Statement of Solidarity for Racial Justice from the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities
We are called to understand and respond to the anti-Black violence and systemic racism that gave rise to national protests and demonstrations following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and Elijah McClain, which join a much longer list of names and a history as old as our nation. Meanwhile, a global pandemic disproportionately affects communities of color and exacerbates pre-existing inequalities.
At Simmons, we believe in inquiry, leadership, and social justice. In the Ifill College, we have a special calling to uphold the legacy of our namesake, Gwen Ifill, a Black woman journalist who turned to her craft to ask the hard questions and to help us understand underlying causes and stories that had not been told. Many of us have long specialized in questions of social change, inequality, and how to imagine and create just communities. That accumulated knowledge from the media, arts, and humanities is especially precious right now.
The Ifill College mission statement asks, “How will you, too, do the hard work of imagining a more just future?” We commit to that hard work and to holding ourselves accountable.
How We Support Our Undergraduate and Graduate Students
- We commit to continue our work with Mentors-in-Residence, a signature program that invites talented professionals who are achieving success in their fields to campus, with the specific goal of recognizing the efforts and the works of Black artists and Black trailblazers.
- We commit to continue to award Ifill Scholarships to support students from under-represented groups who are pursuing a degree within the Ifill College and who demonstrate exceptional promise in the classroom and beyond.
- We commit to make explicit how studying the Humanities, Arts, and Media opens pathways to anti-racist work and fighting for social justice. To accomplish this, we will deepen partnerships with the Career Education Center to provide Ifill students with internships and pathways toward purposeful work with this goal in mind.
- We commit to partnering on efforts to define and build a robust mentorship program so that Ifill faculty are fully engaged in the work of ensuring the success of students of color at Simmons and after Simmons.
What We Teach and What We Study
- We commit to understanding and dismantling systemic anti-Black bias through antiracist dialog, curriculum, and initiatives, such as establishing and contributing to the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Cultural Studies. As the faculty recommendation declared, “We wish to convey that interdisciplinary scholarship on race, gender, and culture is part of the bedrock of Ifill College.”
- We commit to centering the voices of those who are marginalized or silenced through thoughtful choices about what we read, assign, and cite.
- We commit to continuing to decolonize our syllabi by looking at our fields critically, questioning how they privilege white experiences and perspectives, and recentering them with historically marginalized perspectives, materials, and experiences. We also value that Ifill College has particular strengths in critical race studies, postcolonial studies, and Black studies as distinct and vibrant intellectual fields. Still, we all strive to diversify the authors and materials represented in our fields and courses, whatever our starting point. As an immediate action, each faculty member in Ifill College commits to incorporating into a fall syllabus at least one additional work created by a writer or artist of color, or otherwise historically marginalized voice or perspective.
- We commit to convening as a faculty around this shared work, including in an August retreat to discuss this statement and revisions to our syllabi. So too, we commit to ongoing learning, including shared readings on antiracism and classroom practices, followed by demonstrable action.
Who Does the Work
- We commit to fully sharing in the institutional work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We cannot place undue, uncompensated, and invisible burdens on Black faculty and staff, colleagues, or students of color.
- We commit to continue and deepen inclusive hiring practices with the explicit intention of adding members of underrepresented groups to the faculty and staff. Simmons is a persistently white institution and we recognize that our diverse student body needs access to a faculty and staff that reflects them.
This is a mission moment. An institution’s mission only matters if it is lived out. The above commitments point to necessary, ongoing work to ensure that Ifill College, and all of higher education, does its part to create a more just future. As Gwen Ifill said in a 2013 commencement address, “You have to decide what you care about, and then be prepared to act.”