University of South Florida

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LEADING BY EXAMPLE: THE WGS DIVERSITY GROUP AND ANTI-RACISM SERIES

The USF Department of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) stands in opposition to racism and supports anti-racist work in their teaching, research, and service. In the summer of 2020 the department issued a statement on antiracism and named two diversity liaisons to guide us in more explicit anti-racism actions and efforts. The liaisons took up the charge issued by the department and the College of Arts and Sciences’ diversity committee and established the WGS Diversity Group. The group consists of four WGS faculty and staff and two student members (one graduate student and one undergraduate intern).

The USF Principles of Community served as a guide for many of the early discussions of the group’s purpose and goals—particularly the principle that affirms diversity with inclusion. The WGS Diversity Group was also inspired by the USF Black Employee Steering Committee’s (USF BESC) call to work towards a more inclusive and anti-racist USF. For the past year, the USF BESC has been providing the Enlightenment Workshop Series, which “presents courageous conversations designed to foster a culture of inclusive excellence.” To that end, the WGS Diversity Group’s anti-racism series is meant to serve as an additional resource, and is an exemplar of the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts underway at the university.

To bolster this effort, WGS also established the 2020-2021 anti-racism series, which kicked off in October 2020 with a screening and discussion of the film, Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote. The film, which is available to watch free online, details voter suppression efforts in Georgia in 2018 that disproportionally affected Black Americans. Also occurring in October, the series brought Keith Woods, the Chief Diversity Officer at NPR, for a workshop, “Difficult Dialogues about Race.” Woods worked with event attendees to grow in their anti-racism work and practice. In November, WGS’s own visiting instructor, Dr. Melinda Mills, hosted a talk on her book, The Borders of Race: Patrolling “Multiracial” Identities, and discussed her research into multiracial identities and how people manage these identities publicly and privately. In January, Associate Professor Dr. David Rubin spoke about “Intersex Rage, Biopolitical Protest, and the Movement for Black Lives,” discussing how the Movement for Black Lives can help us to rethink and re-evaluate the interconnections between scientific and medical racism and state-sanctioned medical violence against intersex, trans, and gender nonconforming people. Most recently, in March, the diversity group’s graduate student members planned and hosted a panel titled, “Anti-Black Racism in Communities of Color and Other Marginalized Groups.” The panelists discussed key themes in anti-black discourse, including ongoing social justice work combatting anti-black racism in communities of color.

“Our department is leading by example. We are actively contributing to the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts. In many ways the work of the WGS Diversity Group is an extension of the work that WGS faculty are doing in the classroom. I’m proud that we have been leaders in the university’s anti-racism and diversity efforts, and I’m excited to see what the group has in store,” explained Dr. Milton Wendland, Instructor III and Internship Director in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

“The WGS Diversity Group is committed to supporting institutional efforts designed to build respect, fairness and equity in our campus culture, systems, and processes. We also remain steadfast in our commitment to providing panels, workshops, and other activities to assist members of the USF community and the greater Tampa Bay area, as we work to individually and collectively uproot systemic inequities that plague our society.”

The WGS Anti-Racism Speaker Series will return in the Fall 2021 semester.

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The College of Arts and Sciences is the intellectual heart of the University of South Florida. We are a community of teachers and scholars united in the belief that broadly educated people are the basis of a just, free, and prosperous society. By focusing on the big questions facing all of humanity, we prepare students for successful, socially responsible personal and professional lives. By conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship, we advance knowledge in ways that prepare us to address complex social and scientific problems and enhance the quality of life for people and communities.