In response to current and ongoing anti-Black violence in the United States, the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell is committed to a reflection on its educational and institutional frameworks, with the goal of developing anti-racist practices in the classroom and in the Department as a whole. The specific actions we envision over the next year, as we begin this process, will encompass the intellectual, pedagogical and institutional dimensions of our field and department. These include:
Rethinking and broadening the mission of Comparative Literature and of the Liberal Arts More Generally:
1. Discussion of the concept and mission of the liberal arts as a whole and the role of Comparative Literature within them, taking into consideration assumptions about the history and make-up of our field.
Reflecting on Departmental and Institutional Practices in Relation to Anti-Racist Goals:
2. Initiation of a department-wide conversation on how to address racializing speech, both within the classroom and in our collegial interactions; open a conversation around the institutional processes at work in the department and university that contribute to the lack of representation of Black faculty and graduate students.
Supporting Students and Faculty of color:
3. Creation of a faculty-led group to support BIPOC students in our and affiliated departments.
4. Development of Departmental guidelines for supporting faculty of color; acknowledge, value, and compensate the mentorship and committee work undertaken by faculty of color; restructuration of tenure expectations to make diversity work count.
Expanding Anti-Racist Practices in Intellectual and Pedagogical Activities in the Department:
5. Encouragement of a collective commitment, among faculty and students, to participation in intellectual events in the department, with emphasis on the importance of supporting events that provide greater diversity in our thinking and teaching.
6. Support for faculty and graduate students in drafting inclusive syllabi and facilitate department-wide rethinking of curriculum structure and course design, with the aim of providing greater diversity of influences, sources, and perspectives in our courses; proposals include workshops and “syllabi challenges” that provide discussion and resources for anti-racist course development.
7. Diversification of some large-topic courses by encouraging the invitation of guest lecturers, from inside and outside Cornell, to provide new perspectives that open up theoretical fields.
Reexamining Recruitment and Hiring Practices:
8. Discussion of how the Department might attract and recruit graduate students of color and create pipelines for hiring faculty of color (in coordination, possibly, with Graduate School and University initiatives that have been put into place).
Exploring Community Outreach and Partnerships:
9. Creation of the means to recognize and support graduate students’ own community-facing social justice or organizing work.
10. Exploration of means by which faculty and students in the Department may coordinate with groups or people within the Ithaca community (for example, through teaching initiatives supported by the University) and the consideration, more broadly, of our institutional position within the community.
As a field that is defined by its challenges to traditional linguistic, national, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries, we embrace this opportunity to reflect anew on the nature of our work and teaching and on the ways in which we function within the larger institution and in the community in which it is located.