St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in solidarity with the Antiracism Statement from University Senior Leadership issued on June 6, 2020, is committed “to doing the work necessary to become an antiracist” College. In keeping with our mission, St. John’s College will provide a student-centered education in a socially diverse environment. We will develop in our students a critical consciousness and ethical perspective, preparing them for service and leadership roles in the local, national, and international spheres. Through research, students and faculty will exemplify the highest standards of scholarly inquiry and expression, contributing to the creation, acquisition, and dissemination of knowledge.
The Dean’s Goals for AY 20-21 lay the foundation for the development of initiatives around antiracism, equity, and inclusion in St. John’s College.
Goal 1: To provide the highest quality academic experiences that engage learners through curricula employing diverse technology and pedagogy employing high-impact practices to create inclusive learning environments
Goal 2: To produce the highest quality of innovative research, scholarship, and creative activity
Goal 3: To strengthen our commitment to becoming an antiracist College of Liberal Arts and Sciences through action
A new St. John’s College task force, associated with the College’s goal of furthering our commitment as an antiracist College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was created in October 2020. The task force was charged with developing two to three college-level action items associated with each of these three areas:
An open application was sent out to all St. John’s College faculty, staff, and administrators for volunteers to serve on the task force. To date, 45 members of the SJC community have signed up (36 faculty, six administrators, and three staff) and 15 SJC students have been nominated. The first task force meeting was held virtually on Thursday, October 15th during common hour.
This task force will work during the Fall 2020 semester to identify two or three College-level action items associated with each area (bulleted point) of the Dean's 2020-2021 academic year goal to strengthen our commitment to becoming an antiracist College of Liberal Arts and Sciences through action:
The task force will be divided into three sub-teams associated with each of the three areas of the goal (indicated as bulleted points above). At the kick-off meeting, the task force was given their charge, divided into sub-teams, and provided with some general resources. Our expectation is that this initiative will be faculty-led. Each sub-team will be asked to define how they wish to proceed, both in terms of process and structure.
By the start of the Spring 2021 semester, each sub-team will have identified 2-3 specific College-level actions associated with their area. At that point, we will convene as a larger task force to prioritize the action items, and then begin their implementation. The action items are to be targeted, narrowly focused, and manageable for implementation and completion during the Spring 2021 semester. Throughout the academic year, we will monitor our task force progress and assess the outcomes of our actions' continuous improvement. It is important that we limit the amount of time we study and plan, so as to remain action-oriented.
We will utilize resources available throughout the University, including from the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Inclusivity Resource Center, and the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion. We will also utilize prior work that has been done across the University and within our College departments and programs, both for the sake of efficiency and for consistency across all levels of the Institution.
The first meeting was held on Thursday, October 15th to give the task force their charge, provide institutional context, introduce the leadership of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, develop a sense of community, and begin the work of the sub-teams.
Here are selective examples of what the College has been doing to advance our antiracism, equity, and inclusion agenda:
As faculty in the English department at St. John’s:
1. We affirm that Black lives matter and that silence is not an option.
2. We recognize that many of us teach and write about English and U.S. cultures that have systematically devalued Black lives.
3. We recognize that the English and U. S. cultures embedded in our curricula have privileged whiteness as a starting point for understanding the world.
4. We believe that our teaching must analyze and expose anti-Blackness and other forms of racial oppression. We believe that our curricula need to reflect the realities of our students, our communities, and our world.
5. We commit to analyzing and combating racist practices as a department - culturally, socially, linguistically, academically, and professionally - in all hiring, teaching, writing, research, and work spaces for students, staff, and faculty in all programs on all campuses (as specified below in point #12).
6. We know that we need to better recruit, retain, and support Black and other historically underrepresented faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates. We commit to reviewing our departmental hiring, retention, and tenure and promotion practices for both historical and contemporary anti-Blackness, so that, in line with the antiracist training we receive, we may implement hiring, retention, and tenure and promotion practices (a) to increase the number of Black faculty, in particular, in addition to faculty from other marginalized communities, and other faculty of color; and (b) to support these faculty in concrete ways (e.g. research support, shared mentorship) to facilitate their flourishing as they move through tenure and promotion processes.
