Black Scholars Matter

CU Devalues Research With Black Colleagues as "Humanitarian Service"

10/11/202316 min read

Dr. Cronin shares a paper that he wrote in 2020 because the University of Colorado devalued the research and teaching he conducted with Haitians. The racism of devaluation is obvious. Rather than respect Dr. Cronin's work, CU fired him for exposing the racism. The photograph shows Dr. Cronin with Haiti's Minister of the Environment. Dr. Cronin's research and teaching in Haiti was valued by Haitians and his students at CU, but Chair John Swallow, Dean Pamela Jansma, Chancellor Horrell, and President Kennedy all devalued his research and teaching as "humanitarian service" even after the racism of that attitude was brought to their attention.

Note: Formatting was lost when the text was transferred to this blog. Contact for a PDF of the original paper.

Black Scholars Matter: Universities Should Not Devalue Research/Scholarly/Creative Accomplishments With BIPOC Colleagues as Service

Greg Cronin1,2 (he, his, him)

1University of Colorado Denver and 2Yon Sel Lanmou 501(c)3

The author acknowledges that he and the University of Colorado are settlers on unceded territory of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Nations, according to the Laramie Treaty of 1851. I am grateful for the thousands of years of stewardship of the land by Indigenous people. The current manuscript contributes to the goal of decolonization of the University of Colorado, higher education, and society in general. Conversations with Dr. Lupita Montoya were extremely helpful in understanding the role that racism played in her denial of tenure by the University of Colorado. She also brought Reyes and Halcón (1988) to my attention. Greg thanks his blood family and chosen family for strength and encouragement. Miguel, Robert, Yari, Rick, Glenn, Shannon, Tilu, Danny, Pavlos, Tiffany, Rafael, Garrett, Nicanor, Mona, Najee, Welele, Carla, Ron, Liberty, Shaba, Angelyne, Monticue, Aisha, Felix, Theo, and others too numerous to name have guided me in this journey of decolonization. Greg is hopeful that we can conquer racism in solidarity. Seneko Kakona ("Abundant Blessings" in Taino).


Research/scholarly/creative (RSC) accomplishments with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) colleagues should receive the same respect as RSC accomplishments with White colleagues. Devaluing or dismissing accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues as "humanitarian work" or "humanitarian service" is racist, and perpetuates racism and whiteness in higher education. This autoethnographic study investigates how the devaluing of RSC accomplishments with Black colleagues by the University of Colorado Denver influenced the publication record, merit scores, promotion, and career of an Applied Ecologist. A creative public service announcement study about avoiding the 2010 cholera epidemic in Haiti was devalued and retracted. This life-saving tool is relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but is unavailable in the literature because of the retraction. The creation of an 80,000 ha marine protected area (MPA) was also devalued as "humanitarian work" by CU Denver, but received much international praise. This MPA protects the resting ground of the Santa Maria, the shores where Christopher Columbus encountered Taino in 1492, Haiti's largest coral reef, mangroves, and other coastal environments. Decolonization efforts are ongoing where Columbian colonization began over five centuries ago. The devaluing of BIPOC research at the University of Colorado has been reported for over three decades and continues today. This practice has real impacts with retention, tenure, and promotion. Decolonizing higher education requires valuing the accomplishments of BIPOC scholars as much as White scholars.

Key words (4-6 key words): Academic Antiracism, BIPOC accomplishments, Decolonization, Neoliberal University, Racism in Higher Education

The title of the current paper is an obvious truth for the readership of CRAWS, but it needs to be stated nonetheless in the neoliberal culture of many USAmerican universities. Repeatedly stating that accomplishments of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) deserve the same respect as accomplishments of White people will hopefully establish this fact in the consciousness of academia. This manuscript is not written to simply state the obvious, but to offer a helpful peer-reviewed citation for scholars faced with having their scholarly work with BIPOC devalued. This goal is not an abstract concept, but is a real phenomenon that harms the careers of academics who work with BIPOC colleagues. An ultimate goal would be for all activities carried out by BIPOC scholars, teachers, scientists, leaders, artists, professionals, and stakeholders to be valued as much as they are for their White counterparts. I use the autoethnographic approach (Ellis et al. 2011) in the current paper to demonstrate that the University of Colorado will use extreme tactics to devalue research/scholarly/creative (RSC) activities as "service" at the detriment of faculty who work with BIPOC colleagues and/or stakeholders.

