Jocelyn Mitchell refutes ‘inaccuracies’ in local media; “no conspiracy here”

Update (Feb. 21)

The journalism department sent out the following statement to the NU-Q community on Thursday:

“We have been handed an opportunity to turn disadvantage into advantage, frustration into transformation. The racial issues raised by many in this community are real and best honored if we accept them as a call to pursue candid and crucial conversations, some of them uncomfortable, which we hope will ultimately lead to concrete changes.

“Foremost, we unequivocally condemn racism and any form of discrimination, overtly and covertly.

“We recognize the serious concerns of creeping neo-colonialism, racism, faculty and staff representation issues, and pressures to conform to a single outlook and single frame of reference—and we know there is work to be done.

We are committed to ushering in observable and considerable improvements to our university. And we are committed to inspiring our students to trust their competencies, intelligence, histories, and experiences in their storytelling and content production, unfettered of episodic or structural pressures to replicate imported outlooks and imaginations.”

 

Feb.18:

Sami Hermez, head of the liberal arts department at NU-Q confirmed his statement to Doha News, in which he said he “advised Mitchell to withdraw on Feb. 5 so as to minimize reputational damage. However, a withdrawal did not materialize.”

This statement was added after their story went up. However, this does not confirm Doha News’ claim that she “did not ‘voluntarily’ withdraw.”

Mitchell declined to comment on this.

The communication faculty at NU-Q also released a statement yesterday:

“As the communication faculty, we know words matter. They can hurt and heal. Today, we renew our commitment to healing and fostering an environment of diversity, inclusion, and respect. It starts with each of us. Together with our alumni, students, staff, leadership, and fellow faculty we must acknowledge, learn, and grow. This requires that we work to improve our listening, to enhance empathy, and to deepen mutual understanding. Universities should be trustworthy, enduring institutions committed to the healthy and inclusive development of their communities, both within the institution and in relation to the host society they serve. We are committed to being an essential participant in and contributor to the movement for racial and social equity.”

Joe Khalil, who sent out the statement on behalf of the department, declined to comment.

The Daily Q followed up with S. Venus Jin, the lead principal investigator, for comment and has not yet received a response.

 

Feb. 17

A local media outlet, Doha News, claimed that Mitchell “did not ‘voluntarily’ withdraw from the $700,000 grant.” However, in an email to the Daily Q, Mitchell confirmed the withdrawal date stated in the article as consistent, but that she left it out of her statement earlier after consulting Jin as the withdrawal had not been confirmed. Regardless of the outcome, she has withdrawn herself from the grant. 

Doha News’ article states: 

“The new information is in stark contradiction to an earlier statement sent by the Northwestern University-Qatar professor to Doha News on Tuesday, in which she said she would “not be taking part in the research moving forward” without revealing that the entire team had withdrawn.

“Sources told Doha News she had refused to remove herself from the research project, prompting the Lead Principal Investigator Professor Jin to withdraw herself and the entire team from the awarded QNRF grant.

“In an exclusive statement to Doha News, Professor Jin confirmed she had canceled the project almost a week before Mitchell’s public withdrawal and apology on Tuesday evening.

“As the lead principal investigator [LPI], I, with my team, decided to withdraw our grant proposal, as a group, on February 10th,” Jin told Doha News on Wednesday.”

Mitchell sent this statement in an email to the Daily Q:

“Dr. Jin made it clear to me last night that all official communication about the grant and possible withdrawal should come from her, as the LPI, at the appropriate time. I’m glad that she has now publicly stated that she has asked QNRF about withdrawing the grant in full. I hope that this story makes clear there is no conspiracy here. I am, honestly, sincere about my withdrawal and I said all I could say yesterday, taking into account the direct communication from the LPI. While the final decision on the grant as a whole rests with QNRF and the LPI, I again confirm here: I have formally asked to be withdrawn and I will not be a part of this research going forward.” 

