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A Statement of Commitment in Support of Black Lives Matter

From: The Faculty of Pacific University MFA in Writing Program

The faculty and guest faculty of Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing program mourn the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, and many others before them who have died senselessly at the hands of the police, at the hands of the State. We affirm our university president Lesley Hallick’s message of “commitment and demand for change” in light of what she rightfully describes as a “seemingly unending and callous assault on the lives of Black men and women.” We too assert that “this is not acceptable.”

In her statement, President Hallick continues on behalf of Pacific University’s entire senior leadership:

"For all members of our community, we challenge you to commit to learning more about the impacts of racial inequality and the actions that can be taken to dismantle racism. It is time we each make a personal commitment to making Pacific University and our communities better by creating space for all to learn equitably and live peacefully." 

We take this challenge seriously, and feel it from within. We absolutely and unequivocally denounce white supremacy and the systemic racism that has shaped our country from the beginning. We affirm that Black lives matter, and we stand with those who continue to fight, on our own streets and bridges, and across the country and the world, racial injustice and discrimination against Black people.

Yet, as a community of artist-citizens and teaching artists, we further embrace our responsibility to educate and help shape diverse poets and storytellers who abhor racism and who understand their roles in shaping culture through their talent and hard work. Recognizing that our program itself has been tainted by the same systemic racism that has shaped our nation and region, we today renew our commitment to identify and oppose, in both word and action, structures that support racial discrimination in higher education and the creative arts at large and, critically, within our own institution and program.

As such, the Program will:

  1. Conduct a careful and honest and transparent assessment of our demographics to better and more aggressively understand and address the lack of a diversified community.
  2. Review our policies and practices in all aspects of our operations, especially in enrollment, recruitment, and instruction, and to identify and erase any vestiges of racism, racial insensitivity, and inequity, especially as it relates to Black members of our community.
  3. Allocate resources, time, and energy to meaningfully hire and retain faculty of color.
  4. Commit particularly to working with our university administration and the Friends of the MFA to invest immediately in dedicated staff to work specifically on recruitment and retention of students of color.
  5. Address the lack of diversity in the Program’s staff and devise a plan to add support staff of color.
  6. Set quantifiable and measurable goals to increase racial diversity in students, faculty, and staff.
  7. Actively seek out and consult with minority faculty on all matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  8. Establish a faculty-based diversity, equity, and inclusion committee to advise the Program director in all hiring and recruitment of guest faculty and guest speakers, with a specific goal of bringing in exclusively racially diverse guests for at least the next three years.
  9. And in light of this, prioritize writers of color for all new faculty hires in the genres of fiction and non-fiction and to continue to prioritize faculty of color hires in poetry. 
  10. Determine a goal of hiring and retaining Black faculty.

We commit to organizing discussions with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, the Friends of the MFA, the university administration and other supporters and partners of our program to put into action these goals and to seek guidance in carrying out the work ahead of us.

Finally, we recognize that these are initial goals to renew our commitment to racial diversity, equity, and inclusion, as we will continue to reflect on our past and actively examine and work to dismantle those structures that have led to the lack of a racially diverse community within our program. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to fight racial injustice in our country, and we will strive to be an exemplary academic arts program dedicated to nurturing diverse writers and storytellers.

Signed,

Ellen Bass

Marvin Bell

Sanjiv Bhattacharya

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Claire Davis

Kwame Dawes

Claire Dederer

Jack Driscoll

Pete Fromm

Frank Gaspar

Molly Gloss

Debra Gwartney

Cate Kennedy

Yusef Komunyakaa

Valerie Laken

Dorianne Laux

Mike Magnuson

Shara McCallum

Joseph Millar

Sharon Olds

Mahtem Shiferraw

Mark Spragg

Mary Helen Stefaniak

Willy Vlautin

Kellie Wells

Pacific University MFA Staff

Scott Korb, Director

Jennifer Scanlon, Assistant Director

Tenley Taylor, Administrative Assistant

 

Image: Clay Banks (@clay.banks)