A Letter to President Maud Mandel: Crisis at Williams?
1 June 2019

President Maud S. Mandel
Williams College
880 Main Street Hopkins Hall 3rd floor, P.O. Box 687 Williamstown, MA 01267 USA

Dear President Mandel,

We write as colleagues and advocates of Professor Dorothy Wang, in response to her encounter with Professor Katie Kent, Chair of the English Department, on April 17. We are deeply troubled by that incident, and by the administration’s response to it, especially given that an increasingly public eye has now turned to the climate of adversity at Williams College for faculty of color (FoC) and the students they mentor, particularly students of color.

As reported in a May 8 article in The Williams Record, Professor Wang asked Professor Kent whether that day’s English Department meeting would address the open letter to English faculty and students, wherein Assistant Professor Kimberly Love announced the reasons she would not be returning this Spring (bit.ly/2EdcLlT). Professor Kent’s agitated response escalated into an accusatory tirade that resorted to language disparaging of a highly respected colleague in the field; this is behavior unbecoming of faculty in an administrative position representing your institution, and serving as the assumed diversity advocate within the department. As one of the students who witnessed the incident told The Record, Professor Kent only lowered her voice when she became aware that two students had witnessed her outburst.

Professor Wang is an award winning and pioneering scholar whose contributions have transformed the fields of English literary studies, poetry studies, ethnic studies, and American Studies, among others. Her book Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2014) has singlehandedly redirected the scholarly conversation, and her ongoing, innovative, and active research agenda has been acclaimed by such prestigious associations as the American Council of Learned Societies and the Poetry Foundation. Those of us who have been visiting scholars at Williams have seen first-hand how devoted Dorothy Wang is as a teacher and member of the College community.

We find it difficult to explain how it is possible that such a respectful and respected colleague has been so badly treated by the Williams community. We wonder whether it has become acceptable for fellow faculty to dismiss Professor Wang and to diminish her vital, influential scholarship and advocacy that works to make visible the social structures and cultural effects of racism and sexism. We take note, insomuch as various campus accounts have caught the national attention this year (bit.ly/2Ee0IVd, bit.ly/2VvmFF4). We worry that Professor Kent’s behavior is not an isolated incident but part of a larger pattern of hostility and defensiveness toward individuals who try to initiate conversations about the difficulty—and in some cases, impossibility—of remaining and thriving as a faculty member of color at Williams College.

Our unease gives way to further questions. As stakeholders committed to equity within institutions of higher learning we have serious concerns about a May 10 electronic communication you sent as President of the College to all Williams faculty. In response to student activism and advocacy around issues of the College’s workplace environment, your message acknowledges that many faculty and staff of color do not “feel supported and able to work, and to live all aspects of their identities without hostility or limitations” at Williams, and you profess a commitment to rectifying this. However, a much greater portion of that same message is devoted to the anxiety that a “hostile environment” might be created by students planning a peaceful action on campus whose aim was to “express overwhelming love, support, and gratitude” for FoC mentors (“Love and Accountability: Occupy Hollander for FoC”). While no one should be subject to a hostile work environment, we are troubled by the suggestion that you seem more immediately concerned with protecting against the risk of potential hostility than redressing the concrete hostile environment that Professor Wang and others are presently experiencing—and have been enduring, sometimes for years.

Recent coverage in The Record reinforces our sense that the College has been unwilling to take meaningful action to redress a campus culture in which FoC and students are unsupported and subject to hostility. As the article “Resurfaced 2009 report sheds light on struggles of minority faculty, staff” from February 13th makes clear (bit.ly/2LNrSbW), events of this year—Professor Kent’s verbal assault on Professor Wang (which two Williams students witnessed and described in a separate statement in The Record), the statements of Professor Love and Professor Kai Green, the comments of other faculty quoted in the related The Record articles, etc.—are only the most recent instances of problems that FoC have been formally reporting to the administration for at least a decade.

We do wonder whether you have reached out personally to Professor Wang to begin a conversation as to how she and others might feel better supported, as per your pledge, and “able to work, and to live all aspects of [one’s] identities without hostility or limitations.” We wonder whether you discussed with Professor Wang your intention to make allusion to “a matter between two colleagues in an all-faculty email.” We wonder whether you provided her with an account of the rationale that led to your position regarding what you describe as an “interaction…in a hallway three weeks ago.” We do wonder, insomuch as to characterize in the neutral language of “interaction” what evidence suggests was rather a verbal assault is not to stand by students, faculty, and staff of color—who feel unsupported at best and denigrated at worst—but to side precisely with “the structures and practices that have allowed inequity to take hold and persist.” We wonder whether such panic was merited in advance of the May 10 student action, as reflected in your letter about the Williams College “code of conduct,” or whether such language served the effect of distracting from the structural causes that have prompted us to write you today.

