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Antiracism Statement

Columbia Writing Center Antiracism Statement

Summer 2020

The Columbia University Writing Center commits to antiracist action in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others are part of a long history of state-sanctioned violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Racism is insidious and embedded in all social systems, including our own. Because racism reproduces itself through language, the Writing Center is positioned to disrupt that reproduction. We draw inspiration from writing centers founded in the 1940s to empower Black college students to use language to fight segregation. We are informed by linguists who demonstrate that standard written English (SWE) is merely one among many legitimate Englishes and that treating SWE as the default “correct” English reinforces false racial and social hierarchies. We rely upon more than 2,000 years of rhetorical theory that addresses language choices in terms of the speaker’s goals and the audience’s needs. We commit to the following actions in order to resist racism as part of our mission to support Columbia’s writers in ways that are research-driven and intersectionally informed:

Call out racism

  • Name racism when we see it in the Writing Center, and open dialogues on race that place the experiences of those subject to racism at the center.

  • Compile  resources we can share to educate ourselves and others about racism.

Revise our hiring

  • Each semester, contact groups that foreground the interests of underrepresented students and inform them about pathways to Writing Center employment.

  • Beginning September 2020, include a statement on antiracism and social justice in Writing Center job descriptions and assess candidates’ alignment with it.

Work in the campus community

  • During the fall 2020, form a coalition with other Columbia-affiliated writing centers to collaborate and share resources related to anti-racism. 

  • By September 17, apply for a Provost’s “Addressing Racism” Seed Grant to support coalition initiatives. 

  • Seek meetings with two departments per semester to discuss how their students’ many Englishes contribute to vibrant discourse communities.

Revise our consultant development program

  • Dedicate time to focus on intersectional and antiracist pedagogy during 1) How Writers Think (the pedagogy course that many undergraduate peer fellows take), 2) orientations for new consultants, and 3) at least one all-staff meeting each semester. 

  • Devote the 2020-2021 Names You Should Know series to the work of scholars who focus on racial justice, and pay consultants to attend the series.

Make an ongoing commitment

  • Each year, assess our progress on these actions. 

  • Revise this statement and action plan annually. Post it prominently in the Writing Center.