As an Applied Ecologist, I conduct the majority of my recent RSC work in Haiti because she has some of the most imperiled ecosystems in the world (Cronin 2015). The state of Haiti's ecosystems resulted from its history of colonization, including genocide of Indigenous Taino and centuries of chattel slavery of kidnapped Africans (Cronin 2018a). My initial trip to Haiti in 2010 was to provide relief to victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed 3% of the country's population and made 15% of the population homeless (Dubois 2012). I educated myself about the history of Haiti, soon realizing that I was working with descendants of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), one of the most significant decolonization efforts in history. It is obvious that the soul, spirit, and pride of the Haitian Revolution victors live in their descendants of today. Forming the world's first Black republic did not come without costs, including centuries of international retribution, neglect, exploitation, and meddling that resulted in some of the most degraded ecosystems in the world (Dubois 2012). This worthy and challenging location is where I decided to focus my RSC activities as an Applied Ecologist. I soon discovered that degraded ecosystems and colonization are inextricably linked (Cronin 2018a).

The University of Colorado Denver opposes and interferes with my work in Haiti. The only time CU Denver ever announced a travel ban for faculty, staff, and students who wanted to assist victims of a natural disaster was following the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Despite having a medical school, engineering school, and a program in Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response, CU Denver prevented 100's of experts from assisting Haitians in incredible need. I publicly criticized the ban to assist victims of the natural disaster. CU Denver soon lifted the ban after the criticism, and I planned my travel to Haiti. CU Denver has not announced a similar ban since.

CU Denver used multiple strategies to dissuade me from working in Haiti. Within months of starting my work there, the Department of Integrative Biology removed accomplishments in the "scholarship of application" from what would be rewarded during annual merit review. Given that Applied Ecology emphasizes the scholarship of application (Cronin and Briggle 2018), refusing to reward accomplishments in the scholarship of application put my merit evaluations in jeopardy. Every year since working in Haiti, my department has judged my RSC accomplishments as not meeting departmental merit requirements, even during years when I had peer-reviewed publications that met the new departmental merit criteria. On multiple occasions, CU Denver devalued my RSC accomplishments as "humanitarian work" or "humanitarian service".

"Service" is not valued as much as "Research/Scholarly/Creative Activities" in merit, tenure, and promotion decisions at CU and many "research universities". I repeatedly notified CU Denver of my strong opinion that RSC accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues should receive the same respect as RSC accomplishments with White colleagues. I often reminded CU Denver administrators that it is racist to devalue accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues as "humanitarian work" or "humanitarian service". CU Denver administrators strongly resisted my opinion. CU succeeded in some of their efforts to coerce me to bend to their opinion that his RSC activities should be rewarded as "service", as when I signed a "Performance Improvement Agreement" under duress by having salary withheld. Dean Pamela Jansma docked my pay by 11%, without due process, knowing that much of my scholarly work in Haiti is self-funded (i.e., Dean Jansma knew that she was taking money from Haitians). In other ways, CU Denver's coercive efforts failed. For example, departing from normal practice, CU Denver refused to pay for a conference to present "Racism is the major scourge of the environment in Haiti" (Cronin 2018a), knowing it was critical of racist decisions made by CU Denver administrators. I paid for the conference using funds that were allocated to Haiti, but felt this cost was more than offset by the benefits of revealing racism at a scholarly venue.

I was also placed on a 195 day forced administrative leave, had false rumors spread about me that are in university reports (e.g., that I refused to teach assigned courses and that I published in a predatory journal), was denied promotion to full professor based on an invalid policy, had another promotion dossier denied evaluation by administration, was threatened with additional disciplinary actions if I continued to oppose racism, and am currently facing dismissal. I am proud of my decisions and actions. If disciplinary action is called for, it should be directed towards CU Denver administration who make racist decision or retaliate against those who disrupt racism. CU Denver refuses to discuss to racism with me and asks me to stop using the such "rhetoric" as "racism".

