This summer, faculty affiliates of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC) launched the #MorethanDiversity campaign, which included a demand that the Provost fund an academic unit at the University devoted to the study of race. Refusal by recent administrations to support creating such a unit, as well as too many experiences of serving on advisory councils and diversity committees, only to see painstakingly researched and written reports shelved and forgotten, have made us very reluctant to proceed without such a commitment. We underscore that we have made it clear to administrators that we do not seek to flout the normal procedures for the creation of a new unit. Instead, we want assurance that once we win approval, the unit will be adequately supported.
We therefore resolved that, without a firm commitment to fund and staff this new unit, we would not take the risk of investing intellectual imagination, hope, and time in trying yet again to make this University a place where all can thrive.
In response to our demands, Provost Ka Yee Lee has allocated the funds needed to produce a proposal and indicated that in principle both she and President Zimmer support the formation of a new unit devoted to the study of race. Crucially, however, Provost Lee will not commit to providing the resources—in faculty lines, staff, space, and budget—for the unit. Instead, we are yet again asked to blindly “trust.”
Although deeply disappointed by this stance, we decided, based on our belief in this project and our acute awareness of students’ long-standing yet unanswered demands for a department devoted to the study of race, to go forward.
We will launch a ground-up collective and dialectical action plan . In order to hear what you , the campus community would want from such a unit, we will be holding a series of focus groups with students, faculty, and other key constituents. We will also invite colleagues from the many institutions in both America and the United Kingdom that have established academic units for Black Studies, Ethnic Studies, Africana Studies, African American Studies, Asian American Studies, and Latinx Studies to share their experiences with us. We plan to complete our work during this academic year and submit our proposal for the review and approval process.
By creating an academic unit devoted to the study of race, we will ensure that this critical area of inquiry is institutionalized as a central component of the University's liberal arts education and graduate training.
The Academic Unit Committee of the #MoreThanDiversity Campaign
The authors are faculty members at the University.