History Department Commitment to Anti-Racist and Inclusive Teaching and Practice
On June 3, 2020, the History Department made the following statement in support of ongoing protests against police brutality and racism in the United States and abroad:
The History Department at Loyola University Maryland joins our community in mourning the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, only the most recent to have fallen victim to police brutality and racist violence. As historians, we recognize the role of the past in shaping these crimes and we acknowledge that the only way to truly understand the history of the United States – among many countries – is to recognize the role of systemic racism in shaping its society, politics, and culture. The rage of the protestors and the violence of the police are both wrapped up in the legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism that have so shaped our contemporary situation.
We affirm the recent message of Father Linnane, President of Loyola University Maryland, and commit to acting in solidarity against structures of racism and white supremacy on campus, in our community, state, nation, and world. We affirm that the only way to do so is to understand the past as it was, not as we wish it to have been. We affirm, finally, that Black Lives Matter.
Since the publication of this statement, students and alumni of color have shared their experiences of enduring racism throughout their experience at Loyola. These testimonies shock the conscience and invoke the ways that Loyola continues with much of the country to perpetuate white supremacy and racism. No one group or individual is responsible for Loyola’s culture and the testimonies invoke instances of racism coming from faculty, staff, administration, and other students. As faculty, we recognize our unique role as stewards of student learning, and we commit to remaking our curriculum and classroom in order to build an anti-racist culture at Loyola. While we recognize that doing so will take time, we also understand that words mean little without concrete action.
The injustices and challenges that our students of color face are sometimes specific to living in a white supremacist society, while at other times they intersect with other forms of oppression, such as sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia. Indeed, the study of history itself shows how enmeshed these varied structures and experiences are with one another. Following the movement for black trans lives – as just one example – we are committed to practices of inclusion and equity that recognize both the particularities of racism, as well as the ways it intersects with other systemic forces. The history department has therefore collaborated on the following commitments to Loyola, to our Department, and to our individual classrooms in the service of a more equitable and just community.
Commitments to Loyola
We recognize that as faculty we have a role to play in ensuring that Loyola University enact institutional policies and practices that will ensure the development of an anti-racist culture. As a department, therefore, we commit to using our voices, both formally and informally, to demand institutional change throughout the university.
We therefore make the following commitments to Loyola:
- Advocate for curricular changes in programs that we participate in as faculty, such as Global Studies, Messina, Honors, and interdisciplinary programs in ways that reflect anti-racist learning.
- Demand that Loyola increase its diversity requirement by, at minimum, requiring two diversity courses.
- Encourage effective and ongoing anti-racist and bias training for all students and faculty.
- Support inclusion of anti-racism as part of the student honor code and reform of the bias reporting system along the lines suggested by alumni and faculty of color who have experienced its current deficiencies.
- Organize a series of talks on the histories of marginalized groups by Loyola faculty and guest speakers. These talks will take place at least once each semester, to coincide with other national and campus activities (such as Black History Month and SAGDAW).
- Encourage engagement between our faculty and students and the Baltimore community.
- To continue to advocate for permission to hire a tenure-track Assistant Professor in African American history, which is our highest hiring priority.
Commitments to our Department
We recognize the importance of ensuring that our courses fully address the history of the inequities that continue to shape our lives. We commit to treating the history of marginalized peoples throughout our curriculum, not as an addition to standard narratives, but as central to historical understanding and comprehension. As a department, we have the responsibility to ensure that we engage in anti-racist teaching and mentorship.
We make the following commitments for our department:
- Continue to regularly offer courses at all levels that fulfill the university’s diversity requirement, while also offering a wide variety of other courses that also address race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability.
- As part of our on-going discussions regarding curricular reform, we will revise our departmental learning aims to ensure that they “address elements of Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action,” as referred to by the ALANA Faculty. Individual instructors will be asked to include an explanation as to how their course supports this learning aim in their syllabi.
- Require departmental members to include actions in support of greater equity and inclusion as part of their annual assessments and promotion. We encourage faculty to contextualize their effort in their narratives in promotion dossiers, as well as provide annotated syllabi to evidence of fulfilling this goal in annual evaluations.
- Reject efforts to sanitize historical narratives and ensure that we teach the full truth of our topics by acknowledging the role of racism and white supremacy, as well as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and ableism, in shaping local, national, and global history. We will ensure students receive a full history that contextualizes and acknowledges the ways in which historical figures, processes, and events perpetuated – and resisted – these forms of oppression. We will integrate the history of people of color and other marginalized groups throughout our courses and not rely on diversity courses to do the work for us.
- Include diverse voices in our syllabi by committing to assigning readings by or about people of color, as well as women, LGBTQI+ individuals, religious minorities, immigrants, the disabled, and other marginalized groups. Departmental guidelines will ask faculty to work toward assigning about 50% of readings on all syllabi are by or about members of these groups, half of which should be by or about people of color. Assessment of this goal will be based on an annotated syllabus during annual assessment, which should document progress toward this goal. We acknowledge that transforming course content will take time and must take into account the particularities of field and topic of the course. We encourage faculty within the department to make significant progress toward this goal by Fall 2022.
- Practice equitable advising by ensuring that students are supported in pursuing whatever field they choose. In particular, while we hope to increase the numbers of students of color majoring in history, we also recognize the particular challenges that have faced marginalized groups in pursuing STEM.
- Support calls to establish new interdisciplinary programs that focus on the experiences of marginalized groups, and to restore and/or increase funding to existing programs.
Commitments to our Individual Classrooms
We recognize that while the classroom should be a space where oppressive social structures are challenged, they often become spaces where they are reinforced. We affirm our commitment to creating equitable classrooms where students can discern the ways that white supremacy and other forms of oppression shape the modern world and, in doing so, to combat those structures. We acknowledge the ways that both students and faculty bring forms of implicit bias into the classroom and we recognize the particular burdens that are often placed on students of color in a predominantly white institution.
We therefore make the following commitments for our individual classrooms:
- To train ourselves in inclusive and anti-racist pedagogies and classroom practices in order to ensure that we create spaces that enable all our students to thrive. We commit to participating in at least one training per year, either individually or as a department, whether offered by Loyola or through another venue.
- We will not tokenize our students of color by asking that they use their experience of racism to teach white students. The individual experience of a single student cannot speak for that of an entire group, nor is it a replacement for actual historical instruction in the themes of racism and white supremacy.
- We will encourage our white students to face their own participation in a white supremacist culture by encouraging critical reflection on the history of race and racism. At the same time, we recognize that an anti-racist pedagogy is not just about enlightening white people, but also providing opportunities for students of color to also engage with their own relationship to histories of race and racism.
- Similarly, we recognize the intersectional nature of all identities and will not require any student to speak in the name of entire communities, nor will we ignore the ways that we and our students participate in sexist, homophobic, ableist, ageist, antisemitic, and Islamophobic systems as well.
- Acknowledging that even the best intentioned of instructors can be affected by implicit bias, we strongly encourage the use of rubrics in grading. While rubrics may take a variety of forms, they have been shown to increase equity in the classroom.
- We will critically reflect on feedback from students and not take personal offense when a student points out that we made a mistake. We encourage students to speak to their professors about their classroom and to the degree they are fulfilling these commitments.
These commitments will be monitored and evaluated by a new departmental equity and inclusion committee. One member of this committee will also serve on our assessment committee to ensure that equity and inclusion goals are being followed in our classes. In addition, we encourage students to hold us accountable and to call us out when we fail to uphold the standards we have set forth as scholars and as teachers.