Williams College Students Boycott English Classes Teaching White Authors

The Associated Press
Bebeto Matthews/AP

Students at Williams College are boycotting the English Department arguing that the curriculum prioritizes white authors over non-white authors.

According to a report by the College Fix, students at the prestigious Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, are boycotting the English department over decisions made by the department’s faculty on what books classes should focus on.

In a petition, the students claimed that there have been several incidents in which Williams College English Department faculty have used racial slurs in the classroom. The students claim that the department is rife is “racism and sexism.”

The students seem primarily concerned with the lack of English courses that focus on racial issues. For example, the students argue that the works of white authors are more frequently assigned in English courses than non-white authors.

The students also claim that the Williams College English Department has an ongoing problem with bigotry. They claim that the English Department head was not disciplined after he “verbally abused” a “faculty person of color.”

Did you know that the English Department has never tenured someone in an ethnic literature position?* Did you know that there have been multiple incidents of English professors saying racial slurs such as the n-word in classes (in recent history)? Did you know that the current Chair of the English department verbally abused a faculty person of color last semester and received no disciplinary measures from the administration? Did you know that racism and sexism in the English Department have inspired two open letters by students/alums in the last four years?

The students are calling for an “indefinite boycott of all English Department classes (ENGL) that do not engage substantially with race.”

As such, we have no choice but to call for an indefinite boycott of all English Department classes (ENGL) that do not engage substantially with race. A token assignment of ethnic literature in an otherwise whitewashed syllabus is not enough. Refusing to enroll in English classes is one way that we can create the pressures necessary to promote change.

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