More generally, and in the spirit of moving forward, we wonder whether and how Williams College will find pathways toward the creation of a campus culture that honors human diversity and the ongoing practice of inclusion and mutual respect, while upholding AAUP guidelines in the reporting of grievances. Toward this end, we urge Williams to take seriously and act upon the findings in the 2009 Faculty and Staff Initiative report, with the active participation and guidance of the FoC who are being affected by the adverse structural and systemic conditions and hostile environment on campus. Is it not incumbent upon Williams, ranked in surveys as the leading liberal arts college in the United States, to do so? Most immediately, such a commitment within the English department would seek to successfully hire, tenure, and retain faculty of color whose work critically engages African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latinx civil rights and ethics as reflected in literary culture and the humanities writ large.

As the new president of Williams College, you have the opportunity to serve as a model of visionary leadership. We look forward to that vision and to specific action items we hope will inspire the greater Williams College community to remedy its current public image with regard to students, faculty, and staff of color.

Sincerely yours,

John Keene
Chair, Department of African American and African Studies
Professor of English and African American and African Studies
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, 2018-2023
Rutgers University-Newark

Roberto Tejada
Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor
University of Houston, English, Creative Writing, Art History
Clark-Oakley Fellow, Williams College, 2013-2014

Sadia Abbas, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University- Newark

Henry Abelove, Professor of English Emeritus, Wesleyan U.

Isy Abraham-Raveson, Williams College - Class of 2015

Vidhu Aggarwal, Professor of English, Rollins College

Alexander Alberro, Virginia Wright Professor of Art History, Barnard College

Ammiel Alcalay, Professor of Hebrew, Queens College, CUNY; The Graduate Center, CUNY

Courtney Alexander , Class of ‘13

Esther Allen, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages, Baruch College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Carol Almonte, Williams College Class of 2019

Ally Alvarez, Williams College, Class of 2020

Lauren Araiza ‘97, Associate Professor and Chair of History, Denison University

Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Parmalier Arrington , Williams College Class of 2015

Hilarie Ashton, CUNY Grad Center; Williams '05

Josselyn Atahualpa, Queens Neighborhoods United

Lilianne Au,

Timothy August, Stony Brook University

Sumaya Awad, Class of 2016

Crystal Baik, Gender & Sexuality Studies, UC Riverside; Class of 2002, Williams College

Nerissa Balce, SUNY Stony Brook

Shane Beard, Williams College Class of 2020

Nichole Beiner Powell-Newman , Class of 2009

Kevin Bell, Associate Professor of English, the Pennsylvania State University

Susan Bernofsky, Associate Professor of Writing and Director, Literary Translation at Columbia, Columbia University

Alisa Besher, Center for the Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center

Joel Bettridge, Associate Professor of English, Portland State University

Nilanjana Bhattacharjya , Arizona State University

Marina Bilbija, Assistant Professor of English, Wesleyan University; Visiting Assitant Professor of English, Williams, 2016-2017

Anna Black, ‘19

Isaiah Blake, Williams College Class of 2021

Robert Bland, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee; Williams Class of 2007

Rich Blint, Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, Director, Undergraduate Minor in Race and Ethnicity, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School

Julia Bloch, Director, Creative Writing Program, University of Pennsylvania

Emily Bloomenthal, Williams '05

Caitlin Bowler, Williams '02

Rizvana Bradley, Assistant Professor, History of Art and African-American Studies, Yale University; Williams College Class of 2004

Mary Pat Brady, Associate Professor, Department of English, Cornell University

Susan Briante, Professor, Creative Writing, University of Arizona

Hannah Julian Brown, Williams Class of 2016

Shayde Brown, Williams College, Class of 2020

Marin Burnett , Williams College Class of 2003

Marisa Cabrera, Williams College, Class of 2007

Oscar Calzada, Williams College, Class of 2012

Roosbelinda Cardenas, Hampshire College

Teresa Carmody, Director, MFA of the Americas, Stetson University

Spencer Carrillo, Williams College, Class of 2020

Christine Case, Alum Class of 15, Current PhD Student University of Pittsburgh (English, WGSS, Childhood Studies)

