Communication and Media Studies Department Diversity and Inclusion
CMS Statement on Confronting Anti-Blackness and Advancing Anti-Racist and Inclusive Practices
Over the course of the summer of 2020, members of the Communication and Media Studies department have watched, participated in, and supported the Black Lives Matter Movement. As scholars who study and teach on a variety of relevant topics–including online social movements and advocacy efforts, Black visibility politics, media representation and production–we have heard the concerns expressed by students and alumni that Fordham, and indeed our department, needs to do more to address systemic racism and anti-Black racism in particular. As individuals and as a department, we plan to do our part to hold Fordham accountable for fulfilling the promises of its Addressing Racism, Educating for Justice Action Plan and hope to participate in many of its initiatives, but our work will not end there.
As we return to campus, we want to make it clear to our students, faculty colleagues, and the broader Fordham community that the orientation of our department and its pedagogy is committed to countering anti-Black racism, as well as other forms of marginalization faced by students of color and other minoritized groups on campus. We have taken time this summer to have a committed conversation about how best to improve our efforts around inclusion and equity of all minoritized students, faculty, and staff at Fordham. Most fundamentally, we are here to support our students, whether you are a white student who is unsure how to enter the conversations, a Black student who just wants to know that the department recognizes and affirms your humanity, or any student from a historically marginalized community who has faced the type of negative experiences that appear to be universal to students of color on this campus. While members of our department have made significant efforts to incorporate anti-racism into our teaching and scholarship, we also recognize that we have at times reproduced processes of marginalization, and we apologize for actions that have hurt or disrespected our students or colleagues.
To this end, we want to make it clear that we support the ASILI statement of demands wholeheartedly. As a department that is fundamentally concerned with freedom of expression and the pursuit of social justice, we especially want to voice our support for students in their efforts to exercise their right to advocate for themselves and others. We particularly echo their calls to restructure the university’s restrictive demonstration policy and refrain from punishing those arrested or detained for protesting off campus. These policies not only run contrary to the ideals our field and faculty uphold, but also severely impede our ability to educate our students in becoming active advocates for themselves and others. They stand in opposition to the Jesuit values espoused by this university, which indeed call upon students to “be bothered by injustice” and compel all members of our community to speak out about oppression as citizens of the world.
Beyond support, we know our department has to do more. Universities are spaces of encounter. Our department is deeply invested in building a just and equitable society, and our pursuit of excellence in education should facilitate such encounters by defamiliarizing naturalized conceptions such as "self" and "other." Media forms are often at the center of such processes of naturalization; media are not "just entertainment,” but the interface through which deep-seated biases and hierarchies of power take root at an individual and societal level. As a media-focused department, we are in a unique position to enable such discussions, within our classrooms, in our department, and at Fordham. We, the members of the CMS department, commit to doing the following and regard this statement as a jumping-off point to solicit increased feedback from students, colleagues, and alumni.
Excellence in teaching requires anti-racist and inclusive pedagogy and curriculum. For too long we have made changes in piecemeal ways, and seek to improve this.
- Over the past five years, CMS faculty have developed new courses that explicitly address anti-Black racism and social justice: Television, Race, and Civil Rights; Race, Gender, and Digital Media; Ethics and Diversity in Journalism, and Communicating Revolution , among others. We will continue to do this and ensure these courses are offered at both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses.
- In the 2019-2020 academic year, our department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee began an assessment of our curriculum’s diversity and inclusion, focusing on the range of courses offered and the inclusiveness of the introductory courses across all four of our majors. We will report progress on this assessment and steps taken in light of it in Fall 2020 on our website.
Based on these findings, we will hold departmental pedagogy workshops throughout the year to foreground inclusive curriculum development and anti-racist teaching and center the pedagogical insights of our faculty with experiences of marginalization. We will connect these efforts to application to the university’s Teaching Across the Curriculum Grants.
Ahead of the Fall semester, we asked faculty to check their syllabi and consider adding to the diversity of authors they teach, and engage in issues of race, gender, class, and other intersecting marginalized experiences throughout the semester in the topics taught and assignments created.
