Should diversity be forced? The folks at the Art Institue of Chicago seem to think so as the establishment just let go 122 volunteers, based mostly on the color of their skin. The people hit the hardest were middle-aged white women who donated their time to the school.
“A weaselly letter was sent out Sept. 3 by Veronica Stein, the Woman’s Board executive director of learning and engagement at the Art Institute of Chicago. The recipients were the museum’s 150 or so volunteer docents, a beloved mainstay of the venerable cultural institution for decades and the main providers of fine, learned tours to Chicagoans, tourists, students from Chicago Public Schools and myriad other visitors to our great museum.
Once you cut through the blather, the letter basically said the museum had looked critically at its corps of docents, a group dominated by mostly (but not entirely) white, retired women with some time to spare, and found them wanting as a demographic.
No matter that the docents had typically trained for years, if not decades, on how to describe the Art Institute’s collection, or worked hard on adjusting to the trendy new ways (”Art and Activism”) of describing the work to be found there, or put in hour after hour in academic study of their fields.
Thus the museum had decided to can the whole lot of them, replacing the group with a small number of paid educators working longer hours.”
“Frankly, the museum would certainly have had a tough lawsuit on its hands for age and race discrimination (there were laws against that, last time we checked) were it not for one thing: Everyone being nixed was a volunteer. And, as at least one docent found out after contacting the AARP, volunteers are not covered by federal employment laws. We’ll wager museum lawyers had pointed that out.”
It’s a shame and just blatantly wrong to judge a person by the color of their skin. Unfortunately for these volunteers, there will likely be no real recourse for the institute’s obvious descrimination and they certainly won’t get any of their time back.