad y la diversidad puedan ser mutuamente exclusivas del rigor intelectual, 2) nuestra indignación frente a lo que ha sido llamado un ataque hacia lxs Eruditxs Distinguidxs de NCA y 3) nuestra indignación ante la noción que la erudición distinguida pertenezca únicamente a gringos. Basado en la historia de la colonización de nuestros continentes, la borradura de nuestras lenguas, la destrucción de nuestro legado cultural y el rescate y la descolonización continua e interminable de nuestro patrimonio, acompañado de nuestros aleados de doble espíritu y junto a nuestrxs hermanxs de distintas razas y etnias que, alrededor de mundo, pelean contra el patriarcado colonial, condenamos las acciones que buscan profanar décadas de labor descolonial bajo la bandera de la meritocracia. Las quejas de Medhurst no son más que una serie de actos retóricos, comparable a lo que Hasian y Delgado llaman pendejo games, o mejor dicho, pendejadas, donde los miembros de un sector dominante de la sociedad fingen ignorancia ante la opresión histórica y continúa de las minorías raciales. Este tipo de hipocresías han sido usadas para diferir y disuadir el cambio radical, protegiendo sistemas de privilegio, desigualdad y opresión, y al mismo tiempo alejando a lxs eruditxs de color de su propia labor intelectual y de las meras condiciones materiales donde puedan crear nuevos espacios para el desarrollo intelectual. Deploramos la tokenización de otras personas. Quizá Medhurst esperaba una ovación, sintiéndose héroe o salvador. Quizá Medhurst esperaba agradecimiento. Sin embargo, la tokenización de xlxs academicx transgénero no nombradx comprueba la ineptitud frente a los cambios dentro de la academia—cambios considerados un ataque a los privilegios de académicos blancos, heterosexuales y cisgénero. En su mensaje, Medhurst falla en tan si quiera mencionar el mérito intelectual de xlxs autor, generando la pregunta: ¿por qué mencionarlx, si no por autoengrandecimiento y/o autodefensa? Hay que aclarar: no pretendemos hablar por parte de estx autor. Mucho menos le pedimos a estx autor sentirse obligadx a hablar públicamente. Lo que sí queremos dejar claro es que nuestra división y nuestra cámara ha sido, desde un principio, un lugar donde valoramos la seguridad y la inclusión. Recordamos a nuestrxs aliadxs, particularmente a nuestrxs aliadxs gringxs, de las amplias investigaciones que no deben ser olvidadas o ignoradas en momentos como este: investigaciones sobre la violenta discriminación integrada en el lenguaje del excepcionalismo americano, la ideología “bootstrap” y la meritocracia liberal. Varios de nuestro miembros crecieron pensándose ser menos que los demás, al punto de cuestionar nuestra mera existencia dentro de la academia. El mito de la meritocracia que un día nos llevo a creer que la academia podía ser un lugar en el cual pertenezcamos, ahora nos lleva a reconsiderar nuestras aspiraciones, a continuar nuestra batalla interminable en la descolonización de la academia y a cosificar nuestro compromiso a la creación de un mundo sin injusticias. Y no olvidemos a la pandilla de Zarefsky, quienes sabiendo bien a quien le hablaban, parecen no tener algún problema patrullando la frontera entre lo “distinguido” y lo “diverso.” Para algunos, esto puede parecer nada más que el resultado del clima político contemporáneo. Nos podrán decir “calmados, disfruten el verano.” Nos podrán pedir que nos pongamos los shorts cargo y las sandalias Birkenstock (con todo y calcetas), y que disfrutemos una caipirinha. Pero el verano, para nosotrxs, es una temporada de lucha. La lucha sigue. Y no podemos ignorar a lxs signatarixs. La creación retórica de fronteras nos permite pensar que lxs centroamericanxs sean “inmigrantes,” cuando en realidad este continente le pertenece o todxs o nadie. Al igual, aqullxs que han firmado su nombre han participado en la creación de fronteras dentro de la academia. La creación de fronteras antecede a Trump y lxs signatarixs. No hay que llamar a esto “un síntoma de los tiempos.” En vez, reconozcamos que luchamos contra la realidad de la colonización de siglos. Desde la perspectiva histórica del Comité Ejecutivo, LCSD/LRC ha aspirado a servir como un espacio donde lxs académicxs latinx puedan sentirse seguros y donde su trabajo pueda ser valorado, no solamente por amigxs, sino por colegas intelectuales en el campo de la comunicación. En ese espíritu, queremos asegurar a aquellxs que buscan asilo dentro de la zona de guerra que es el estudio de la comunicación que nuestra división y nuestra cámara está al lado de sus miembros menos privilegiados y lxs defenderá. Lxs líderes de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza condenan las declaraciones de Martin Medhurst. Además, estamos profundamente decepcionadxs con lxs firmantes que acompañan la queja de David Zarefsky sobre lxs académicxs ilustres. Falta mencionar nuestro disgusto con los numerosos académicos blancos que continúan escribiendo sobre temas latinos, o pertenecientes a las comunidades latinxs, en varios subcampos de los estudios de la comunicación, y a la hora de la hora no abren la boca para defender o ayudarnos. Queremos que los involucrados sepan que sus acciones, aunque nos decepcionan, no nos sorprenden. En el fondo, siempre hemos sabido sospechar y desconfiar del poder de la academia gringa dentro de “nuestras” instituciones. En sus actos, han deshecho décadas de trabajo de coalición, dañando—quizás rompiendo—coaliciones. Tomará tiempo para reconstruir alianzas, pero tal vez será imposible. Firmado por: Michael Lechuga, Presidente Pasado Inmediato Leandra H. Hernández, Presidente Sarah De Los Santos Upton, Vicepresidente José Ángel Maldonado, Vicepresidente Electo Shantel Martínez, Secretaria Raquel Moreira, Parliamentaria