A transdisciplinary creative activity that I coordinated was the creation of a music video public service announcement (PSA) about surviving the cholera outbreak inadvertently introduced into Haiti by the United Nations in 2010. I also presented this PSA at a scholarly conference and published an English translation of the lyric in the Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science (Cronin 2015). CU Denver did not reward this life-saving creative activity with Haitian colleagues as creative activity. Instead, Chair John Swallow and Assoc. Chair Diana Tomback, represented by University Counsel, wrote a libelous letter to the editors that resulted in Cronin 2015 being retracted (Cronin 2018b). Before receiving the libelous letter, the editors were impressed by my paper and asked me to publish an updated version in a book. I am of the opinion that scholarly and creative activities that save Black Lives should be encouraged. It is racist to discourage or retract life-saving work that benefits BIPOC. Unfortunately, life-saving information relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic was stripped from the literature. I feel this retraction cost lives by removing an important tool to educate the masses about a new disease. Experts agree that poor information and communication cost lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. I recently worked with Joewold Nerath in Haiti to create another music video PSA. You can view these PSAs on YouTube: (Cholera) and (COVID-19).

In 2013, I participated in a transdisciplinary ecological study led by Haitian biologist Jean Wiener. Our scientific report made many recommendations, including the creation of a marine protected area (MPA), to prevent ecological degradation near Caracol, Haiti. The Government of Haiti followed our advice, creating Three Bays Marine Park within months of publication. The Government of Haiti, who gave its first environmental prize to Mr. Wiener, recognized this research accomplishment. The international community also recognized the accomplishments of Mr. Wiener with a Whitley Gold Award and a Goldman Environmental Prize. I consider the creation of an 80,000 hectare MPA as the highlight of my career to date, yet CU Denver rewarded it as "humanitarian service", insulting the work of Mr. Wiener in the process.

I want to make clear that my opposition to rewarding RSC accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues as "humanitarian work" in no way means that I do not value humanitarianism. Quite the contrary: I know more humanitarian work should take place, and the success of applied scholarly projects usually depends more on the status of humanity than on the research (Cronin and Briggle 2018). Humanitarian work should be conducted more wisely, with the best interest of victims in mind, as opposed to the best interest of those providing the humanitarian service. Ideally, humanitarian service would result in decolonization. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Yon Sel Lanmou (YSL) provided humanitarian relief to victims. We provided 5-gallon buckets packed with about 2 weeks of basic supplies for a family of four. Merchandise such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, cups, soap, and processed food was purchase from local Haitian merchants, in an effort to support the economy. Raw foods such as rice, corn, beans, and sugar were purchased from Haitian farmers, to support the agricultural sector of society. The only "free" item included were water-purifying tablets that were donated by an NGO working in Haiti. I never requested RSC credit for this humanitarian work. I also want to honor and remember a colleague and friend, Matt Vecere. Matt too assisted Haitian victims of Hurricane Matthew in a wise, efficient manner, without carrying supplies in a truck. While YSL was assembling relief packages, Matt traveled to devastated areas by motorcycle, and personally handed out cash to victims, allowing them to decide which available items they needed most. Matt was traveling to the UN Environment Assembly on Ethiopian Airline flight 302 that crashed on March 10, 2019. He is missed by many and continues to inspire many.

The experiences described above are surreal, and I imagine that some readers will find the story hard to believe. With limited space, I offer a fraction of available evidence that CU Denver devalues RSC accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues as "humanitarian work" rewarded as service, despite being informed for years that such an opinion is racist. Following multiple objections to devaluing my work in Haiti, I received hollow praise for my RSC activities in Haiti: "However, as we have noted with his first review, the second review of new material, and now this third review of new material, we find that his humanitarian service to Haiti and Haitians is commendable." In a May 31, 2019 letter from Assoc. Dean Kathleen Bollard, the following statements were made about my post-tenure review (PTR):

1. "While there are several un-funded proposals submitted in this timeframe, indicating some activity, all are related to humanitarian work in Haiti and do not meet primary unit criteria for research." In fact, none of my proposals were to fund humanitarian work. They all focused on RSC activities. I am finishing a three-year grant in Haiti, but CU Denver does not reward this grant that supports RSC work with BIPOC colleagues. This significant grant was completely devalued during merit review and post-tenure review. CU Denver's main complaint seems to be that 100% of the funds went to Haiti, and CU did not receive any overhead.

2. "His FCQ ratings as an instructor are strong, with a 5.0 /6.0 average course rating and a 5.1/6.0 average instructor rating. Dr. Cronin developed on-line delivery for two courses to allow him to meet his teaching requirements while performing humanitarian work in Haiti." What state university would adjust faculty teaching schedules for "humanitarian work"? The truth is that my teaching schedule was adjusted to allow for RSC activities in Haiti, an accommodation that I appreciate and use to benefit my RSC work in Haiti. Such accommodation for international work is common for USAmerican universities, including CU Denver. For example, CU Denver offered similar accommodations for a modified teaching schedule for a colleague working in a predominantly White community for over a decade, without calling that work "humanitarian service".

