English department pens anti-harassment statement

6 mins read
Grapevine performs a Disney medleyPhoto by Abigail Starr '13
Grapevine performs a Disney medley
Photo by Abigail Starr '13

The faculty and staff of the department of English literature have released a statement denouncing recent acts of hate against marginalized populations across the country, and have offered the department as a supportive space for the college community. The statement was originally released on Monday, Nov. 14 via email to members of the “English department community,” which William R. Kenan Jr., Professor and department chair of English literature Peter Schmidt explained to include all majors and minors and students in select English classes. The content of the email was subsequently posted on the department’s Facebook page. It is anticipated to be posted on the department’s official website.
The statement begins by discussing recent hate crimes.
“[We recognize the] spike in violent speech and actions directed at Muslims, people of color, immigrants, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community across the country,” it read. The statement goes on to mention that while no such events have occurred at the college to their knowledge, they recognized that the events directly affect the ways in which people, including students, operate in the world.
“As a department, we are fiercely committed to ensuring that inclusivity and respect continue to shape our practice in the classroom and the college community,” the statement continued. It also stated that the department is part of a college with a mission to develop “deep social and moral concern,” a direct reference to section six of the college bulletin. This section details guidelines and expectations for life at the college, and the quote is referencing a provision specifically under the subsection “The Residential College Community.”
The statement concluded by encouraging individuals to reach out to the staff and faculty of the department in the event that they need support. Underneath the statement were the signatures of the following faculty & staff members of the department: Nathalie Anderson, Elizabeth Bolton, Rachel Buurma, Lara Cohen, Deborah Doherty, Anthony Foy, Jill Gladstein, Eric Glover, Nora Johnson, Bakirathi Mani, Alba Newmann Holmes, Sangina Patnaik, Peter Schmidt, Eric Song, and Craig Williamson.
When asked about the process for penning the statement, Schmidt explained that members of the department were in conversation via email over the weekend after the events of the week of the election had transpired. Two faculty members drafted a version of the statement and shared it via email. All of the faculty provided input and revision suggestions to the original draft. Upon the completion of the statement, the faculty signed it, and sent it out via various channels.
The statement appears to have generally been received positively by students affiliated with the department.
“The English literature’s Anti-harassment statement was the first example I had seen of a Swarthmore academic department delivering such a message. However, I believe it was appropriate,” said Colin McLeish ’18, an English major. He pointed out that the statement showed that the faculty and staff of the English Literature department were committed to the college’s mission to educate students to develop a deep moral and social consciousness.
“The faculty of academic departments are instructors and mentors, and they set examples for us academically and personally. Their commitment to ensuring inclusivity and respect should be considered a practice for the community, not just a practice for the classroom. I felt proud to be a major of the English Literature department and represent them as one of the English Liaisons,” McLeish said.
Heidi Kalloo ’18 called the statement thoughtful and well written and agreed with McLeish’s general sentiment, but noted that this sort of message was particular to Swarthmore in nature.
“I think it was a good move to release the message. It wouldn’t fly anywhere but a liberal arts college but since we’re swat I think it’s cool. And it seems like it’s not just pretty words, seeing as our class regularly discusses our readings in terms of current events,” she said.
Ryan Meuth ’17 also felt proud to be a student of a group of faculty who care so deeply.
“Perhaps no other department so greatly stresses the impact of words, both written and spoken, so it seems only right that the department would stand against the hateful words that have been pervaded American consciousness since, and even before, the election,” Meuth said.
No other department at Swarthmore has released a statement on the events that have transpired since Election Day as of the the publication of this article.

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