Antiracist Action in the UMass Amherst ADVANCE Program

July 9, 2020

UMass ADVANCE joins in the grief and outrage at the continued violence against Black people in the United States, including by members of the state charged with protecting its residents. We stand in solidarity with those protesting anti-Black racism and white supremacy. As members of the nation-wide National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE community, we are guided by an intersectional feminist framework, following the work of Black feminist scholars. We say the names of women of color and trans people of color whose lives were recently taken at the hands of police: Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Tony McDade, Priscilla Slater, and remember Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, and the many other Black women and transgender people whose lives have been cut short by police violence. 

As the #BlackLivesMatter movement brings visibility to Black suffering and death across the United States, we also recognize racial inequality at our institution. Our campus survey indicates that Black faculty are more likely than white, Asian, and Latinx faculty to rate the campus climate as disrespectful, unsupportive, unfair, and isolating. Black faculty feel less accepted by their colleagues than other groups, and less valued for their work. Only 16% of Black faculty, compared to 58% of other faculty, believe that white and racial minority faculty are treated equally.

The goal of UMass ADVANCE is institutional transformation through cultivating faculty equity, inclusion, and success. In the coming academic year, we focus on faculty inclusion. Our efforts are based on a rich history of Black women intellectuals’ leadership, including here in Massachusetts. The Combahee River Collective held the first Black feminist retreat in July 1977 in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Our approach is to change policies and cultures towards a more equitable campus, including holding leaders accountable.

In our Year of Inclusion, we offer programming to help faculty and campus leaders implement inclusive, equitable practices, including multiple workshops on “Equitable Practices for Evaluating Faculty amid Covid-19,” and Bystander Intervention Training for disrupting racism and sexism in the moment. We are identifying and amplifying best practices for inclusive leadership. Please look for further research findings and information on our regularly updated website. Campus leaders will find there a toolkit, including our two-page tool on best practices for inclusive leadership.

With a renewed sense of urgency towards understanding and transforming the systems of inequality built into our institution, the ADVANCE team also practices reflection to understand how we are personally implicated in racist oppression. We appreciate and invite others to use the resources offered by Dr. Della Moseley and colleagues through Academics for Black Survival and Wellness.

“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

–Combahee River Collective