COVID-19: Essential Information

Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

Department of English and American Literatures

Black Lives Matter.

We acknowledge that the study of English and American Literatures has too often contributed to the larger history of racism, inequity, and the willful exclusion of Black voices. We recognize the ways in which white stories, writers, literary scholars, and professors have similarly contributed to this exclusion and are complicit in the current inequity and violence; likewise, we recognize that white privilege and white supremacy are not abstract ideas found only at the national and global levels, but operate daily at Middlebury College. We pledge to use our positions of institutional privilege to support Black students, Black writers, and Black scholars; we can and will use our classrooms and our scholarship to uncover and dismantle the system of racist oppression which has for centuries silenced, brutalized, and murdered Black individuals.

We believe literature can shape how we understand the world; the voices and experiences we center can determine how we understand our past and present, which can influence the future we hope to create. Likewise, we believe teaching can and should contribute to the global efforts to end the systemic and systematic oppression of Black people. It is our obligation as readers, writers, and teachers to grapple with the legacies of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery, so as to encourage tomorrow’s voices.

We also understand that more than words will be necessary to effect change. Therefore we commit to:

1. Continue to educate ourselves in anti-racist practices and pedagogy.

2. Recognize, admit, and teach the ways in which our discipline has contributed to racial inequity.

3. Use our positions as faculty to be anti-racist models in our classrooms; discuss anti-racist expectations at the beginning of each course in an attempt to provide a safe learning environment that does not privilege white voices. This information will appear on syllabi, as well as clear information detailing how to report a concern about classroom climate.

4. Critically interrogate and reimagine our curriculum, both at the departmental level and in our individual courses, and in so doing include more Black and Brown writers at every level of our departmental offerings, from syllabus readings to invited speakers. We commit to including in every course, whenever possible, texts by non-white writers (primary texts, scholarly texts, or both). For sponsored events and invited speakers, we pledge to ensure that at least half include writers or speakers of color.

5. Support our Black students and students of color by allocating a portion of our departmental budget to fund student scholarship and student projects. We are working on a specific financial plan to allow for this, which we hope will be in place as soon as the COVID budget freeze is lifted.

6. Allocate departmental resources to those colleagues who center BIPOC voices, scholarship, and histories, understanding that re-thinking curricula requires carefully researched, labor-intensive, and time-consuming work. We will also dedicate departmental funds (together with Black Studies) for a future reading group that addresses racial injustices and actively engages in anti-racist conversation.

7. Recruit, support, and strive to retain Black faculty members in ENAM and CRWR in future searches; we commit therefore to address our own biases as part of any future hiring process. We will also institute mentoring, resources, and support for Black colleagues and colleagues of color throughout the tenure process. We will strive to create a department culture which is more inclusive of BIPOC faculty, understanding that those colleagues may experience disproportionate levels of racial harassment, micro-aggressions, and other forms of violence.

8. Join other departments who have called for the 2021 Clifford Symposium to be devoted to the topic of racism; similarly, commit to organizing, participating in, and financially supporting future campus events which foster anti-racist actions on campus.

9. Refuse to stay silent in the face of inequity within the department, at the college, in our community, or on the wider national stage.

Department of English & American Literatures

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753