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:
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.