Additionally, I co-taught a course with a Haitian presidential candidate and advised the thesis of the first Haitian to earn an MS in Marine Conservation in Haiti. These obvious teaching activities were also devalued as "service". My PTR teaching rating was "below expectations".

My immediate supervisor Chair John Swallow claimed "Your work is not devalued as 'humanitarian work' because you work in Haiti. Rather it has not met the evaluation criteria of scholarship because you have not met the criteria of publication and granting outlined in our merit documents - this is true of your work with both white and black colleagues". I asked Chair Swallow to "Name just one piece of my research/scholarly/creative accomplishments not conducted in Haiti that was called 'humanitarian work'" and "Name just one research/scholarly/creative accomplishment with white colleagues that was devalued as 'humanitarian work'". I believe that Chair Swallow fails to respond to this basic inquiry because CU has never devalued my RSC accomplishments outside of Haiti as "humanitarian work" and has never devalued my RSC accomplishments with White colleagues as "humanitarian work".

Devaluing my RSC accomplishments in Haiti as "humanitarian service" resulted in more visits with the Provost than most of his colleagues have. In an early meeting when I brought up concerns about racism at CU Denver, Provost Nairn asked if I could avoid such "rhetoric". After much contemplative reflection, in our following meeting, I informed Provost Nairn that I was not being rhetorical, but had serious concerns about racist decisions made by my Chair and Dean, and asked which word in the English language the Provost preferred be used to describe "white administrators in positions of power making decisions that harm people of color"? Provost Nairn had no answer. I used the words "racism" and "racist" to accurately describe situations where White people with power use that power in ways that harm BIPOC, and will continue to do so regardless of how many White administrators these words offend, or how many threats I receive. It is the most accurate word in the English language to describe the situations in this manuscript. I ended a June 21, 2019 email to Provost Nairn with "Devaluing research/scholarly/creative accomplishments with Black colleagues as "humanitarian work" is racist. Correct me if I am wrong." I have not been corrected to date (6/1/2020).

It is difficult to solve a problem if people refuse to talk about it. Racism is a major problem in most sectors of USAmerican society, and higher education is no exception. Racism will not magically vanish by ignoring it. Scholars must talk about racism, reveal racism and racists, and actively work towards racial justice. Revealing racism might result in threats like the following that I received from Dean Bollard on April 17, 2019: "We need to talk about the PowerPoint on racism in Haiti and at CU that you have apparently shown in some of your courses. [note: I did present my work during courses] I have consulted University Counsel, and this is not an issue of academic freedom. The PowerPoint will be added to your Extensive Review dossier, and, because of the allegations of racism against colleagues that it includes, reports are being prepared regarding potential violations of the Staff and Faculty Code of Conduct and the University’s Principles of Ethical Behavior." I met with Dean Bollard as she requested, and she made it clear that she does not like the word "racist". I asked Dean Bollard which word in the English language she prefers me to use that describes White administrators with power oppressing BIPOC. Even though she is a linguist, she had no answer. If anybody wants to disrupt racism, they should use the words "racism" and "racist" appropriately, regardless of what their supervisors insist upon [note: doing so could get you fired or harassed]. As of 6/1/2020, I have received no reports of violation, and status requests to administrators about the reports remain unanswered.

I firmly believe that the only thing needed to maintain the racist status quo in higher education is for good White people to be nonracist. To disrupt racism, White accomplices must speak out against race-based inequity, reveal racism where it exists, and actively disrupt racism. I am comfortable with my decisions to fight racism, even though it led to academic mobbing. As a result of not yielding to threats and academic mobbing, my anti-racism work continues. In July 2019, Taino spiritual and environmental Leaders came to Haiti with Yon Sel Lanmou for a Full Moon Ceremony. Offerings were made at Caracol Bay and La Navidad, areas now protected by Three Bays Marine Park. It was a powerful experience to be praying with Taino, in the spot where their ancestors encountered Columbus in 1492. In October 2019, YSL hosted the running of a Taino Peace and Dignity Staff through Haiti. The Taino Resurgence Movement is now active in Haiti because of partnerships we forged. This transdisciplinary scholarship is focused on antiracist decolonization, and is partially funded by a CU Denver PTR grant. It remains to be seen if CU will reward these decolonization efforts as the RSC activity it is, or devalue it as "humanitarian service" because my Taino and Haitian colleagues are BIPOC.

