Letter from the Faculty of the Political Science Department

Dear Haverford Community: 

We, as faculty members of the Haverford College Political Science Department, write to support and honor the work of students who have joined together to demand change at Haverford and beyond. We recognize the work of Black students and other students of color (particularly Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction, and Black Student League) who have led the student body in a strike against the persistent institutional marginalization experienced by Black, indigenous, people of color, first generation, and low-income students. We also recognize their creative labors of envisioning how the college might be better and what might be done to make it so. This is not the first time that such demands for change have been made at the College. The College has a long history of “hearing” grievances about institutional bias without instigating meaningful reforms and of declaring commitments to change without delivering on promises. The student strike makes clear that merely paying lip service to equity for all members of the College’s diverse community (including along lines of race, class, gender identity, and ability) should not and will not suffice. 

Student demands for social justice and equity force our department and the College to be self-reflective and, importantly, to take concrete action in order to address the myriad of ways that we have failed our students and this community.  

We are not interested in making a statement of solidarity that is not backed with serious commitments to change. Indeed, we believe that declarations of solidarity are hurtful when they are not accompanied by action and when they are only made when it is easy. Solidarity requires action, even when it is hard to do so. As a department, we accept this challenge.  

We, as a department, commit ourselves to the principles of anti-racism and freedom of expression; to creating an environment conducive to learning for all students; and to de-centering and provincializing perspectives that have long been hegemonic in this country and in the U.S. academy. In this endeavor, we commit to accountability to one another, to students, and to the broader Haverford community, and we appreciate the diversity of knowledge and experiences we all bring to the table. We acknowledge that it is unjust to privilege only one perspective and ignore the experiences of others. We also acknowledge that conversations over ideas—inside and outside the classroom—do not occur in a vacuum and recognize our privilege and power as faculty members. 

We, as a department, commit to the following actions in support of these principles: 

  • Amnesty for strike participation
    • We will not penalize students for not attending class or for not turning in assignments while the strike is ongoing. 
  • Internal departmental self-reflection by faculty
  • We are committed to self-reflection. The faculty will have honest internal   conversations about their assumptions and prejudices regarding the marginalization experienced by those who are Black, indigenous, people of color, first generation, low-income, people who experience oppression due to their gender identity or sexual orientation, and people of different abilities.
  • Classroom culture and student feedback
    • We will create a variety of spaces for students to share their concerns about classroom and departmental culture so that we may address these issues. We will provide a diverse array of channels for students to engage us with reflections, critique and ideas.
    • We will create a feedback form on the department website that will include an anonymous option. This will be accessible to all students enrolled in our courses.
    • We will actively listen to concerns and suggestions from students and colleagues and commit to finding a way for each faculty member to receive honest, constructive, and safe (for faculty and students) feedback on their classroom environments as they pertain to diversity, equity and inclusion. 
  • Accountability
    • We will report back to students annually on the progress we have made. 
    • We commit to holding annual departmental town halls during which students can provide feedback and demand answers. 
  • Ensuring that our teaching and syllabi embrace the diversity of  perspectives on our campuses and in the world

Though syllabi creation is in the hands of individual faculty rather than the department as a whole, we each commit to taking steps to increase the diversity (broadly conceived) of the authors/creators included in our collective course offerings and teaching. This can take many forms. Most syllabi should embrace and attend to perspectives that are not white, rich, and male. Faculty can learn from the amazing diversity that already exists within the student body, the faculty, and the curriculum.  

  • External review of the department
    • We will host an external review team during the academic year 2021-22. This team will consist of esteemed faculty from political science departments at peer colleges. These visitors will evaluate the department through fact gathering that will include majors and give an opportunity for students to share their concerns anonymously with the team. The recommendations of the outside review team will provide an important set of concrete steps that we can take as a department to do better
    • We commit further to making sure the faculty who comprise this external review team are themselves diverse and that they are deeply knowledgeable both about struggles to diversify the Political Science discipline and about the discipline’s historical entanglement with patriarchy, imperialism, and white supremacy.

The actions detailed above are not meant to constitute an exhaustive list; they are a beginning. The Political Science department acknowledges that we have work to do to learn and understand our shortcomings. We hear the student demands as a call to reckoning that we must do better. We thank students for courageously calling us to this challenge. 

Respectfully,

Craig Borowiak

Tom Donahue

Anita Isaacs

Steve McGovern

Barak Mendelsohn

Zach Oberfield

Paulina Ochoa

Susanna Wing

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