O Comitê Executivo da Divisão de Estudos Latinos em Comunicação e La Raza Caucus (LCSD/LRC), composto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga e Raquel Moreira, repudia por unanimidade os comentários feitos por Martin Medhurst in postagem recente na CRTNET com intenção de publicação como editorial em Rhetoric & Public Affairs, e dos signatários da carta de David Zarefsky ao Comitê Executivo da Associação Nacional de Comunicação (NCA). Especificamente, nós 1) expressamos nossa indignação com a noção de que identidade e diversidade, chamados “termos divinos,” e rigor acadêmico são mutuamente exclusivos, 2) nossa indignação com o que Medhurst concebe como um ataque aos “Distinguished Scholars” (intelectuais distintos) da NCA, e 3) nossa indignação com a ideia de que “Distinguished Scholars” pertence somente a branquitude. Fundamentado na história de colonização de nosso continente, no apagamento de nossas línguas, na destruição de nossos legados culturais e na reivindicação e descolonização incessante de nossos legados, junto aos nossos aliados dois-espíritos, junto aos nossos irmãos e irmãs de raças e etnias diferentes em todo o globo que continuam suas lutas contra forças coloniais patriarcais brancas, nós condenamos ações que buscam minar décadas de trabalho descolonial sob a bandeira da meritocracia. Subjacentes aos resmungos de Mehurst está uma série de movimentos retóricos já conhecidos, o que Hasian e Delgado chamam de pendejo games, em que membros de setores dominantes da sociedade simulam ignorância sobre a contínua opressão histórica de minorias raciais. Estas hipocrisias vêm sendo usadas para adiar e desencorajar mudanças radicais, salvaguardando sistemas de privilégios, desigualdades e opressão, afastando da academia intelectuais pertencentes a minorias, de seus próprios trabalhos intelectuais e das condições materiais em que possam criar novos espaços para buscar realizações intelectuais. Nós lastimamos a tokenização de intelectuais pertencentes a minorias raciais e de diversos gêneros, sexualidades e habilidades físicas. Talvez Medhurst esperasse ser ovacionado como “herói branco.” Talvez Medhurst esperasse gratidão. De qualquer forma, a tokenização da intelectual transgênero prova ineptidão face a mudanças na academia—mudanças temidas como ataques aos privilégios de intelectuais homens, brancos, heterossexuais e cisgênero. Em sua mensagem, Medhurst fornece pouca ou nenhuma menção aos méritos da intelectual, implorando a pergunta: por que trazer isso à tona, se não por motivos de auto-engrandecimento e autodefesa? Apesar de não falarmos pela autora transgênero, e apesar de não desejarmos expô-la, gostaríamos de enfatizar que nossa divisão tem, desde o início, buscado servir como um espaço inclusivo e seguro para todxs. Aproveitamos esse momento para lembrar aos nossos aliados, especificamente nossos aliados gringos, da extensa pesquisa que não há de ser esquecida ou dispensada: pesquisa sobre a discriminação violenta inerente à linguagem do excepcionalismo estadunidense, da mentalidade “bootstrap” e da meritocracia liberal. Muitos de nossos membros cresceram ouvindo que não eram bons o suficiente, inteligentes o suficiente e, em resumo, indignos de existirem na academia e além. O mito da meritocracia que em algum momento talvez tenha nos levado a pensar na academia como um espaço de pertencimento, agora nos força a reconsiderar nossas aspirações, nossos esforços contínuos para descolonizar a academia e para reificar nosso comprometimento com a criação de um mundo sem injustiças. Não nos esqueçamos do grupo de Zarefsky que, talvez bastante conscientes de seu público, aparentam não terem problema algum em estabeleceram e policiarem uma fronteira sem fundamentos entre “distinto” e “diverso.” Para alguns, isto pode parecer como um mero resultado do clima político atual. Eles podem nos dizer para relaxar e aproveitar o verão. Para colocarmos um par de shorts, colocar os chinelos nos pés e beber uma margarita. Porém, o verão é tempo de luta para nós. E os signatários da carta não devem ser esquecidos. Práticas fronteiriças que permitem que pessoas da América Central sejam tratadas como “imigrantes” são cruciais para nosso interesse no estudo de comunicação latina/o/x. E tais práticas fronteiriças estão claramente presentes nas ações daqueles que continuam a tratar terras indígenas como seus territórios por direito. Essas práticas antecedem a Trump e mesmo aos signatários. Não caiamos na armadilha de entender esse momento como um sintoma dos tempos atuais, mas sim como a realidade de séculos de colonização. Da perspectiva historicamente fundamentada pelo Comitê Executivo, LCSD/LRC tem servido como um espaço onde intelectuais Latina/o/x possam sentir-se seguros e onde seus trabalhos possam ser valorizados não apenas por amigos, mas por colegas intelectuais no campo da comunicação. É com este espírito que queremos assegurar a todos que buscam asilo no campo de guerra que é a comunicação que nossa divisão apoia nossos membros menos privilegiados e continuará a defendê-los. A liderança da LCSD/LRC repudia veementemente as afirmações feitas pelo professor Medhurst. Ademais, estamos decepcionados com os signatários da carta de reclamação escrita pelo professor Zarefsky, assim como repudiamos o silêncio que acompanha inúmeros intelectuais brancos cujos trabalhos estão centrados em questões latinas, mas que se recusam a abrir espaços acadêmicos para minorias raciais. Ao mesmo tempo, gostaríamos de dizer aos envolvidos que apesar de estarmos desapontados, suas ações não nos surpreendem. No fundo, sempre soubemos que não se pode confiar na branquitude dentro de “nossas” instituições. Em suas ações, eles desfizeram décadas de esforços de coalizão. Gostaríamos de dizer que levará tempo para reconstruir alianças, mas conscientes de história que somos, sabemos—e que eles nos mostraram—que tal expectativa está longe da realidade. Assinado, Michael Lechuga, ex-presidente Leandra H. Hernández, presidente Sarah De Los Santos Upton, vice-presidente José Ángel Maldonado, vice-presidente eleito Shantel Martínez, secretária Raquel Moreira, parlamentar

