We in the Department of English acknowledge the land on which the University at Buffalo operates is the territory of the Seneca Nation, a member of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Confederacy. Please see linked statement.
The English Department coheres around the idea that language, literature, and culture are foundational sites for engagement with difference. Diversity profoundly affects our work, our world, and our relationships with one another, within our department and beyond. We deeply value works and materials that challenge dominant narratives and perspectives, that offer multiple vantage points, analyses of oppression, and ways of imagining change, while we seek to teach hegemonic works against the grain. We believe literary and cultural scholarship offer essential context and critical terms and frames for understanding and interpreting the status of difference.
Diversity is a priority and a living, evolving concern for our department. We are committed to creating change so that diversity is further reflected in our faculty, graduate and undergraduate programs, curricula, and pedagogy.
For the UB English Department to support the Black Lives Matter movement, we must first acknowledge our prior silence. We post this statement in October, 2020, a date that strikes many of us as far too late. We acknowledge the gravity of our silence, as well as the importance of breaking it to express our wholehearted support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We continue to mourn with the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade—as well as those BIPOC members of our own community who have recently been murdered by the police: Rafael ("Pito") Rivera, Troy Hodge, Marcus Neil, Jose Hernandez-Rossy, Wardel (“Meech”) Davis, and the dozens of people who have died in the Erie County Holding Center, a pretrial holding facility. We support ongoing protests against the dehumanization of Black lives.
We acknowledge the presence of profound structural racism in Buffalo, as reflected, for instance, in its status as one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Structural racism is reflected in the student population at the university: Black communities and other communities of color are underserved by UB. This exclusion contributes significantly to perpetuating structural racism in Buffalo.
We also acknowledge the role that the discipline of English has played in the history of White supremacy, racism, and settler colonialism. Specifically, we must recognize and seek to counter longstanding attempts to legitimize and normalize these oppressive structures. Over the next months and years, we will work to align our departmental culture, intellectual life, and pedagogical practice with these commitments.
To begin to work toward a greater alignment of our pedagogy and scholarship with our commitments, we will be spending the remainder of this year developing and implementing a strategic plan to better recruit and support BIPOC students, staff, and faculty, as well as to better educate ourselves and our students to further social and racial justice. In doing this work, we will seek to adhere to and amplify the SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective’s directives https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfNXy54ennM-R4eNeK0vFoU11WC9MHYqid0ZSYX9mlArCABWQ/viewform for immediate action as well as the UB Black Council’s list of demands https://www.ubspectrum.com/article/2020/07/letter-of-solidarity-from-the-ub-black-council.
Specifically, the department’s Executive Committee will begin by considering the following: structures for better recruiting and mentoring students and faculty of color; curriculum development that centers BIPOC writers; antiracist pedagogy development; anti-racism workshops and trainings for faculty and graduate students with regard to specific projects and tasks; partnerships with community racial justice organizations.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, though it already offers work that will span several years. The job of the Executive Committee will be to create a strategic plan that prioritizes action items, in some cases to refer items to other elected committees, and to bring items to the department for discussion and voting.