A group of students at Williams College have staged a boycott of the school’s English Department, alleging that the curriculum is “whitewashed” and its scholars “racist.”
“In the face YEAR after YEAR of casual and formal racism against faculty and students of color,” reads the published online manifesto, “of treating literatures of color as ‘second class’; of failed searches for professors of ethnic literature; of formal and informal complaints with NO MEASURES OF ACCOUNTABILITY… WE SAY NO MORE.”
According to the text of “Boycott English,” the students think that race and diversity should be the central points of consideration when composing the department curriculum and hiring professors, since statistically underrepresented races in the faculty or list of authors can only be the result of racism.
The students have published a three “demands” that must be met before they will lift their boycott of the English department, which has a “long, well-documented, disturbing history of racism, sexism, transphobia, and other violences.”
The first “demand” is nothing less than a new chair of the department, who must come from outside Williams College and must be specialized in Ethnic Literature (African American, Native American, Latinx, Asian American).
The second demand is “four new faculty tenure-track hires– one in African American literature, one in Latinx literature, one in Native American literature, and one in Asian American literature.”
The third demand is “an external investigation of the English Department.”
If carried out, the demands would mean a complete overhaul of the English department, which appears to be exactly what the students hope for.
As noted by the attentive folks at the College Fix, much of the hostility in the activists’ online boycott seems to center on the departure of two “black queer feminists” at Williams who left earlier this year, alleging microaggressions and “violent practices” at the school as the reasons for their departure.
After a period of paid leave, however, the two queer teachers have reportedly now returned to teaching at the campus, with Professor Kai Green teaching “Introduction to Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies” and Professor Kimberly Love teaching “Black Literature Matters.”
Kathryn Kent, the current chair of the English Department, is white, and students have complained that last year she “raised her voice” against Dorothy Wang, an Asian professor who later disaffiliated from the English department because of its supposed “longstanding history of hostility toward faculty of color.”