The DIC will survey students about their experiences with marginalization in our department--including in the classroom, advising, and co-curricular events this Fall, and develop actionable recommendations for changes to the department's guidelines and procedures to create a more equitable and inclusive environment.
CMS will deepen its collaboration with the Department of African and African American Studies, American Studies Program, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program to showcase interdisciplinarity and academic allyship.
- The department will continue to advocate forwholesale re-evaluation of the Core Curriculum, so that anti-racist pedagogy becomes one of its guiding principles and not relegated to a single requirement. Specifically, we advocate for an approach to anti-racist pedagogy that reflects the diversity of the student, faculty and staff population. In other words, it is no longer the case that majority white students need to be taught “tolerance” of racial and ethnic “others,” but that we need to adapt our pedagogy and curriculum to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse community. In addition, we will push for students to be able to receive core credit for courses taken outside of their "home" campus to increase dialogue across the student body and promote a more flexible learning environment and facilitate peer-to-peer student learning across campuses.
Hiring, retaining, and promoting faculty of color and those studying the role of marginalized groups and advancing anti-racist work is crucial to our mission as a department.
- Over the past five years we have hired 11 tenure-track faculty, seven of whom are people of color. The scholarship of many of our recent hires focuses on issues of race and racism; gender and sexuality; social justice and civic engagement; and global media production, distribution, and uptake. We will continue our dedication to hiring faculty from underrepresented groups and those who study topics that center the media production and representation, perspectives, and experiences of marginalized groups. This has been a departmental priority because we find it is the best way to meet our growing student population’s needs with the highest ideals of the university at heart.
- As a department, we are committed to taking up the Faculty Senate’s recommendation to review our norms for reappointment, tenure, promotion, and merit with an eye toward how they can further recognize and reward antiracist and social justice work and practices in teaching, research, and/or service.
- The department strongly supports and will seek to participate in the new John LaFarge, S.J., Visiting Scholars and Fellows Program and the Joseph Fitzpatrick, S.J., Postdoctoral Fellowship and Cluster Hire Program, aimed at bringing early-career scholars who are underrepresented in their fields and studying racial and gender inequity to campus. As both of these focus primarily on early-career researchers and those who would have visiting appointments at Fordham, CMS also calls for and will continue to push for dedicated and funded hiring initiatives that support permanent tenure-track and tenured lines for underrepresented scholars and those studying issues surrounding racial and social justice.
Everyday department practices and policies should reflect our values. As such, we will supplement existing policies and practices so that we can better hear from and serve students who have been marginalized on campus or in our department.
- The CMS department created its Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DIC) in 2018. We will continue to use it to assess where we need to improve and advance goals that are anti-racist and inclusive, and to support those who have felt marginalized on campus. The DIC is committed to listening to both students and faculty to help make our classes spaces where more members of our community feel better seen and heard.
- We will pilot a CMS student advisory group dedicated to issues of diversity and inclusion. It will be composed of undergraduate and graduate students in our department, with the broad goals of hearing students’ needs and getting feedback on how to best serve their interests more directly and in an ongoing way.
- Last year, the DIC identified summer internship funding as a site for increasing our department’s ability to serve lower-income students, who are also disproportionately students of color on Fordham’s campus. We will seek to pilot a program that enables a more economically diverse set of students to take on internships in their field of study.
- We will make department resources, such as computers, recording equipment, technology staff assistance, etc. available to students doing activist work outside of the classroom.
- The CMS department will not hold or financially support multi-speaker (3 or more speakers) events in which the speakers or panelists are all men or all white.
- Following ASILI’s call for the university to cut ties with Aramark, the CMS department will not use Aramark to cater departmental events. Beyond this, we will advocate that the university institute a vetting process of its contracting and procurement process by an ethics board.
- We support the call from ASILI’s to acknowledge and assess the university's relationship with the NYPD and ensure that students and local community members of color are not the subject of racial profiling by public safety officers.
We will be soliciting feedback from our students and colleagues regarding these policies and asking for more ideas to provide actionable future steps that improve the department and campus experience for our students.