Imogen Cassels, PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge

Stephanie Cedillo, Williams College '18

Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, Adjunct Faculty, Arrupe Scholars Program

Christopher Chen, Assistant Professor, Literature Department, University of California, Santa Cruz

Erin Chen, Class of ‘06

Ken Chen, Asian American Writers' Workshop

William Chen, Williams College Class of 2019

Marilyn Chin, Professor Emerita, Department of English and Comparative Literature, San Diego State University; Chancellor, Academy of American Poets

Kar Yern Chin, Williams ‘18

Don Mee Choi, Winner of the 2011 Whiting Award, 2012 Lucien Stryk Translation Prize, 2016 Lannan Literary Fellow ship, 2019 DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Fellowship

Juli Choi, Williams College, Class of 2020

Sylvia Chong, Associate Professor, English and American Studies, University of Virginia

Merlin Chowkwanyun, Donald H. Gemson Assistant Professor, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University

Alicia Christoff, Assistant Professor of English, Amherst College

Ariel Chu , Williams Class of 2017

Dylan Clairmont, Swarthmore College

Mary Coffey, Associate Professor of Art History, Dartmouth College

Drew Cohen, Williams College ‘20

Nicole Cooley, MFA Director, Queens College CUNY

Eli Cytrynbaum, Williams College, Class of 2020

Kim Dacres, Class of 2008, CC Co-President, Co-Founder of Claiming Williams/Stand With US, Junior Advisor

Rosalyn Davis, Clinical Assistant Professor Indiana University Kokomo

Karina Davis, Class of 2005

Nick Dehn, Williams College Class of 2018

Samuel Delany, Professor Emeritis, English and Creative Writing, Temple University; two-time Hugo Award winner

Kevin Delucio, Assistant Professor of Multicultural Psychology & Mental Health, Western Washington University; Williams College c/o 2010

Nneka Dennie, Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow, Davidson College; Williams College Class of 2013

Alera Dermody,

Lauren Drago, Class of 2012

Astrid DuBois, English Major, Class of ‘20

Erica R. Edwards, Associate Professor of English and Presidential Term Chair in African American Literature, Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Former Williams College faculty member

Teiheim Edwards,

David L. Eng, Richard L. Fisher Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Jesús Estrada, Williams College ‘20.5

Denise Ferreira da Silva, University of British Columbia

Lisa Finder, Librarian, Hunter College, CUNY

Claudia Forrester, Williams College Class of 2018

Tonya Foster, Assistant Professor, Writing and Literature Program, California College of the Arts

Emily Frazier-Rath, University of Colorado Boulder

Harris Friedberg, Associate Professor of English, Wesleyan University

Nancy Fu, Brown University '18

Jennyfer Galvez-Reyes , Williams College '18

Mariana Garcia, Williams College, Class of 2018

Carmen Giménez Smith , Professor, Department of English, Virginia Tech

Teresa Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts - Lowell

Olivia Goodheart, Williams College Class of 18.5

David Gramling, Associate Professor, University of Arizona Department of German Studies

Elena Gutierrez, Assoc. Prof., Gender and Women's Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago

Arcelia Gutierrez, University of Michigan

Linda Gutierrez , Class of 2006

Jacques Guyot, MPhil Candidate at the University of Cambridge, Williams Class of 2017

Kim F. Hall, Barnard College/Columbia University

Joo Han, Class of 2002

Maya Harakawa, Class of 2012, PhD Candidate in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center

Ayami Hatanaka, Williams College, Class of 2018

Stefania Heim, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of English, Western Washington University

Cole Heinowitz, Associate Professor of Literature, Bard College

Wendy Hernandez, Williams ‘20

Ellie Hisama, Professor of Music, Columbia University

Mai-Linh Hong, Assistant Professor of English, Bucknell University

Christine Hong, Associate Professor, Literature and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Matt Hooley , Assistant Professor, Department of English, Clemson University

Walt Hunter, Assistant Professor of World Literature, Clemson University

Harry Hvdson, Doctoral Student in Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California

Kristina Hwang, alumni

Michael Ingham , Professor, Department of English Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

Mayumo Inoue, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Language and Society, Hitotsubashi University (Tokyo)