June 15th, 2019

Letter to Ethnography Division Members re: NCA Distinguished Scholars Controversy From the Executive Committee of the Ethnography Division We are writing to the Ethnography Division membership regarding the recent controversy surrounding a Rhetoric and Public Affairs editorial (and subsequent CRTNET post) authored by Professor Martin Medhurst, as well as a letter written by Professor David Zarefsky, and a letter written on behalf of a majority of NCA Distinguished Scholars. We will not summarize the documents, or the controversy here, as we imagine most of the division’s membership is already aware of these details. For those who are not, the documents in question are easily accessible on the NCA website (click here). In light of these developments, we write to reaffirm the Ethnography Division’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. While diversity and inclusion—currently part of the mission of the National Communication Association—are hallmarks of any organization dedicated to ethical communication and the quality of human life and relationships (also part of NCA’s mission), the division’s leadership also recognizes that equity—in institutional structures and democratic process—is crucial to achieving diversity and inclusion. As such, we support the actions of the NCA Executive Committee regarding the Distinguished Scholars nomination and selection process. We believe these actions will begin to provide the equity necessary to achieve diversity and inclusion at all levels of our national association. We also write to express our support and gratitude to our colleagues who have worked tirelessly to bring to the forefront the outrage and disappointment shared by over 1,000 (and counting) NCA-affiliated scholars in the “Open Letter on Diversity to Communication Leadership” (there are slight variations of this title on different websites) currently circulating via social media. We recognize that the conditions fueling this current outrage have existed for years in academic institutions and organizations, and we are grateful for the continued and consistent labor expended by people of color, LGBTQAI+ folx, people with disabilities, and allies in front of and behind the scenes. The division leadership has signed the open letter, and we invite division members to read and sign the letter, if so inclined. If you have not already located this letter on Facebook or Twitter, you can read and sign the letter here. Finally, we write to strongly condemn any language that frames diversity and intellectual merit or rigor as somehow diametrically opposed, or mutually exclusive. We wholeheartedly disagree with any argument that implies that diversity and inclusion pose a threat to intellectual and academic contribution, achievement, and merit. Our division has proven time and again—through its high-quality ethnography panels, papers, and publications—that diversity and inclusion, in all forms, serve to enhance the quality of scholarship. As a division, through current and future membership, we remain committed to co-creating an academic environment that is grounded in equity.

In solidarity,

Dr. Robin M. Boylorn, Immediate Past Chair

Dr. Kurt Lindemann, Chair

Dr. Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, Vice-Chair

Dr. Jimmie Manning, Vice-Chair Elect

Dr. Blake Paxton, Secretary


June 15th, 2019

A Special Issue of the Departures in Critical Qualitative Reserch (DCQR) journal announced: “MERIT, WHITENESS, AND PRIVILEGE”

Co-Editors: Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas (Georgia Southern University); Mohan J. Dutta (Massey University); Amardo Rodriguez (Syracuse University) Hard Deadline: July 1, 2019


June 15th, 2019

The Rhetorical and Communication Theory division issues a statement. 