7. We will continue to address our approaches to pedagogy in order to resist/dismantle anti-Black and other racist actions, contexts, and literacies. Recognizing that Black Studies is a field of study that takes training, and that white and non-Black faculty should not simply “add” Black content, non-Black faculty commit to significant training in the long tradition of anti-racism and critical whiteness studies.
8. Assistant Chair will work closely with adjunct and graduate instructors of English 1100c (Literature in a Global Context) to identify and dismantle anti-Black teaching practices; develop and enhance racial literacies; and develop curriculum around anti-Blackness and Black empowerment.
9. Full-time faculty will review and rethink our undergraduate major and minor requirements on a yearly basis (at our annual faculty retreat) to ensure our curriculum enacts anti-racist and social justice objectives. Individual faculty will continually rethink and recommit to innovating their courses to pursue anti-racist and social justice goals - through conference attendance, self-education, small reading groups, collaboration, and discussion. When available, we will attend workshops sponsored by the SJU Office of Equity and Inclusion.
10. Together we will continue to review our departmental culture and community practices in order to reinforce safe and equitable learning and work spaces for undergraduates, graduate students, contingent faculty, staff, and administrators. We can strengthen our departmental commitments through active advising and check-ins for students, ongoing feedback (see point #12, below), and public events that foreground anti-racism, for example.
11. We are committed to supporting students, staff, administrators, and fellow faculty against racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression and injustice. For example, we will attend meetings of Black student-led organizations whenever requested; regularly check in with student organization leadership to see what support they envision; and participate in available student-led trainings in order to learn from student activists.
12. We commit to action including, but not limited to:
• reading/re-reading Carmen Kynard’s article “Teaching While Black,” which details the racist structures in the SJU writing programs, English Department, and across the university; and evaluating whether our department and other sectors of the university have implemented structural change, noting that eradicating these structures requires institutional reform and participation from the entire community.
• requesting anti-racist training from the Provost’s office and other relevant offices (for example, Whiteness at Work) in order to begin to come to terms with the ways we perpetuate, internalize, and externalize anti-Blackness.
• implementing an anonymous survey system by which Black, Indigenous, and People of Color students and alums can yearly evaluate their experience in the department; publishing these results; developing actionable items from them.
Resources via stjenglish.com:
Immediate action list: Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black LivesScaffolded Anti-Racist ResourcesAnti-Racism Resources for White PeopleHelms’ White Identity Development
Curriculum resources for sources on anti-Blackness and Black empowerment in English 1100c (Literature in a Global Context) and other courses:
1. Global Black Lives Matter reading list
2. Citizen reading list
Other resources:HCommons Anti-Racist Resources for 2020-2021LA Review of Books Racial Equity Reading ListResources on Anti-Blackness in the Asian American CommunityP. Gabrielle Foreman, et al. Community-sourced document, “Writing about Slavery/Teaching about Slavery”Whiteness at Work June 2020 webinar video
Originally circulated July 6, 2020.
Times of crisis offer opportunities to create change. The global pandemic has brought to the fore pre-existing social inequalities along economic, racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, age, abilities and other intersecting lines. The pandemic exposed the crude mechanisms by which American-style capitalism intersecting with structural racism and sexism systematically exploits the poorest and deems marginalized communities disposable while also revealing the persistence of gender violence. Sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists and humanists have pointed to these critical issues for decades, if not centuries. At this moment we renew our responsibility to take action and push harder for the social changes we believe are critical to a free society.
The present manifestation of unsustainable inequalities has mobilized people across the world. A broader coalition of people are voicing their demands to reform unequal systems and organizing collectively to push for action at the governmental level. In the United States, the disproportionate negative effect of the pandemic on African American and other communities of color combined with the killing of George Floyd by police brought people to the streets to say No More, joining the #BlackLivesMatter and allied movements like #SayHerName, #TransBlackLivesMatter, Color of Change and Black Alliance for Just Immigration. These groups have strengthened their many years of Anti-Racist activism denouncing injustice and police brutality against Black and Brown lives after the murders of people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and unfortunately, many, many others(Know Their Names).