Christopher Janson, Williams College Class of 2016

Melissa Johnson, Southwestern University, also Williams 1984 alumna

Mat Johnson, University of Oregon

R. A. Judy, Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh

Bhanu Kapil, Core Associate Professor, Naropa University

Jamie Kasulis, Williams College ‘20

Elissa Klein, Class of 2006, current educator

Eliza Klein, Williams College Class of ‘19

Ruth Ellen Kocher, Professor, Department of English, University of Colorado – Boulder; NEA Fellow

audrey koh, williams college, class of 2021

Marci Kwon, Assistant Professor, Stanford University, Art & Art History

Wai Wilson Lam, Williams College Class of 2021

Gary Lapon, Williams College, Class of 2005

James Lee, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine

Wendy Lee, Assistant Professor of English, Skidmore College

Yumi Lee, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Villanova University

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Lecturer, creative writing, Writer in Residence

Young Fenimore Lee, Stanford University

Amber Lee, Williams College

Lester Lee, Williams '19

Seulghee Lee '07, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies, University of South Carolina; C3 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in English, Williams College, 2014-2016

Michael Leong, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University at Albany, SUNY

Natasha Lightfoot, Associate Professor, Columbia University Department of History

Shirley Lim, Associate Professor, Department of History, SUNY Stony Brook

Lydia Liu, Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

JS (Jason) Liu, Williams '20

Holly Liu, Professor of German and Chinese Studies, Alma College

Keyi Liu, Williams College Class of 2020

Emily Loveridge , Alum Class of 2014

Allen Lum, Class of 2012

Michael Luongo, Writer-in-Residence, Lingnan University Hong Kong

Dalia Luque, Williams Class of 2018

Eleanor Lustig , Williams class of 2018

kara lynch, Associate Professor of Video and Critical Studies, Hampshire College Williams 1960 scholar - Class '90

Jonathan MacDougall, Williams College Class of 2017

Ervin Malakaj, Assistant Professor of German Studies, University of British Columbia

JAYA MALLELA, Purchase College, SUNY

Brandon Mancilla, Williams Class of 2016

Ben Marcus, Professor, Columbia University

Dawn Lundy Martin, Professor, Department of English, Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, University of Pittsburgh

Katrina Martinez, Alum from the Class of 2018

Farid Matuk, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Arizona

Shaka McGlotten, Purchase College, SUNY

Uri McMillan, Associate Professor, Department of English, UCLA

S. Lily Mendoza, Associate Professor, Culture & Communication, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

Cyle Metzger, Bennington College, Stanford University

Tanzim Milkey, Class of 2015

Tara Miller, Williams College '15

Thomas Mira y Lopez, Williams '08

Elizabeth Mitchell, Williams College Class of 2008, American Studies major

Lyra Monteiro, Rutgers University-Newark

Annie Moriondo, Class of 2014

Kevin Murphy, Eugénie Prendergast Curator of American Art, Williams College Museum of Art

Camille Nance, Current student

Katie Nash, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abdullah Nasir, Williams College '20

Erika Nelson Mukherjee, Associate Professor of German Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, Union College

Mae Ngai , Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, Columbia University

Viet Nguyen, University Professor, Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Comparative Literature, University of Southern California; Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2016; MacArthur Fellow, 2018-2022

Hoang Tan Nguyen, Associate Professor, Literature, UC San Diego

Christine Nieves, 06

Collier Nogues, Hong Kong PhD Fellow, The University of Hong Kong

Maria Noya, Class of '21

Em Nuckols, Williams College Class of 2016

Onyeka Obi, Williams College Class of 2021

Dilia Ortega, Class of 2013

Priscilla Page, University of Massachusetts Amherst

David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, and Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Anna Parkinson, Northwestern University

Ashay Patel, Caltech, PhD Student in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, Williams College Class of 2018

Ashay Patel, Caltech, PhD Student in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, Williams College Class of 2018

Brenci Patiño, Associate Professor of Spanish, Mary Baldwin University

Jesus Payan, Williams College Class of 2020

Jonathan Pekar, UC San Diego, Williams '14

Valeria Pelayo, Alumna

Masa Peterson, Williams College, Class of 2020

Jeffrey Pethybridge, Core Faculy, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University

Gregory Pflugfelder, Associate Professor, Department of History, Columbia University

Peter Pihos, Assistant Professor of History, Western Washington University; Visiting Assistant Professor, Williams College, 2017-2018

Martin Joseph Ponce, Associate Professor of English, Ohio State University

Sonya Posmentier , Associate Professor of English, NYU

Katherine Preston, Williams Class of 2016

Verónica Caridad Rabelo, Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University; Williams College Class of 2011