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the current leadership team of the NCA’s Rhetorical and Communication Theory division write this letter in response to Dr. Marty Medhurst’s essay that was originally slated to be published in a future issue (23:3) of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, as well as the letter authored by David Zarefsky, and signed by 66 former distinguished scholars. In Medhurst’s essay, he asks: “What sort of organization the NCA will be?” We would like to answer Professor Medhurst’s question of what sort of organization the NCA will be by first opposing, in no uncertain terms, arguments levied in Professor Medhurst’s editorial, by addressing Dr. Zarefsky’s letter and signatures, and in calling for a just organizational future. In Professor Medhurst’s editorial, he laments the change in the selection process for the new Distinguished Scholars, as laid out by the Executive Committee of the National Communication Association. Invoking “diversity” as a god term, Medhurst sets up a false dichotomy where meritocracy and diversity are at odds with one another within the new selection process for Distinguished Scholars. Medhurst states, “The new selection committee will be guided by ‘diversity,’ not intellectual merit.” Medhurst also questions the selection process by wondering what will happen if “ . . . selections are made on intellectual merit or one where identity is prioritized over intellectual and scholarly merit?” Finally, he states, “We support diversity, but not at the prices of displacing scholarly merit as the chief criterion for selecting Distinguished Scholars, choosing journal editors, and evaluating research.” We, in no uncertain terms, vehemently disagree with Medhurst’s hegemonic strategy of pitting merit and diversity as diametrically opposed. Medhurst’s arguments about diversity are nothing new. Indeed, one need only reference the historical and current policy debates on affirmative action in the United States to understand how this series of claims has been mobilized to undercut equity and justice for marginalized people. Arguing that scholarly merit will be sacrificed at the expense of diversity is an unequivocally racist, gendered, and homophobic assumption. One point of Medhurst’s essay that is particularly deplorable is his statement that a submission included that of “a scholar who identifies as trans.” Medhurst’s attempt at invoking this scholar’s submission functions as a rhetoric of tokenism, may potentially “out” this scholar, and reads as if he should be applauded for considering this person’s submission. We reject this white savior rhetoric that is akin to, “I have a friend who’s gay.” This type of hegemonic strategy further marginalizes and stigmatizes this individual, as well as other groups and individuals who occupy marginalized subject positions. We must read Medhurst’s indictments of the Executive Committee’s distinguished scholars’ selection process side-by-side with Dr. David Zarefsky’s letter signed by 66 NCA distinguished scholars. In Zarefsky’s letter dated March 29, 2019, and addressed to Dr. Star Muir and Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles, Zarefsky, like Medhurst, opposes the Executive Committee’s changes in the Distinguished Scholars’ selection process. In this letter, Zarefsky contends that the Executive Committee’s goal that the Distinguished Scholars award resemble the other NCA awards is a “red herring.” First, we agree wholeheartedly with the proposed changes by the Executive Committee. The context leading up to the changes in the selection process is also imperative to note. These changes, in 2015, were implemented by calls from numerous NCA division and caucus members, in the form of a petition, to address the exigence of #NCASOWHITE. We are pleased to see that Dr. Star Muir and Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles are listening to the concerns we and our colleagues have raised and that they are advocating for structural changes to address the glaring lack of diversity in the Distinguished Scholar’s decision-making body, as well as the field of recipients. Zarefsky’s indictment that diversity is a red-herring ignores the material embodiment of decades of structural exclusion within the Distinguished Scholars award process. The NCA Executive Committee’s decision to take action to include those scholars on the margins (women, LGBTQI+ individuals, people of color, and those with disabilities) makes an intervention that prevents whiteness from breeding whiteness. Indeed, decades of critical scholarship supports the notion that what counts as “scholarly,” routinely discounts any scholarship from the margins. We applaud that the top NCA executives listened to the calls that the stark white cishet group of primarily men—in what can only be viewed by us as the ol’ boys club, demands urgent change. As such, we support endeavors to stop the exclusion and, more to the point, to include those scholars on the margins. The rhetoric in both Medhurst’s and Zarefsky’s letters are defenses of whiteness that ignore, insult, and further marginalize all of the critical scholars in our field doing work to challenge power, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.. The RCT division leadership condemns these damning claims. Medhurst’s and Zarefsky’s comments evidence a institutional exclusivity that reaches far beyond the letters and statements that have sparked this essential conversation and that must introduce structural changes. We, the executive committee of the RCT, without replicating here, agree with the list of 10 demands put forth in the “Open Letter to Communication Leadership.” We proudly stand alongside the over 1,000 signatories in calling for a discipline that is more inclusive. More diverse. And more just.

