Anti-Oppression Statement

Department of English
New Mexico State University

English department values

The NMSU English department is part of a land-grant university and Hispanic-Serving Institution that serves students from diverse cultures and backgrounds. We as a department recognize our responsibility to acknowledge the land on which New Mexico State University operates. We are reflexively grateful and honored to have the opportunity to work and learn on/with the land of Chihene Nde’, Mescalero Apache, Lipan Apache, Raramuri, Ysleta Del Sur, Tortugas Pueblo, Piro, Manso, Tewa People, the Aztecs of the North, Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, Sandia Pueblo, and Isleta Pueblo.

The department is committed to resisting attitudes and practices that uphold socio-political oppression, including that based on ability, age, ancestry, citizenship, class, color, ethnicity, gender identity, genetic information, immigration status, national origin, race, religion, serious medical condition, sexuality, spousal affiliation, veteran status, or workplace status. While this document specifically addresses racism, the department is committed to drafting a comprehensive anti-oppression statement that addresses both a) forms of oppression in their specificity and b) the ways in which they intersect. This document emerged out of a specific contest and is a living document that the department will evaluate and revise regularly.

The English department recognizes that systemic racism, more specifically white supremacy, remains pervasive in US society and education. This form of oppression, and the others with which it intersects, results in unequal access to social recognition, economic benefit, and political power. As educators we have a special responsibility to challenge racism and work to make our institution a more equal and just environment. The English department commits to an ongoing process of change towards antiracist goals, which reflect our departmental values and aspirations.

The department collectively values:

  • difference and diversity as necessary and intrinsically important. The department recognizes its obligation to its diverse student population and the people of New Mexico.
  • students’ freedom to pursue their interests, argue for their ideas, and express themselves as artists and scholars.
  • understanding language and how people use it to act in the world with and on each other.
  • communities where interdependence, cooperation, and mutual support are the norm.
  • responsibility, both collective and individual.
  • critical scrutiny of ideas, implicit biases, disciplinary formations, and accepted practices.

English department goals

The department commits to pursuing the goals listed below, sorted under headings.

Departmental administration and culture

  • Establish and maintain regular, open, and accessible lines of communication for all groups within the department: students, staff, and all instructors regardless of workplace status
  • Establish formal procedures for students to contribute to decision-making affecting them.
  • Make major faculty and administrators’ decisions as transparent and consistent as possible. When this cannot happen, be able to justify why.
  • Create a supportive environment where potential problems can be addressed internally, so that students and faculty have effective options before and after being referred to the Office of Institutional Equity[1] or other offices.[2]
  • Make an affirmative effort to recruit and retain faculty of color.
  • Make an affirmative effort to recruit and support students of color.
  • Make antiracist work the responsibility of the whole department and recognize the unique and challenging demands often made of faculty of color.
  • Expect members to be accountable for their actions and be conscious of what impact is experienced regardless of intent.
  • Recognize and respect difference. Identify inequalities, and work to reduce them.
  • Prioritize the safety of vulnerable bodies. Recognize that they are all important and listen to their voices.
  • Honor the complex and varied experiences of all people of color.
  • Support minority scholars and epistemologies.
  • Support minority artists and their aesthetics.

Education

  • Work towards a curriculum and pedagogy that:
  • covers the traditions of people of color in all subdisciplines,
  • emphasizes the artistic and scholarly work of people of color,
  • critically examines the racist history of the subdisciplines of English studies, and
  • directly and substantively confronts the racism and white supremacy in artistic and scholarly work of white US and European writers (canonical and not) in all subdisciplines.
  • Critical feedback from peers and faculty should be rigorous and constructive, supporting students’ exploration and development of their full potential.
  • Maintain ongoing critical scrutiny of our practice and how it may fail to challenge, or may even support, racist power dynamics and ideas.
  • Work to ensure the right of all students to have access to education, to be safe and to be heard in the classroom. Recognize that some things people say or do in the classroom can undermine that right.
  • Ensure that students can respond critically to the views and feedback of their instructors without fear of retaliation.
  • Understand and be prepared to explain to students the rights and limits of free speech in the classroom according to law and NMSU policy.
  • Recognize that conflict and anger are legitimate responses to racist power dynamics and ideas. Consider the effects of valuing impassivity, impartiality, and neutrality even during a discussion directly related to some participants’ experiences and conditions of life. Those not directly affected can adopt a detached perspective with less effort than those who are.
  • Make it clear that personal attacks and bullying have no place in the university.
  • Always report potential hate crimes or hate speech that violate the law or NMSU policies.

[1] For more about this office, see their webpage here: https://equity.nmsu.edu/.

[2] Students should be aware that faculty are mandatory reporters for Title IX and other discrimination violations, as defined by NMSU policy (see NMSU ARP 3.25 at https://arp.nmsu.edu/3-25/). They must report information about actual or suspected sex or gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating and interpersonal violence, sexual exploitation, or stalking. For more information about who are responsible employees and what they are required to do see https://equity.nmsu.edu/title-ix-sexual-misconduct-2/responsible-employees/.