A W&L Faculty Antiracist Plan of Action for Systemic Change Approved by the university faculty on August 31, 2020.
We, the faculty at Washington and Lee University, recognize the systemic racial injustices in the United States of America. We also acknowledge that because systems of racial oppression are supported and reinforced by additional forms of discrimination including sexism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia, and more, any attempt at fostering anti-racism must adopt intersectional approaches that prioritize safety and justice for multiple marginalized communities.1 We affirm that the resolutions put forth in this plan of action are necessarily inclusive of groups that are far too frequently pushed to the peripheries of antiracist action, such as Black women, women of color, LGBTQ communities, and indigenous, Latinx, and Asian-American populations. As these social maladies afflict our nation, they also cause devastating consequences on and around our campus. We believe that such circumstances must be addressed.
The administration, the Board of Trustees, and W&L faculty/staff have, in the past and more recently taken significant steps to address our institution's fraught history of racism and discrimination. While these efforts represent constructive action, we believe that more work must be done. Specifically, we note that the administration, the Board of Trustees, and the staff hold distinct positions to advance antiracist change. In a related sense, the faculty — as the constituency charged with the education and academic regulation of all W&L students — enjoy unique opportunities to promote racial progress.
To that end, we, the faculty of Washington and Lee University, dedicate ourselves and implore all relevant bodies to implement an antiracist plan of action. We will elect an ad-hoc committee comprising at least three members of the Black faculty and one member each from The College, the Law School, and the Williams School. The ad-hoc committee will prioritize the goals set forth by the faculty and propose ways of accomplishing them, including but not limited to identifying partners for the faculty to achieve the goals. The committee will report back to the faculty biannually on the University's progress toward meeting these goals. We as the faculty pledge to take measures within our purview and ability to accomplish these goals,2 and call on all University constituencies — particularly the staff, administration, and Board of Trustees — to partner with us in those areas where collaboration is needed:
- conducting processes of hiring, retention, and promotion such that the institution achieves a faculty whose racial and ethnic diversity mirrors that of the United States;
- contributing to diversifying the student population such that the institution achieves a student body whose racial and ethnic diversity mirrors that of the United States;
- endorsing the hiring, retention, and empowerment of staff and administrators of color at all levels throughout the University and ensuring that their voices are heard through access to leadership positions and other sources of empowerment;
- urging recurring diversity, inclusiveness and implicit bias training for all University staff, administrators, faculty, and students, including for search and hiring committees;
- promoting ethnic studies, including critical race theory and making those areas a central tenet of general education requirements and the overall curriculum;
- promoting the creation and staffing of a center for critical race and antiracist studies that will be led by an endowed professor and will be responsible for programming that includes but is not limited to an annual conference on race and human rights;
- repairing deep historical divisions between the university and the local Black community by developing partnerships with local Black institutions that can help us serve our town;
- supporting our diverse students through committee work, community engagement, classroom conduct, encouraging existing efforts to reform the Greek system, and advocating for greater support for the Office of Inclusion and Engagement and other student support services on campus;
- ensuring that the voices of faculty of color are heard, particularly through service on committees engaged with policy and governance and through access to honors, leadership positions, and other sources of faculty empowerment, while providing a means of fairly and fully evaluating and crediting faculty of color for the service they provide in supporting students in their daily lives on campus;
- lobbying for departments to develop explicit definitions of high-quality teaching that includes consideration of the various constituencies of students we teach for faculty members at all levels, and urging the university to offer pedagogical training that features, among other things, consultations with teaching professionals, data-driven instructional recommendations, and intentional annual mentorship.
- recognizing that student evaluations provide problematic assessments of teaching quality, imposing a moratorium on the use of student course evaluations for promotion and tenure purposes, and formulating suitable diagnostic mechanisms for ascertaining teaching effectiveness;
- advocating for a more explicitly antiracist approach to the examination of institutional history and calling for the hiring of an expert (a post-doc, a curator, or a historian) to assist in this effort; and
- lobbying for greater support (such as the hiring of a nationally known African American genealogist) for ongoing efforts to identify the enslaved Black people whose labor and sale directly benefitted Washington and Lee and to advocate for a fund for the living descendants of those this institution enslaved.
1. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, 1989 U. CHI. LEGAL F. 139, 150 (1989)
2. These action items are derived in part from Brandon Hasbrouck, White Saviors, 77 WASH. & LEE L. REV. ONLINE 47 (2020).