Chair: Bernadette Calafell

Vice-Chair: Nina Maria Lozano

Vice-Chair-Elect: Megan Morrissey

Secretary: Jenna Hanchey

Past Chair: Lisa Corrigan


June 16th, 2019

The Environmental Communication division of NCA issues the following statement. 


On June 10th, the editor of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Professor Martin Medhurst, released an editorial statement that was intended for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal. In this editorial, Professor Medhurst stated his opposition to the NCA Executive Committee’s proposed change to the review process for the Distinguished Scholars, which intends to make the review process more inclusive and fair. A review of those who have been recognized as Distinguished Scholars since the inception of the award in 1992 shows that nearly all of these awards have been given to white men and, to a lesser extent, white women.[1]

The officers of the Environmental Communication Division want to voice our strong support for changing the review process for the Distinguished Scholars awards. We also state our disagreement with Professor Medhurst’s editorial and a related letter from Distinguished Scholars to NCA’s Executive Committee, both of which oppose changes to the award review process.

Environmental Communication, as a subfield, believes that human and biological systems tend to thrive when diverse; in ecosystems and human communities, diversity is a source of strength, vitality, and creativity. The scholarship in our division is also deeply concerned with how inequity and forms of oppression are structural and systemic and how impacts, be they from environmental degradation or exclusionary academic review processes, are not borne equally. Through the existing Distinguished Scholars award review process, NCA has created an environment wherein diversity is suppressed and those who are most privileged in the academy, namely white scholars, have the greatest access to recognition. This needs to change.

We recognize that some Distinguished Scholars have made an effort in the past to be more inclusive and to seek to diversify this award but ultimately they have been unsuccessful. We ask that the NCA Executive Committee embrace the change in their review process and turn their focus to the broader values of NCA as an organization, and not to procedural misgivings. We continue to support high standards of academic excellence, as well as the value of outstanding pedagogical and public service labor. We also want take this moment when the values of NCA as an organization are being contested, negotiated, and possibly transformed, to reaffirm our division’s commitment to supporting and learning from scholars who are People of Color, people who are colonized, people living in the Global South, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, religious groups, women, and those who intersect or represent other marginalized communities.

We reject the argument that academic merit stands in opposition to upholding values of diversity. We also do not believe inclusivity is something we can do once or even a few times and be done; we believe inclusivity is an ongoing practice that requires that we continue to reflect on our own division’s norms and assumptions. As a next step, we plan to assess our own awards to date and consider how we might improve our ability to reduce bias—conscious or not—when defining merit. Within NCA as well as in our home departments and institutions, we will continue to strive to build academic spaces and systems that are fair, equal, diverse, and inclusive for more just and sustainable organizations.


Dr. Bridie McGreavy

Dr. Kathleen Hunt

Dr. Phaedra C. Pezzullo

Dr. Casey Schmitt

[1] Here are links to additional references and resources to learn more: From NCA: https://www.natcom.org/distinguished-scholars; https://www.natcom.org/sites/default/files/NCADistinguishedScholars-National_Office_Backgrounder3.25.19.pdf From Professor Mohan Dutta: https://culture-centered.blogspot.com/2019/06/in-post-made-in-response-to-changes-to.html?fbclid=IwAR1DNbH0mYt0KsESEnSQjpJDr7V4Z4hDEndkhoe5R0GRxzvRYbBP0EJsgQs


June 16th, 2019

The elected officers of the Asian/Pacific American Caucus and Asian/Pacific American Communication Studies Division offer our thanks to the Executive Committee for recognizing nomination and selection processes that have structurally excluded scholars across a number of axes including race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and even epistemologies. We support the EC as it continues to implement changes to policies and procedures that recognize and embrace the diversity of its members as being both the root of its strength and the direction of its future. We offer our strongest condemnation of David Zarefsky’s letter regarding the change in procedure around the selection of Distinguished Scholars. We join with our colleagues from around the NCA in expressing our disappointment in the Distinguished Scholars who signed his letter, and urge them to apologize and make amends to those whom they have advised, mentored, taught, and led who feel betrayed and hurt by their actions. We extend our condemnation of the Medhurst editorial asserting that intellectual merit and diversity are mutually exclusive. As an incredibly diverse caucus and division we recognize our members as embodying both of these ideals, and we urge those who doubt this assertion to take our classes, to read our work and cite us, and to engage with our ideas. Importantly, we want to remind the Executive Committee that this has always been about more than this latest incident. Our members exist in departments, programs, universities, organizations and other associations that similarly operate under the belief that intellectual merit and diversity are antithetical concepts. Ultimately, we support and further urge the Executive Committee to continue its work changing the culture and procedures of our association. APAC/APACSD joins in these efforts by looking inward at our own structures of operation and vehicles of recognition to ensure that we too continue to meet the mandate of fostering and promoting a diverse and inclusive organization.