Administrators who disagree with my opinions have questioned the ethical standards of my writings as a way to discredit my publications. I vow that everything written in this manuscript is truthful, accurate, presented in the proper context, and supported by evidence. Much of the evidence is from university emails, which are considered public record in the State of Colorado. As a member of the CU community, I am expected to uphold Regental policy on academic freedom, including “The fullest exposure to conflicting opinions is the best insurance against error.” Fullest exposure includes naming the public employee who holds their opinions. Identifying a person by name avoids incorrectly attributing the quote to a different person with the same title, such as a former chair or dean. I find it ethical to openly and honestly discuss topics that contribute to (de)colonization. All sides should have the courage to discuss differences of opinion related to racial justice. There is no room for cowardice when dealing with important issues of decolonization. I am encouraged that CU's new president Mark Kennedy might be open to disrupting racism at CU. He wrote: "Dear Professor Cronin, Thank you for your recent email. I am deeply grateful that you’ve shared your concerns about racism and your active involvement in ending it. This is a significant problem not only at CU but across our nation, and any ideas on disrupting these biases and inequities is welcome." My encouragement was short-lived, as every follow-up email to discuss antiracism was ignored or not responded to. With administrative stonewalling, I am attempting to force the conversation in scholarly publications.

Although I have used the autoethnographic approach in this paper, I am not alone in revealing the devaluation of RSC accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues at the University of Colorado. Over three decades ago, Reyes and Halcón (1988) noted that several forms of racism existed at CU, including the devaluing of "brown-on-brown" research. "Our efforts, like those of other minority scholars, often meet with covert disapproval by our White colleagues... Quite often our research interests are dismissed as minor or self-serving." CU devalued the peer-reviewed research of Prof. Lupita Montoya as service when they denied tenure. Dr. Montoya was the first Latina engineer hired on the tenure track at CU. She conducted and published research on air quality with Native American and Asian American stakeholders. "Montoya’s complaint claims her fall 2016 tenure application was treated with bias, saying that the engineering college and former Dean Bobby Braun improperly followed process guidelines, undermined her qualifications and belittled her research [with Native Americans and Asian Americans] by calling it service. Montoya said her white or male colleagues would never have been treated that way." (Tann, 2020).

Finally, scholars who disagree with my opinion that "RSC accomplishments with BIPOC colleagues should receive the same respect as RSC accomplishments with White colleagues" should submit a reply rather than call for retraction. The former is the scholarly norm and encourages the exchange of ideas. The latter violates academic freedom, removes important information from the literature, and strikes me as cowardly.

Author Note

Dr. Greg Cronin is an Applied Ecologist at the University of Colorado Denver and the President/Founder of the non-profit Yon Sel Lanmou (which means "One Love" in Haitian Kreyol). His European and African ancestors arrived in the USA via different paths. He focuses his transdisciplinary research/scholarly/creative activities in Haiti, where he conducts decolonization work in solidarity with Haitians, Taino, and allies. He is the Vice President of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association.


Carolyn, E., Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (ISSN 1438-5627), Volume 12, No. 1, Art. 10

Cronin, G. (2015) Rewarding Transdisciplinary Scholarship in Higher Education. Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science, 6, 23-39. Available at: Retracted at the request of Drs. John Swallow and Diana Tomback

Cronin, G. (2018a). Racism is the major scourge of the environment in Haiti. International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment, Montreal,

Cronin, G. (2018b). University Administrators Cause Retraction of Their Faculty’s Original Work,

Cronin, G. and Briggle, A, (2018). Applied Ecology Explained, Bulletin of Pure and Applied Sciences – Zoology, 37: 75-84

de la Luz Reyes, M. & Halcón, J. J. (1988). Racism in Academia: The old wolf revisited, Harvard Educational Review 58: 299-314.

Dubois, L. (2012) Haiti: the aftershocks of history. Macmillan.

Tann, R. (2020). Latina ex-CU Boulder professor pursuing EEOC complaint over tenure denial: Terminated assistant professor claims review was unfair, discriminatory, The Daily Camera, Feb. 15, 2020.