“You cannot live in the world we have created for you and you are demanding change…”
We can live in this world. This is most easily proven by the Black alumni who’ve survived this institution. The assumption you posit undermines the storied resilience and generational survival tactics that have buoyed racially oppressed peoples for centuries.
We can live in this world. We endure this world every day. We were born into this world and this institution is merely a reflection of it. We can live in this world and, in living in this world, must employ our imaginations to remain invested in the journey through it.
We imagine academic spaces to be rooms in which dreams are visualized, articulated, and preserved with care. We imagine rooms in which the pursuit of higher education is akin to the pursuit of highest self — we believe this to be our responsibility as students. Have you paused to assess how you support this pursuit? Have you paused to assess how you hold yourself and your colleagues accountable in this support? We’ve watched you protect each other this summer, hiding behind contract terms and the lack of unity and collaboration within your ranks.
We are not simply demanding change. We have been confronted with the reality that the baseline at which we strive to exist is seemingly out of reach for the institution we’ve entrusted with our pursuit of higher being. We are choosing to move into the world we believe could exist and inviting you to move alongside us.
We do not believe you have created this world for us; however, we do believe you are complicit in holding up the ceilings that trap us in it. We do believe you have made meager attempts thus far to step out of your comfort zone and confront the institutional oppression that affects us all.
“A volunteer subcommittee of faculty is authoring this letter as a statement of our readiness to engage…”
Statements are wordplay until the work is prioritized. And yet, here I play with words to catalyze the work — students have been working this entire summer without any discussion or consideration of our labor or how we will be compensated. We have met collectively, almost every other week, since May. We have fielded personal calls and texts. We have planned agendas, facilitated discussions, compiled resource packets. As has already been expressed, we are still waiting on a public declaration of action steps. We’re still waiting on a public declaration of the institution’s stance on BLM and its commitment to course correct. We’re still waiting for transparent communication on how the funds allocated toward summer learning opportunities for students (which were never awarded) are being used.
This is a reminder that the work is still unfinished; we are patient and we are determined.
We’ve witnessed tears. We’ve held each other outside of classrooms. We’ve built practices to support the release of our thick, emotional burdens we carry in and around these Halls. We’ve witnessed empty apologies and hampered creativity in classrooms. We’ve witnessed faculty members utter and enact the following on separate, discrete occasions:
- I think your work “isn’t Chinese enough” – to an international student, from China, from a faculty member who is not from China nor of Chinese ancestry
- … (pulls Black student’s hair without consent)
- Two Black students were told that their choreographic work was too “Spicy.”
- Faculty and Staff members frequently confusing the names of the Black male-identifying members of the 2019 cohort well into Spring 2020 Semester.
- A faculty member remarking that the way a Black male student asked for clarification was “like a different language.”
- (faculty member in technique class) “Yeah, don’t look like a swastika” (faculty member proceeds to make swastika shape with body)
- Faculty to Black student wearing protective hairstyle: “Do you find your hair is distracting in class?”
- Students mocking and complaining about Latinx students speaking Spanish in green room
- Many, many more fuzzy memories that blend together or that I’ve normalized. I can’t recall specifically, because I have trained my body not to remember. I have equipped my body with tools to adapt to this way of existing.
Work is underway to collect more testimonials from students and alumni. This list will grow. We share these testimonials as an invitation to think about your words and your actions and those of your colleagues this upcoming semester.
We’ve learned that faculty will not protect us; in response, we protect each other.
“We hear you have experienced toxic classroom environments connected to broader legacies of white supremacy in our field…”
In these Halls, we never truly move outside toxic classroom environments — the halls are steeped in toxicity. If it weren’t for the smoke detectors, I’d recommend we sage the entire building and cleanse the energies of the space — I prefer to move with my heart chakra open.
Thank you for engaging in the deep listening practice of writing our desires and dreams at the preheader of the steps you intend to take.
Broken systems, like broken bones, won’t heal from band-aids. Move at the speed of trust.
The fact that solely one Black faculty member is listed as a contributor to this letter.
Move at the speed of trust.
We are the people.