The English Department at the University of South Florida strongly condemns and mourns the recent murders of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many others. We demand justice for them and their families and for an end to police violence and systemic racism. We recognize that their deaths and acts of violence against Black Americans are not isolated instances of extraordinary brutality but further evidence of centuries of normalized violence, structural oppression, and dehumanizing rhetorics that target Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. As students of the humanities, we have a special responsibility to bear witness to injustice and inhumanity. We stand with all those who work and demonstrate for justice, and we join their calls for institutional change.
However, we also recognize that it is not enough to affirm these principles in the abstract. This moment encapsulates particular harms and traumas to our Black students, staff, and faculty. As a department, we explicitly affirm our solidarity with all the Black members of our academic community.
We denounce the historic and systemic nature of the continuing racism against people marked as non-white. We know that the responsibility for striving toward racial justice belongs to all of us, and in particular to those of us who have historically been over-represented and racially privileged.
We reaffirm our commitment to fighting racism and supporting equity and inclusion. In our department and within our disciplines, this commitment is expressed through the study of texts by diverse authors; discussions and assignments that attend to current and historical injustices and imbalances; and courses and curricula that cultivate critical thinking on issues of race, gender, and colonialism, in particular settler colonialism and the histories, discourses, and representations of race and manifestations of racism in the United States.
Together with our students we strive to use the transformational capacity of writing, literature, rhetoric, and the arts to create a better world.
The English Department commits to the following:
- Informed by readings and resources on anti-racism made available by organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English, faculty and graduate students will engage in discussions focused on ways of making our curriculum and our syllabi anti-racist and on developing best practices for handling issues of race, diversity, and inclusion in the classroom.
- The English Department will add anti-racist resources to our website.
- The English Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee will resume its annual climate survey to ensure we identify and improve areas where we fall short and build on areas where we are making progress.
- The Department will explore and develop initiatives to recruit, retain, and support non-white faculty and students across all USF campuses.
- The Undergraduate Director and Directors of Creative Writing, Literature, and Professional and Technical Communication will work with all instructional faculty across all three USF campuses to include intentional assignments and activities designed to promote anti-racism. A collaborative database of related assignments, readings, and pedagogical strategies will be developed and made available to instructors.
- The Graduate Director will provide a forum for student voices and leadership, will work with the Directors of First-Year Composition and Professional and Technical Communication to provide training for graduate teaching assistants, and will continue to find opportunities for enhancing the graduate curriculum through the incorporation of critical race theory and the inclusion of diverse, multi-ethnic voices.
To our students: we encourage you to seek support from faculty and administrators of the English Department and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.