GNS+ Commitment to Social Justice
Note: the vocabulary we use for identity is complex because identities are themselves complex. We use the terms Black and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color) to reflect the multiple identities individuals may hold, and we use Hispanic/LatinX/Chican@ to reflect the broader use of the former term and the critique to it posed by the latter two.
The tumultuous year of 2020 has brought about a reckoning in virtually every sphere that shapes U.S.-American cultural and institutional life. As an academic community that is also part of a larger U.S.-American cultural and institutional fabric, we commit our voice and action to the social issues that are facing our faculty, staff, and students, as well as the people living in the United States. Our statement is a response to:
- the COVID-19 pandemic, which has underscored the racial inequities in health care and economic access for Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic/LatinX/Chican@ communities, triggered xenophobia and racism against Asians and Asian-Americans, as well as amplified anti-Semitism and Islamophobia;
- the latest chapters in a long history of police violence against Black people, which sparked protests for racial justice led by Black Lives Matter in the spring and summer of 2020;
- the xenophobic targeting of international students in repeated executive orders attacking their right to study and learn in the United States, which threatened thousands of students and scholars, and the university-internal discrimination against paying international students fair wages;
- the September 22 executive order forbidding the use of federal funding for any discussions or trainings on racism, gender discrimination or misogyny, which attempted to stifle the work to undo those injustices;
- the chaotic presidential election of November 2020, which underscored that voter suppression continues systematically to disenfranchise Black voters and other People of Color.
While the past year of 2020 has led us to focus on the urgency of anti-racist work in particular, we recognize the complex intersections of identity in the US and worldwide, which include not just race and ethnicity but gender identity, dis/ability, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. We hold that our commitment to anti-racist work will also help us challenge misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia—including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia—, and prejudices about ability and religion.
Thus, we, the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic+ commit to the following concrete actions in the next two years:
- We will mentor faculty in creating more inclusive syllabi that profoundly engage with race and its history.
- We will formulate concrete steps toward fostering greater anti-racist and decolonizing pedagogy in our department courses and curricula.
- We will invite lectures from Black and BIPOC scholars in our disciplines and promote those lectures.
- We will develop criteria for evaluation and recognition of work in diversity, equity, and inclusion for hiring, promotion, and nominations for achievement awards. We will, further, feature such recognition in our nomination materials, newsletters, annual reports, and tenure dossiers.
- We will pursue university funding (e.g., Target of Opportunity funding) to supplement departmental funds for hiring Black and BIPOC scholars and supporting them once hired.
- We will prepare a grant application to UW–Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement to match departmental funds for scholarships and support programs for Black and BIPOC students, especially current or potential PhD students.
- We will use departmental meeting and other committee time for all GNS+ workers to undertake individual development, self-reflection, and scholarship, such as study groups on particular texts, hiring Black and BIPOC experts in racial justice training, or internal UW–Madison courses or trainings.
- We will create an application process for funding for faculty, staff, and graduate students to pursue trainings in racial and social justice on the UW–Madison campus and elsewhere.
We once again remind ourselves and our colleagues that each of us shares the responsibility to advance anti-racism and social justice.
Black Lives Matter.
GNS Welcomes our newest colleagues!
Liina-Ly Roos, Assistant Professor
Liina-Ly Roos received her PhD from the University of Washington. She specializes in twentieth to twenty-first century Nordic and Baltic culture with a specific focus on post-WWII and contemporary film, TV, and literature.
Benjamin Mier-Cruz, Assistant Professor
Benjamin received a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests are modern Scandinavian literature and film with a focus on writers and filmmakers of color and intersectional representations of gender, sexuality, and race.
Krzysztof Borowski, Slavic Lecturer
Krzysztof received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. He specializes in Polish language instruction, Slavic sociolinguistics, and issues of identity in contemporary Poland.
Melissa Sheedy, German Lecturer
Melissa received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In and outside of the classroom, she is always ready to talk about Romanticism, fairytales, GDR and post-GDR literature, feminist ecocriticism, and her cats.
The Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic+ Statement on Diversity
The Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic+ strives to create inclusive excellence by valuing the contributions of people of diverse backgrounds based on their race, ethnicity, culture, veteran status, marital status, socio-economic level, national origin, religious belief, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and class.
This is an ongoing task that requires each of us to unlearn our socialization in cultures where privilege and opportunity are unequally distributed along many of those lines and then to put that learning into practice in our classrooms, syllabi, decision-making structures, and research.