As faculty of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology we recognize how our own students and their families have been affected by this multifaceted crisis, and we have actively worked to assist them in navigating their situations. We are still carefully listening and ready to help, as we know this crisis and its effects are ongoing. Also, we know that many are actively involved in collective efforts to create social change for racial equality and justice. We support these efforts, and in this spirit, we have created the following statement and plan of action to address current issues and help in dismantling intersecting global oppressions.
We believe that:
As faculty, we understand that the educational system, academia, teaching and research are part and parcel of the very systems of inequality we are trying to dismantle. Therefore, we commit to reflect upon the dynamics and policies that perpetuate inequality within our own work environment and revise our curriculum, syllabi, pedagogies and research to decolonize their content. For this, we plan to hold a series of workshops to think through these issues and renew our academic labor to ensure that we are not recreating inequalities and injustices.
In the upcoming academic year, we are planning a series of events to collectively analyze current affairs. These events will include workshops and lectures on topics that will also be jointly decided with students and alumni. Surveys will be distributed to gather interests and plan accordingly. We also will develop a website that will include this statement and its updated versions as well as personal contributions by professors, students and alumni; a blog section where students, alumni and faculty will be able to participate and communicate; and a resource page where we will continue to add important materials and sources. Moreover, with students and alumni, we intend to develop a Wikipedia page as well as other group projects that will emerge from faculty/students/alumni interactions.
Our position statement and action plan are living documents. We will revise these as time passes and events develop. We welcome feedback and input always and hope that the website will reflect these dynamic and collective processes in an inclusive and democratic manner.
Please note: The original document included informational links and resources on Covid-19, George Floyd's protests, and racism.
February 18, 2021
Six months have passed since we created and circulated our Position Statement and Action Plan. As promised, we have been involved in a series of activities to move forward with our action plan. So far, we held faculty meetings and participated in university and other academic, professional and community institutions’ initiatives to discuss the dynamics and policies that perpetuate inequality within and beyond our own work environment, and revise our curriculum, syllabi, pedagogies and research to decolonize their content.
Moreover, we created a series of events to expand on our traditionally held Symposia, devoted to Dismantling Inequalities in Times of Crisis. The first event, on October 15ht, 2020, was a virtual workshop to discuss Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” book, where students and faculty met, watched his TedTalk and reflected on the ideas proposed. The second event, open to the public, on November 12th, 2020, was a virtual Guest Lecture by Dr. Andrea Boyles entitled “Race and Revolution: Understanding 21st Century Black Resistance in an Antebellum Climate,” where she presented new ideas based on her two books You Can’t Stop the Revolution! Community Disorder an Social Ties in Post-Ferguson America, and Race, Place, and Suburban Policing: Too Close for Comfort. The third event, to be held on March 4th, 2021, will focus on “Youth Antiracist Activism” with a panel formed by two alumnae and a current student from our Department: Chriss Sneed, Center for Urban and Racial Equity, Managing Director; Glynis Johns, Black Scranton Project, Director; and Claire Robinson, #BlackLivesMatter Activist and Community Movement Worker. A fourth event is being planned to look into Covid-19 & Inequalities towards the end of the semester.
Last, we have been working on the development of a departmental website specifically devoted to “Crises, Inequalities and Social Change,” which includes our Position Statement and Action Plan, Resources, and Events. More importantly, the site will offer our Department’s Student EZine, which will showcase exemplary student work related to these issues, as well as a blog where faculty and students will exchange ideas and promote action.
We recognize that there is still much to do, but we are enthusiastic with the positive reception that our events and curricular initiatives generated, as well as the forthcoming launching of our website, e-zine and blog. As we mentioned in our position statement, we welcome your input and participation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
The Faculty of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology
In the upcoming academic year, we are planning a series of events to collectively analyze current affairs. These events will include workshops and lectures on topics that will also be jointly decided with students and alumni. Surveys will be distributed to gather interests and plan accordingly. We also will develop a website that will include this statement and its updated versions as well as personal contributions by professors, students and alumni; a blog section
where students, alumni and faculty will be able to participate and communicate; and a resource page where we will continue to add important materials and sources. Moreover, with students and alumni, we intend to develop a Wikipedia page as well as other group projects that will emerge from faculty/students/alumni interactions.