In solidarity,

Myra Washington, Chair

Rebecca de Souza, Vice Chair

Shaunak Sastry, Vice Chair elect

Richie Hao, 2nd Vice Chair elect

Marissa Doshi, Secretary

Vincent N. Pham, Immediate Past Chair

Elizabeth Parks, Diversity Council Representative


June 17th, 2019

The Executive Board of the Central States Communication Association supports changes within the National Communication Association to be more inclusive and diverse. Believing that excellence emerges from equity, inclusiveness, and diversity, we commit to reexamining CSCA’s policies to seek out ways to improve our association’s practices. Thank you to those who have been seeking positive changes within NCA and speaking out. We support your work.

M. Chad McBride, President

Alberto Gonzalez, First Vice President

Debra J. Ford, Second Vice President

Amy Aldridge Sanford, Immediate Past President

Chad Edwards, Executive Director

Patric Spence, Editor, Communication Studies

Jeffrey T. Child, Finance Committee Chair

Katherine Denker, Member at Large

Tiffany Wang, Member at Large

Anna Wright, States Advisory Council Chair


June 17th, 2019

Statement from the Officers of the Public Address Division of the National Communication Association

The Public Address Division of the National Communication Association is committed to the study of rhetoric that addresses publics. Although some scholars in the public address tradition have operationalized rhetoric in narrow and exclusionary ways, including intentional and unintentional investments in white supremacy, the leadership of the Division reiterates its commitment to fostering more capacious understandings of the rhetorics and publics animating our academic endeavors. With a long history of attention to a narrow sense of discourse, one that was mired in whiteness and privilege, the Division has become one that seeks to disrupt assumptions that the only discourses worthy of critical attention are those emanating from whiteness and white masculinity. Today, the rhetorical study of public address strives to complicate our long history and advance a rich conversation that theorizes and assesses the full range of public discourse. We work with and across various critical and theoretical literatures as we ask questions at the intersections of discourse and power. In our scholarly work we aim to recognize all the ways in which we fail to undo the workings of privilege and whiteness, and we recognize and accept our obligation to learn more effective ways of doing so. We welcome the opportunity to join with other stakeholders in the study of public address to continue to reimagine the aims of and outlets for our scholarship, including conference spaces, journals, and book series. We commit to re-examining our division’s awards procedures in order to attend to issues of diversity and equity. We acknowledge that overwhelmingly, white men and white women have been the recipients of our division’s awards, so we commit to revising these awards processes in the spirit of ensuring that public address scholars have equal access to awards that help constitute a distinguished career. It is with these commitments that we, the officers of the Public Address Division, denounce the recent statements by Professor Marty Medhurst. We call upon the Distinguished Scholars who have not yet done so to renounce their endorsement of the statement sent by Professor David Zarefsky to the NCA leadership protesting the work of the NCA leadership to advance structural changes in the service of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Finally, we support the leadership of NCA in their efforts to eliminate barriers that preclude many of our colleagues from being recognized as Distinguished Scholars.

In solidarity,

Lisa A. Flores, Past Chair

Kristy Maddux, Chair

Isaac West, Vice-Chair

Belinda Stillion Southard, Vice-Chair Elect

Michelle Murray-Yang, Secretary


June 17th, 2019

Statement from NCA’s Health Communication Division Officers

The officers of NCA's Health Communication Division cannot and do not wish to speak for all of its ~1,000 members. But, the debate over the selection of NCA Distinguished Scholars has inspired us to reflect on our own practices within the Health Communication Division and in the broader field. We appreciate the words of our colleagues who have spoken out against practices in the discipline that marginalize underserved groups, and we stand by the NCA Executive Committee's more inclusive selection process for Distinguished Scholars. Because issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are so crucial to individual and societal well-being, and because our division is committed to understanding and promoting better health outcomes for everyone, we are committed to increasing the representation of underserved populations in all facets within our discipline. As stated by the National Collaborating Centres for Determinants of Health and Health Public Policy, “health is shaped by a multi-dimensional overlapping of factors such as race, class, income, education, age, ability, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity, indigeneity, and geography” (http://nccdh.ca/resources/entry/public-health-speaks-intersectionality-and-health-equity). Thus, we cannot ignore this reality, and we need to take greater steps to acknowledge these factors and integrate them in our scholarship and practices. Moving forward, we will work to create actionable changes to increase DE&I within our division. Toward this goal, we will review our division's bylaws and consider ways to eliminate exclusionary practices. We also welcome division members and non-members to offer suggestions for ways to improve our practices to create a culture of DE&I. We will soon distribute a survey to solicit suggestions for promoting DE&I within our division and the broader field. We will dedicate a portion of the 2019 NCA Health Communication Division business meeting to share ideas collected through the survey and discuss how we can improve our practices to promote greater DE&I. We are barely scratching the surface with our proposed actions, but we hope the self-reflection and discussions that will unfold from such efforts can lead to a long-term strategic plan to increase DE&I in our division, with the hope that our efforts will contribute meaningfully to DE&I in the broader field.

