CEW Statement on Antiracism, Diversity and Inclusion
Recent events, such as the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, have prompted our nation to confront the issue of systemic racism and unequal treatment in institutions far more explicitly and seriously than ever before.
Our Center for Excellence in Writing community has similarly responded with an increased sense of urgency to examine our own role and practices and to enact changes that will help us to become a force for anti-racism.
In the Fall of 2020, we engaged in a staff-wide anti-racism reading and discussion group focused upon scholarship related to systemic racism in writing instruction and writing centers and possible shifts and reforms that would contribute to making universities more inclusive and equal. This activity led us to formulate an antiracism plan which all members of the community had the opportunity to read and offer revision suggestions. This plan includes both a clear articulation of our mission and philosophy and also specific steps we are committed to make to improve our Center’s ability to be an effective resource for all UB community members. Our Antiracism plan can be found here<link>
First, we would like to state our philosophy on language and writing. We do not validate any hierarchy when it comes to language traditions. All language traditions emerge from people’s encounters with their local contexts and histories. These traditions serve the needs of the people and help them to articulate their unique understandings of their world. Anyone stepping into the writing center should be assured that their language tradition is respected. We do not validate judgments such as “good/bad,” “proper/improper” “standard/non-standard” when it comes to the diverse, fluid, global and multi-dimensional English language.
All writers engage in processes of developing and expanding their language capacities as they move into new contexts of communication. Each writer has their own communication goals as they respond to new challenges and environments. Writers are not poised at the same starting line on their individual journeys into academic discourse. Therefore, we reject a set of universal best practices when it comes to supporting writers. Instead we develop a rich, continually developing toolbox of practices for helping writers and apply these as we find most responsive to student goals and situations. We want students to both develop their capacities as well as negotiate their way through an imperfect institution and world. Whatever role writing plays in this process, we are here to help.
We view writing and communication development as happening through full participation. Writers develop through active engagement in their classes, with their classmates, with their topics, and through the writing process, particularly the process of revision. Working with the CEW is another way to participate in the UB community and the writing process. Students who use the CEW are particularly participatory – hardworking, engaged and motivated.
It is our goal to expand our community of participation and to make it as diverse and inclusive as possible. We all are situated and have blind spots. The more diverse a community, the more we can learn from other people’s perspectives and experiences. This value is reflected in our hiring practices. It is our goal that our CEW staff community be as diverse as our student community. This means we seek to hire students from different racial, ethnic, linguistic, national, socio-economic and gender identity backgrounds. Consultants who have experience overcoming adversity, coping with learning differences, studying outside of their native languages, and so on, add to our overall ability to welcome and support all UB writers. We hope too that all writers, regardless of background or circumstance, will become part of the CEW community.
As we continually welcome new members to the conversation, we will regularly discuss our practice, do new research, and examine our policies. We want to grow, evolve and improve and be a force for systemic change. We look forward to engaging with other units on Campus to coordinate and enhance our efforts toward antiracist change, inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity.
Look for more ways to get involved with the CEW community in the Spring of 2021 such as Open Mic readings, English Conversation events, and focus groups to get your input regarding how to improve our community and practices. Thank you for helping us to grow.