School of Liberal Arts Statements on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Deans' Response to Verdict on the Murder of George Floyd

As Deans of the four academic schools at Saint Mary’s College, we continue to be troubled by the evidence of social injustice in our society, including our institutions of higher education.  The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial pushes us to continue the pursuit of dismantling the systems of injustice that we consciously and unconsciously participate in.  As academic leaders we recognize our responsibility to advocate for an education that acknowledges systemic racial injustice in our institutions and the need to support dialogue in the pursuit of solutions and actions to end it.

As a Catholic and Lasallian institution, our mission requires us to “to affirm and foster the Christian understanding of the human person,” a commitment that informs and inspires   our support for the Black Lives Matter movement.  We are energized by the empathy, solidarity, and humanizing commitments that define our SMC community.  As an educational community we are positioned to combat systemic injustice, discrimination, and racism in our society by championing the principles of diversity, equity, compassion, and universal humanity. 

Our commitment  to combat systemic racism does not exempt us from responsibility for our own failures.  Systems of oppression are present throughout  higher education.  We  need to exercise critical self-reflection in assessing our privileges and correcting our own inherent biases as we support an education that creates leaders who will forge a brighter future for humanity.  As deans, we are committed to reflecting on and improving our own practices in relation to racial inequity, to listening to our community for stories of discrimination and pain, and gathering ideas from faculty, staff and students about appropriate and effective actions that we can take to build a more just and inclusive community.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Davis, Dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration

Carol Ann Gittens, Dean of the Kalmanovitz School of Education

Sheila Hassell Hughes, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts

Roy Wensley, Dean of the School of Science

 

Combatting Racisim and White Supremacy in the School of Liberal Arts

The School of Liberal Arts condemns the rising violence in our region and country against members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community. We are heartbroken and outraged at the hate and violence directed at our friends, colleagues, students, neighbors, and fellow Americans. 

The recent mass shooting in Atlanta, in which the gunman killed women of Asian descent along with two others, is the latest and most deadly assault, and it should be understood as part not only of this current crisis, but also of a wide fabric and long history of interwoven anti-API racism, sexism, xenophobia, white supremacy, and more. 

In this context, we are proud of the critical and active responses and the leadership shown by faculty and programs across SOLA and the College. We seek to amplify those voices here. 

The School of Liberal Arts remains committed to supporting API faculty, staff, and students, and we are also ready to lend PIE funding and other resources to work by our faculty and staff that will advance this goal.

 

The Asian Pacific Islanders Subcommittee of the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence and Senior Diversity Officer, Dr. Kathy Littles

Response to the Recent Attacks on API Identities: A Letter from the Asian Pacific Islanders Subcommittee and Kathy Littles 

The Asian Pacific Islander Subcommittee of the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CCIE) is outraged & angered by the horrific attacks on API people across the nation. We are calling on the Saint Mary's College community to become knowledgeable and to take action against any and all manifestations of structural racism and violence. ...

Read the full statement, including a Call to Action, Resources, and more, here

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program sends its most heartfelt condolences to the families of the eight people murdered in Atlanta yesterday and especially to the Asian-American community who is reeling from a surge of anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes. 

We condemn in the strongest possible language the murders of those eight persons, which includes six women and of Asian descent.  There is a name for this type of violence, it is called femicide.  The recognition of its existence as an act of violence perpetrated by men against  women for the sole reason that the chosen victim is female began in Mexico and has since been noted elsewhere in the continent and around the world.  To our knowledge, no one has talked about such violence in those terms in the United States.  However, clearly we are not exempt from it.  We know domestic violence and relationship violence is all too prevalent in our society.  So is, unfortunately, the killing of women.  Let us stop pretending that the United States is an exception to the kind of profound misogyny that fuels femicide.  The Atlanta case shows us otherwise.  Women are targeted for death in our country just because they are women, like they are elsewhere.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of the executed women are of Asian descent shows how our country’s deep history of racism expresses itself through gender violence as well.

We ask our community not only to reflect upon these horrific events but also to take up the call of what we do best:  to learn about them and teach about them, to analyze them and find their causes, to open up the discussion so that our students will have the knowledge and the compassion to propose alternatives, act upon them, and end this scourge.

The Institute for Latino and Latin American Studies adds its voice in condemning the targeted attack against the AAPI community, another example of the escalating surge of violence against Asians and Asian Americans since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With heartbreak, anger, and committed solidarity, we stand with our students and community. Su lucha es nuestra lucha. See the full statement of solidarity here

The Department of Anthropology stands in solidarity with the AAPI community. We condemn racism, misogyny, femicide, and the toxic culture of hate. We pledge to work on coalition building on our campus to continue the fight for justice, equality, and equity. 