Nimanthi Rajasingham, Assistant Professor of English, Colgate University

Nisha Ramayya, Lecturer in Creative Writing, Queen Mary University of London

Peter Ramos, Associate professor, Buffalo State College

Ana Ramos-Zayas, Yale

Julia Randall, Class of ‘19, English major

Anjuli Raza Kolb, Associate Professor of English, University of Toronto

Anthony Reed, Associate Professor of English, Associate Professor of African American Studies, Yale University

Moiz Rehan, Class of 2019

Victoria Restler, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island College; Williams 02

Brianna Rettig, Williams College Class of 2018

Stéphane Robolin, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University—New Brunswick (Asst. Professor of Africana Studies, Williams College, 2006–09)

John Roche, Williams College Class of 2020

Natalia Romano, Class of 2005

Teemu Ruskola, Professor of Law, Emory University

CJ Salapare, Williams College ‘20

Soha Sanchorawala, Alum ‘19

Jeffrey Santa Ana, Associate Professor, English Department, Stony Brook University,

Alicia Santiago, Class of 2009

Juliane Schicker, Assistant Professor of German, Carleton College

Vince Schleitwiler, Acting Assistant Professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington; Assistant Professor, Department of English, Williams College, 2008-15

Sarita See, Professor, Department of Media and Cultural studies, University of California Riverside; Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, English Department and American Studies Program, Williams College, 2000-2002

Sophie Seita, Junior Research Fellow, The Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

Laura Isabel Serna, Associate Professor, University of Southern California

Jaqueline Serrano Aguilar, Williams College Class of 2017

Gayatri Sethi , Independent Educator

Prageeta Sharma, Henry G. Lee ‘37 Professor of English, Pomona College

Christina Sharpe, Professor, Department of Humanities, York University

Malik Nashad Sharpe, Williams Class of 2014

Qinna Shen, Bryn Mawr College

Sophia Shin, Williams College, Class of 2021

Evie Shockley, Professor of English, Rutgers University—New Brunswick; Visiting Research Associate, Africana Studies, Williams College (2008-2009)

Julia Simon, Williams Class of 2014

Dale Smith, Associate Professor, Department of English, Ryerson University

Stephen Hong Sohn, Professor, Department of English, University of California, Riverside

Samuel Solomon, Senior Lecturer in Creative and Critical writing, University of Sussex (UK)

Helen Song, Class of 2014

Carol Sotiropoulos, Professor emerita, Northern Michigan University

Melissa Soule, Williams Class of 2015

John Streamas, Washington State University

Celina Su, Marilyn J. Gittell Chair in Urban Studies at the Graduate Center and Associate Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Jess Sullivan, Skidmore College

julie sze, UC Davis (former Bolin Fellow)

Stacy Szymaszek,

Rin Tai, Williams College '21

Renee Tajima-Peña, Professor of Asian American Studies, UCLA

Rea Tajiri, Associate Professor, Film Media Arts Department, Temple University

Suiyi Tang, Williams College ‘20 (Prof. Wang’s current thesis student)

Kelly Tellez, Williams College Class of 2017

Chie Togami, Williams College Class of 2013

Orville Tootenbacher, University of Scranton

Monica Torres, Reporter, Class of 2013, Professor Wang’s thesis student

Minh Tran, Williams Class of '19

Tyler Tsay, Class of 2019

Ji-Young Um, Seattle Pacific University

Wilson Valentín-Escobar, Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies, Hampshire College

Nakita VanBiene, Williams Class of 2015

Andres Villasmil Ocando, Williams Class of ‘21

Manu Vimalassery, Barnard College (for Mellon postdoctoral fellow in American Studies at Williams)

Phuong Vo, Williams College Class of 2018

Allen Wang, Williams College

Beverly Weber, Associate Professor, University of Colorado Boulder

Emily White, Class of ‘19

Mariah Widman, Williams College class of 2015

Ronaldo Wilson, Professor, Literature and Creative Writing, UC Santa Cruz

Leslie Wingard, College of Wooster

S.L. Wisenberg, University of Chicago Graham School

Alison Wong, Williams College, Class of 2019

Cynthia Wu, Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies and Director of Race, Migration, and Indigneiety at Indiana University

John Yau, Associate Professor in Critical Studies, Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University)

Jenna Yoo, Williams College, Class of 2020

Lauren Vonn Zachary Speight, Williams College Class of 2012

Lisa Yin Zhang, Williams '19

Emily Zheng, Williams College, Class of 2020

Rachel Zolf, Lecturer, English/Creative Writing, University of Pennsylvania

cc. Denise Kimber Buell, Dean of Faculty

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