Co-authored by NCA’s Health Communication Division Officers:

Xiaoli Nan, Chair

Norman Wong, Immediate Past Chair

Jennifer A. Kam, Vice Chair

Kate Magsamen-Conrad, Vice-Chair Elect

Colter Ray, Secretary

Heather Voorhees, Graduate Representative


June 17th, 2019

Marissa Doshi, doshi@hope.edu Statement from Officers of NCA’s APAC/SD to NCA’s Executive Committee The elected officers of the Asian/Pacific American Caucus and Asian/Pacific American Communication Studies Division offer our thanks to the Executive Committee for recognizing nomination and selection processes that have structurally excluded scholars across a number of axes including race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and even epistemologies. We support the EC as it continues to implement changes to policies and procedures that recognize and embrace the diversity of its members as being both the root of its strength and the direction of its future. We offer our strongest condemnation of David Zarefsky’s letter regarding the change in procedure around the selection of Distinguished Scholars. We join with our colleagues from around the NCA in expressing our disappointment in the Distinguished Scholars who signed his letter, and urge them to apologize and make amends to those whom they have advised, mentored, taught, and led who feel betrayed and hurt by their actions. We extend our condemnation of the Medhurst editorial asserting that intellectual merit and diversity are mutually exclusive. As an incredibly diverse caucus and division we recognize our members as embodying both of these ideals, and we urge those who doubt this assertion to take our classes, to read our work and cite us, and to engage with our ideas. Importantly, we want to remind the Executive Committee that this has always been about more than this latest incident. Our members exist in departments, programs, universities, organizations and other associations that similarly operate under the belief that intellectual merit and diversity are antithetical concepts. Ultimately, we support and further urge the Executive Committee to continue its work changing the culture and procedures of our association. APAC/APACSD joins in these efforts by looking inward at our own structures of operation and vehicles of recognition to ensure that we too continue to meet the mandate of fostering and promoting a diverse and inclusive organization.

In solidarity,

Myra Washington, Chair

Rebecca de Souza, Vice Chair

Shaunak Sastry, Vice Chair elect

Richie Hao, 2nd Vice Chair elect

Marissa Doshi, Secretary

Vincent N. Pham, Immediate Past Chair

Elizabeth Parks, Diversity Council Representative


June 17th, 2019

Marty Medhurst issues the following statement on Crtnet.


Martin Medhurst, Martin_Medhurst@baylor.edu Apology I ask your forgiveness for the current firestorm that is sweeping the discipline. It is my fault. I am truly sorry for the hurt and pain I have caused. Specifically, To the current and former members of the Rhetoric & Public Affairs editorial board: It was wrong for me to label my statement an "editorial" and to associate it with the journal. I did not consult with the entire board. I blindsided you. I apologize. It was a serious error in professional judgment and it will not happen again. To all the diverse constituencies in NCA: I understand that my statement hurt and offended you. That was not my intent. I apologize for the hurt I have caused and I pledge to learn from my errors. To my Baylor colleagues: My commitment to a diverse faculty, curriculum, and hiring practices is complete. I'm sorry if this episode has suggested that I or anyone else at Baylor is not committed to diversity. I am, and I know you are, too. To the field at large: I'm sorry this episode has developed in the way it has. My views were inartfully expressed. They have been interpreted exactly opposite of my intention. So that there is no doubt, let me say unequivocally that I do not believe that intellectual merit and diversity are a binary. I will welcome advice and guidance on that point as we together work toward solutions that will make the communication discipline a model for others to follow. To try to ameliorate some of the damage I have done, I will immediately rebuild the editorial board to assure that there is full consideration of diversity. The mission statement of the journal will be changed to reflect greater commitment to diverse voices. And I will appoint an Associate Editor to advise me on issues of diversity, someone who has the trust and confidence of the discipline at large. I welcome your nominations for that position. I hope that we can move forward, together, to build an even stronger and more diverse community.


June 17th, 2019

Statement by RSA.