Mitchell requested her statement be published in full.

She also shared the email sent to Doha News regarding this:

“I can confirm that I have asked to be withdrawn from the grant. Nothing is finalized yet as we are still waiting to hear from QNRF, and ultimately this decision must be made between QNRF and the LPI, Dr. Venus Jin. However, I will again state what I said below: I will not be a part of this research going forward.

“You are welcome to reach out to Dr. Jin, who is the LPI and thus the spokesperson of the grant as well as the communicator with QNRF, for further and official comment.

“So again, I confirm to you that the grant is not withdrawn yet. I have personally asked to be withdrawn from the grant. I will not be a part of this research going forward. But QNRF has to process this request, and the LPI is the one who is the communicator with QNRF in this instance, along with our Research Office. You are welcome to reach out to the LPI for further comment.”

The Daily Q reached out to Jin for comment but has not yet received a response.

The Daily Q has also reached out to Sami Hermez, the director of liberal arts at NU-Q, after Doha News updated their story to say he “advised Mitchell to withdraw on Feb. 5 so as to reduce reputational damage.”

Feb. 16: NU-Q prof apologizes, announces withdrawal from QNRF grant

On Jan. 27, Northwestern University in Qatar announced Professors S. Venus Jin and Jocelyn Mitchell were awarded a QNRF to study women entrepreneurship in Qatar. The announcement was met with outrage online because Mitchell posted a racially insensitive email about Arab women to a blog in 2008 that she deleted in 2015. 

However, Mitchell will no longer be a part of the research, she wrote in a statement sent to NU-Q faculty today. The statement is also meant to go out to students and staff. Meanwhile, the status of the grant itself is being left to discussions between Jin, the lead principal investigator of the project, and QNRF.

The statement sent out by Jocelyn Mitchell

Per the statement, she reiterated her apology for re-posting the email and for the “recurrent distress and pain that is felt whenever these terrible words and ideas are circulated” and that she and Northwestern have taken this “situation very seriously.”

She wrote that the words in the blog from 2008 do not reflect how she feels about the “diverse people who make up this tolerant and accepting country” and that she would not repost something of the sort today because of how much she has learned and grown in the last 13 years.

The Daily Q reached out to Mitchell for a comment but has not yet received a response. 

In an email to The Daily Q, Jin said she will withhold comments until a later date. 

Mitchell’s announcement comes after earlier today, eight faculty members from the liberal arts department at NU-Q issued a statement urging her to withdraw from the study. 

The statement sent out by the NU-Q Liberal Arts faculty

Per the email, the faculty deemed Mitchell’s remarks “abhorrent and unbecoming of a member of our community” and asked the university administration to distance themselves from Mitchell and make clear whether and, if so, what consequences she would face.

Citing the June 2020 statement of the African Student Association, the faculty letter urged the university administration to address students’ demands, especially with regard to dismantling white privilege and decentring eurocentric biases from the curricula and research programs.  

Torsten Menge, who sent out the email on behalf of the group, declined to comment at this time.

Soon after the faculty email, NU-Q Dean Marwan Kraidy issued a statement sent out to the NU-Q community: 

“I utterly condemn any racist behavior by anyone associated with our community, and pledge that our institution’s commitment to justice, equity, inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism is unwavering.

“We continue to work relentlessly to address these issues through our norms, procedures, and values. We understand that the institutional wheels of redress feel intolerably slow to those who suffer but want you to understand that we have been working day and night to make NU-Q not only a more inclusive and diverse environment but an actively anti-racist community.

 “As we continue our work together to shape a more equitable and more just community, I look forward to reaffirming—in our individual behaviors, in our mutual support of each other, through our norms, values, and practices, but most importantly in concrete actions—our shared commitment to making NU-Q an environment free of any form of discrimination and intolerant of any behavior that is harmful to our community.”

 

Managing Editor Nadege Bizimungu is Jocelyn Mitchell’s teaching assistant.

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