We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.

“Defend the oppressed and fight the oppressor.” Emilio Jacinto

The Ethnic Studies Program has been active in working against this scourge on campus and beyond and has shared numerous internal messages and resources, including these:

Stop AAPI Hate National Report 3/17/2021

Anti-Asian Violence Resources List 

Asian American Women Are Resilient — and We Are Not OK | by My Tam H. Nguyen | Mar, 2021 | Medium

Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian & Migrant Sex Workers organizing transnationally

 

Black Lives and the Liberal Arts: SOLA Statement on Black Lives Matter

Faculty and staff, and we in the Dean’s Office, in the School of Liberal Arts are filled with grief, anger, and frustration at the ongoing murder and brutalization of black people in this country. We recognize the needful right to protest and bear witness to the assaults and suffering to which black people, as individuals and as a community, are subjected. And we call for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other victims of racist violence. 

We condemn the assault of peaceful protestors by the police, the militarization of local police forces, and the use of brute force to subdue public demonstrations and demands for justice. These protesting voices, and these bodies on the line, are as powerful a clarion as this country has ever heard. We must listen and heed their cry and critique.

We also recognize that white privilege and racial bias have deeply informed the shape of our society and of our College. Those of us with white privilege continue to benefit from racial inequities that we have the responsibility to acknowledge and dismantle. We have so much work yet to do to live up to our Lasallian values of inclusive community and respect for the inherent dignity of our colleagues and students of color.

We are not without resources for this work, however. We have abundant tools with which to engage in this work—and not only or primarily “the Master’s Tools,” to quote Audre Lorde, but tools forged in the struggle against white supremacy. As part of our Liberal Arts, Lasallian, and Catholic inheritances, we have centuries-old traditions of anti-racist and liberationist conceptual and practical work from which to draw. We have access to the written and recorded work of social justice thinkers and activists from Anna Julia Cooper to Michele Alexander, from Malcolm X to Ibram X. Kendi, from Marcus Garvey to Audre Lorde, from Pernessa Seele to M. Shawn Copeland, and from Angela Davis to Traci Smith, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tarana Burke, Bree Newsome, and so many more.

We have role models and leaders among our faculty, staff, students, and community partners who bring deep experience, insight, and expertise. Some of our programs in SOLA have strong legacies of anti-racist pedagogy, curriculum, programming, and activism. There are giants here, among us. We continue to be challenged by and to learn from them, even as we recognize the need, among those of us who are white, to teach ourselves. 

We also have access to broad, global, and vibrant contemporary critical discourses on racism, white supremacy, police brutality and militarization, mass incarceration, misogynoir, and more. We are hopeful because, as scholars and teachers, we believe in the power of education to transform lives and communities. Even our own. 

Faculty in the School of Liberal Arts worked together, beginning in 2016, to set some specific goals for changing our curriculum, climate, and faculty representation in significant ways, under the auspices of Planning for Inclusive Excellence (PIE). These include new courses, new course content, new strategies, new hires, new supports, and new programming designed to support students, faculty, and staff of color at Saint Mary’s and to educate for transformative engagement with the world beyond. Those plans are another set of tools for the work ahead, though they may well need sharpening in light of our current moment and our growing understanding. 

As we pause, this summer, in the shadow of COVID-19, to re-think the next school year and to innovate as never before, I encourage us all to respond as much to the incessant threat to black lives as to the current threat of the coronavirus. I invite faculty and staff in SOLA to take advantage of the resources* at hand and to add to them. I urge you to revisit your department and program PIE plans and to strengthen and advance goals and strategies particularly related to combating racism and discriminatory violence. And I encourage you to consult with our office about ways we can support this work, whether primarily through PIE funding, by amplifying your message, by partnering on programming, by facilitating collaborations, or by other means. 

In Saint Mary’s School of Liberal Arts, we affirm the inherent dignity, value, and beauty of black lives. Doing so means we must work harder and do better to change the systems and practices that threaten the lives, community, equity, and flourishing of black people, who must always, in the words of the great poet Gwendolyn Brooks, be “conduct[ing their] blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind” (“Second Sermon on the Warpland”). Let’s stand together to do that work and make those changes in the days, months, and years ahead.

*all SOLA faculty & staff are members of the PIE: Shared Resources Google Drive. If you have questions about how to access this drive, please let us know.