From the President and Board of Directors of RSA

In the past week, a controversy has emerged in Communication Studies that highlights the problems that result when expressed commitments to equity do not lead to the changes necessary to embrace structurally marginalized people. The personal statement released by Executive Director Gerard Hauser on June 14 identified some of these issues. Additional information can be found in the archives of CRTNET, the website of the National Communication Association, and in the “Open Letter on Diversity in the Communication Discipline.” This is an important moment for RSA’s officers and members to consider their own institutional practices and take ownership of a process that addresses the lack of inclusion and equity that exists across multiple levels of the Society and the manner in which power and privilege continue their exclusionary work. For example, the RSA Fellows are, much like the Distinguished Fellows of NCA, disproportionately white and male. Ensuring that an academic association’s awards reflect not only exemplary scholarship and teaching but also the plurality of its membership is an aim that every association must pursue. The RSA President and Board of Directors affirm and support NCA's Executive Committee and elected leaders in their effort to make the NCA Distinguished Scholars selection reflect NCA’s goals in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We reject the claim that academic merit is a neutral standard or that it can be separated from histories and emergent practices of gender discrimination, white privilege, classism, heteronormativity, and ableism. We agree with the authors of the Open Letter on Diversity that “a homogeneous group of scholars will almost certainly judge merit on the basis of their own experiences and standards of rigor and presume that such experiences and standards are universal.” But our statement cannot end here. It is important to note that many women, people of color, queer, transgender, and scholars with disabilities have labored to find a space for their concerns and raise awareness about these problems. Too frequently they have found their efforts undervalued or unacknowledged, even when that work has made a difference. In a 2017 strategic assessment prepared by Immediate Past President Kendall Phillips, he reported that “some members see the association as unwelcoming. Specific barriers cited by members in this anonymous survey include race, gender, sexual orientation, and employment status. . . . Some characterized RSA as ‘cliquish’ too focused on ‘big R1 institutions’ and too dominated by older white men.” After Dr. Phillips presented his strategic report in September of 2017, the Board agreed that one of its four-year strategic goals should be to enhance the inclusivity and diversity of RSA. At its most recent meeting in College Park, Maryland on June 6, 2019, the Board of Directors made several decisions that have grown out of that strategic focus. 1. It charged the RSA President with creating an ad hoc committee to review the suite of RSA awards and awards processes to ensure that they meet the Society’s strategic goals of enhancing inclusivity, member opportunity, mentorship, and public presence. 2. It voted to alter the description and awards criteria of the Fellows’ Early Career Award to add clarity and transparency to the review process. 3. President Kirt Wilson declared his intention to use the modest interest from the Corbett Endowment as travel grants to the 2020 RSA Conference among graduate students of color who have insufficient funds to attend. 4. The 2020 Conference organizers agreed to create an opportunity for registrants to support a scholarship that will help fund graduate student attendees. 5. The Board approved the creation of a new endowment, in honor of Dr. Andrea Lunsford, which will be used to support future inclusion initiatives. 6. The Board approved the founding of “RSA Discussion Groups,” networks of 12 scholars or more who share interests and common identities--broadly construed--and want to secure evening space at the 2020 RSA Conference to meet, socialize, network, and organize around their common interests. Implementation of these new initiatives is under development now, and RSA’s members will learn more about them in the coming weeks and months. Despite this progress, much work remains. As RSA moves forward, learning from the experiences of the past week and the examples of organizations like NCA, ICA, CCCC, and MLA, we must commit ourselves to additional aims: 1. Institutionalizing our short-term strategic goal of enhancing inclusion and diversity into the official policies, structures, and governing documents of the organization. 2. Building a structure that holds RSA leaders and programs accountable for the success or failure of its diversity initiatives and that ensures a diverse and inclusive membership on the RSA Board of Directors and working committees. 3. Creating new spaces, programs, and events for talking about past and current practices of exclusion and to organize against such practices. 4. Extending RSA’s attention across a broader array of identities and intersections and reshaping its public discourse so as to create a more welcoming environment for all persons. 5. Creating a more robust and active volunteer pool to pursue initiatives, to create opportunities for allyship, and to mitigate the uneven burden of labor that too often falls on those who are disadvantaged and marginalized by existing structures and practices. 6. Creating new inter-organizational initiatives, especially with CCCC, ICA, and NCA, so that each organization can benefit from the experiences of others. 7. Creating a strong and stable Equity and Diversity Committee that can anchor the Society’s commitments. The goals and tasks described here are not going to be fulfilled within the tenure of any single president or Board of Directors. A fundamental shift in many RSA operations is required; a shift that is consistent with its stated goals and espoused principles, but that, too often, the Society has failed to materialize in a sustainable way. Creating a Society where everyone--broadly construed across fields of inquiry and across categories of difference--feels respected and valued is a collective endeavor. It is relatively easy to write about what we can do. It will be harder for the Board, RSA’s officers, and its members to pursue it. In this moment, let us commit to this work and pursue it with honest acknowledgments of past failures, an intent to pursue concrete change, and investments of time and energy.



Distinguished Scholars who have withdrawn their support for their original protest or did not sign the original letter from Dr. Zarefsky.

Mary Stuckey

Karlin Kohrs Campbell

Celest Condit

Thomas Benson

Stephen Browne

James Dillard

Dennis Gouran

Jon Nussbaum

Barbie Zelizer

Julia Wood

Stan Deetz

Patrice Buzzanell

Clifford Christians


Dr. Bernadette Marie Calafell has archived the public statements made about this controversy by the Distinguished Scholars.



The following are rhetorical scholars who have resigned from the editorial board of R&PA.

- Dave Tell (book review editor)

- Allison Prasch

- Hamilton Bean

- Robert Asen

- John Murphy

- Mary Stuckey

- Kirt Wilson

- Michael Steudeman

- Kristy Maddux

- John Lynch

- Cara Finnegan

- Jeremy Engels

- Stephen Howard Browne

- Kristan Poirot

- J. David Cisneros

- Leslie Hahner

- Roger Stahl

- Denise Bostdorff

- Lester Olson

- Angela Ray