The persistence of racialized violence and discrimination in our society, the endurance of white supremacist ideologies, and our Jesuit commitment to serving an urban, majority-Black city with a history of racial injustice compel us as educators and academics to take action.
We also recognize the role faculty play in creating inclusive spaces at the university and in actively challenging any form of white supremacy.
As faculty of the English Department, we affirm that:
- Racism is based in white supremacy.
- Literature and literary canons have been used to validate white supremacy.
- All spaces at the university, including our classrooms, should be inclusive and welcoming to all BIPOC students, staff, and faculty.
- Systemic inequity exists, and confronting racism requires that we actively facilitate conversations about it in the classroom.
As steps toward justice, we will strive to:
- Acknowledge the centrality of whiteness in the history and evolution of literary canons. We will engage with critiques of that history and include more authors of color in our curriculum. We commit to reevaluating all of our classes and making anti-racist teaching central in each one.
- Reflect on what it means to be called an “English Department,” given the discipline’s roots in imperialism and Eurocentrism. The idea of an “English Department” does not accurately reflect the range of literary production across peoples and cultures currently taught in our courses; we will consider renaming it.
- Reinstate a tenure-track faculty position in African American literature. This is our top hiring priority. As a department of a university in a majority-Black city, it is urgent that we restore and fill this position.
- Avoid centering the experiences of white students in our teaching by interrogating the presumed invisibility of whiteness in the classroom and the concept of the “universal reader” as always being white and male.
- Engage in difficult conversations. Our commitment entails confronting head-on the issues of race and racism in the classroom rather than avoiding them. This may create moments which are uncomfortable for students or faculty, but discomfort is often essential to learning. We commit to regular discussions about anti-racist teaching and approaches to literary texts.
- Continue educating ourselves about anti-racism and engaging as a department in discernment. Having begun regular reflections during the 2020-21 academic year, we resolve to make such training a sustained commitment in coming years. In addition to continuing these departmental conversations, we will also take advantage of opportunities for professional development, committing 10% of our research budget for the next 3 years to support these endeavors, and seeking additional funding as needed.
- Include students and alumni in our anti-racism efforts. Loyola’s students have been some of our most important guides in our work thus far. While it is not the responsibility of students to teach faculty, and it is certainly not the responsibility of BIPOC students to teach white faculty about racism, we invite the active participation of current and former students in our efforts and hope that they hold us accountable to our commitments. We resolve to receive feedback with humility and respect.
We have made a lifelong commitment to literature and believe that it is central to a liberal education. Our discipline is one that continues to evolve, and we embrace the opportunity to be part of positive change. In that spirit, we commit ourselves to open dialogue and to engaging and interrogating the status quo. We hope that our efforts will contribute to the larger social movement toward equity and solidarity, resulting in the increased empowerment of all. We will renew this commitment as we strive to be an anti-racist department.