Boycott Williams English
We, the undersigned students of Williams College, pledge to an indefinite boycott of all English classes that do not take seriously the matter of race – that is, those classes which do not include more than a token discussion of race and more than a token number of writers of color. If I am registered for any such English classes, I will unregister as soon as possible. The following are my demands.
We are receiving an inadequate education from the English Department that not only hinders our learning but also enables the Department’s racist culture. We are undergoing this boycott to create the pressure necessary to force the Department, and the Administration, to take these issues seriously and to redress past and current harm with urgency. We will not end the boycott until each of the following demands are met:
1. We demand a faculty search for a senior level womxn of color from outside Williams College to chair the English Department.
It is unacceptable that Professor Kent still holds the position of English Department Chair after her actions and lack of personal accountability. During her tenure as Chair, she has constantly evaded questions of racist violence within the Department; publicly harassed a senior faculty person of color; and failed to hold herself or her Department accountable for its harmful actions. The English Department needs a Chair that will take seriously the need to dismantle its racist culture and redress its harms. We are calling for a faculty search for a senior level womxn of color to be hired into the Chair position. No such person is currently available for the Chair position at Williams College, and so this search should look for candidates outside of the College. This search should start by the beginning of the Fall 2019 academic semester.
2. We demand that the Department immediately run a search for four new faculty tenure-track hires– one in African American literature, one in Latinx literature, one in Native American literature, and one in Asian American literature.
We begin with this fact: there are no tenured faculty in English who were hired into an ethnic literature position. As such, the College’s coverage of ethnic literary studies is currently in a weak and tenuous position. This curricular deficiency has many harmful effects. For one, it places Williams College well behind its peer institutions and creates an incomplete and inadequate education in English for Williams students. But more importantly, it directly perpetuates racist hierarchies in the study of literature and in the lives of the students who study it. Because both of these consequences are largely harmful for the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of both faculty and students of color, it is crucial that the College take a firm stance on amending the English curriculum by not only hiring scholars of ethnic literature, but tenuring them as well.
3. We demand that there be an external investigation of the English Department.
An external investigation of the English Department is necessary to uncover its problematic history and provide recommendations for structural changes in the Department. This demand is not novel— the Art Department has been subject to a similar external review as a result of claims of racism within the department. A similar investigation into the English Department will also produce actionable recommendations to make the Department a safe and more equitable space for all students and faculty.
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