June 2020  

For almost 50 years, faculty associated with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at SUNY New Paltz (formerly the Women’s Studies Program) have addressed racism through pedagogy and programming. That said, we acknowledge that since our founding in 1972 our department has been staffed by a predominantly white faculty.   

The institutionalized racism and sexism prevalent within academia is compounded by our specific genesis as a small interdisciplinary program reliant on other predominantly white departments and our location in the predominantly white Hudson Valley. Thus, we are tied to and shaped by structures that tokenize, marginalize, and exclude scholars and students of color. One consequence of these dynamics is the institutional reputation we’ve acquired among students of color as “white women’s studies.” Thus, despite our anti-racist interventions, it remains clear that there is much more work to do.      

In the midst of the Covid19 global pandemic—that laid bare the continued inequities and injustices caused by white supremacy and gave rise to a new civil rights era under the leadership of #BlackLivesMatter—the core faculty of WGSS came together virtually to rethink how our department can work on dismantling racism, decentering whiteness, rejecting white supremacy, and undoing settler colonialism.     

The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz hereby commits to anti-racist praxis in our individual classrooms, in our programming, and in our department with the following action steps:  

  • We commit to examining and revising our courses to ensure that at least 50% of the content we teach centers and amplifies BIPOC thought, analysis, and creativity. Introducing Black, Indigenous, and POC scholarship and activism to our students is an essential component of anti-racist feminist teaching. We understand our commitment to centering BIPOC in our classrooms as taking place alongside our ongoing commitment to teaching the thought and work of those with marginalized genders and sexualities.   
  • We urge our affiliates and allies across the university to join us in this commitment, and we offer our hands-on support to those who wish to be in conversation about these efforts over the coming months and years.  
  • We commit to sharing our experiences with our colleagues across the university and to work with those who also center anti-racist praxis and challenge settler-colonial frameworks at the root of racism and white supremacy.  

We undertake these commitments in the context of a field that originated out of student demand to center the thought and lives of women (and over time consciously focused on gender and sexuality) and in the context of a field and a praxis indebted to the thought and activism of feminists of color. We are intersectional feminist scholars and activists who make these commitments because we believe that #BlackLivesMatter.