The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Our Actions

Below, we document important directions and priorities, as well as steps the College and its departments, are taking to act on our values. In each case, we seek to listen to various constituencies, respond appropriately, and to be transparent and inclusive in our decision-making. 

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Actions pledged by the SBS student success team

Hiring

Despite active efforts to increase the diversity of our advising/student success teams, we remain a predominantly white staff, in a predominantly white university. Here are some changes we’re making:
  • Job Ad Statement. While we include the required Equal Opportunity statement in all advisor search ads, we want to convey a stronger sense of commitment.
  • Recruitment. Although we typically advertise advising/student success positions locally, we will expand outreach to advertise in Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ (HBCU) publications in an effort to significantly diversify our applicant pools.
  • Applicant Statement. As of 2018, all SBS faculty searches have required applicants to submit a statement about how their work promotes and is framed by a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Applicants have noted that this communicates SBS’ commitment to promoting social justice, and search committees have noted that the statements provide an important piece of information about the extent to which candidates share that commitment. We will require this for all advising/student success positions going forward. 

Academic Fellows Program (AFP)

AFP supports SBS undergraduates who identify as students of color, first-generation, and/or from families with low incomes. AFP provides a sense of community and belonging, academic and professional resources, networking and mentoring, and a safe space for challenging conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Director of AFP. The AFP Directorship will be expanded from a part-time role to a full-time lecturer position.
  • Diversity Fellows. The AFP Diversity Fellows peer leader positions will be transformed into internships to provide a deeper professional development opportunity for AFP students. The Fellows will be supervised by the new Director.

Updating SBS Literature

  • SBS Pathways. SBS Pathways materials and talking points will be revised to foreground students’ development of civic responsibility as a vital theme across their academic, experiential, and professional pathways.
  • SBS Pathways Website. New SBS web pages for academic advising and career and professional development will be designed to highlight the role of the social sciences in confronting injustice. The webpages will include a prominent statement for those pages that makes explicit our commitment to understanding, acknowledging, and fighting racism.
  • Scholarships and High Impact Opportunities. In an effort to close the opportunity gap, SBS offers generous, need-based scholarships for internships, study abroad, research, and financial aid. We are actively working to expand funding to make these opportunities viable for more students, particularly those who may otherwise consider them financially out of reach.

More

Anthropology

The Department of Anthropology has added two new courses to the Fall 2020 offerings. Though many anthropology courses address issues of structural racism, these courses allow a deeper dive and sustained exploration. Both courses will be offered online.

Anth 591AR - Antiracism: Theory and Practice | Amanda Walker Johnson

This new course responds to recent and urgent calls for action against racism. As Ella Baker, a key organizer in the Black Freedom Struggle of the 60s, said, “in order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been.”

In the spirit of Baker, this course focuses on three aspects for impactful antiracist praxis: First, we will increase our “understanding,” by analyzing and comparing theories of antiracism—tracing how the term antiracism itself emerged and became commonly recognized. For this, we will read and reflect on scholarship in the US and beyond, such as those by Leith Mullings, Kimberlé Crenshaw, George Dei, and Yin Paradies. Second, we will “remember” and glean lessons from past struggles, by examining historical and ethnographic studies of antiracist movements, such as those by Sara Ahmed, Steven Gregory, George Lipsitz, and Julia Sudbury. Third, we will “see where we are going” and synthesize works by scholars such as Ibram Kendi, Mica Pollock, Eve Tuck, Angela Valenzuela, and Kevin Yamamoto to collectively, as a class, develop decolonizing, antiracist strategies that we can put into practice now—from everyday actions to long-term struggles against racism.

This course is open to undergraduates and graduate students from any discipline, with weekly reading, writing, visual components, and discussions, as well as semester-long research projects for students to explore their interests.

ANTHRO 297W - Du Bois in Our Time | Whitney Battle-Baptiste

The course demonstrates how the broad and varied writings of W.E.B. Du Bois have helped inform and shape contemporary movements. On-the-ground activists, people marching in the streets, sit-ins, occupations, have all shaped movements for social change, but so too have scholars like Du Bois.

Starting with Du Bois's 1935 text, Black Reconstruction, this course will trace the foundations of how racial inequality is tied to economic and social inequities. We will explore how workers have alienated and disenfranchised, and degradation, the stigmatization of black men as criminals, and have instances of anti-black racism have supported a capitalist agenda that relies on and perpetuates, social inequalities.

We apply the writings of Du Bois to the protest movements of our own time and trace to what extent Du Bois' theories have been borne out in the years since his death in 1963. We will engage with the ongoing discussion about civil rights in America and how fundamental disagreements about the approach to race, shape political and social culture. Using the archive in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass, we will see Du Bois up close and gain a greater insight into his life, as well as his writings. Through exploring the archives, students will have the chance to make research discoveries of their own that may help influence the direction of their academic study far beyond the life of this course

Communication
The Department of Communication has added a new class for fall 2020, COMM 386 Race, Inequality, and Representation, taught by Prof. Sut Jhally. This course deals with issues of racial stratification and inequality in the United States, and the ways in which we understand them - the stories we tell ourselves about WHY the world is organized as it. It deals with both the reality of race as well as the way that reality is represented, and why, as a society, we refuse to seriously address its disastrous consequences.
 
We would also point Communication majors toward additional courses offered this fall, including COMM 325H Race, Media, and Politics, taught by Prof. Seth Goldman. This course examines the changing role of "race" in American politics and society, focusing in particular on change over time in public opinion, media portrayals, and campaigns and elections. As we investigate these themes, we will analyze the impact of political communication on race relations, and evaluate strategies that could help to improve interracial relations in society. (Gen. Ed. HS, DU)
 
And COMM 394EI Performance and the Politics of Race, taught by Prof. Kimberlee Pérez. This course looks at the ways race, racial identities, and interracial relations are formed through and by communication practices in present-day U.S. America. Though focusing on U.S. America in the current historical moment, the course takes into account the ways history as well as the transnational flows of people and capital inform and define conversations about race and racial identities. Race will be discussed as intersectional, taking into account the ways race is understood and performed in relation to gender, sexuality, class, and nation. The course will focus on the performance and communications of race, ranging from everyday interactions, personal narratives and storytelling, intra- and inter-racial dialogue, and staged performances. 
 
Many of the other Communication courses offered this fall also discuss race and racism in addition to other topics central to social justice, but these three courses are the fall offerings in which the analysis of race, racism, and racial identities are most central. 
Journalism

The Journalism Department feels a special responsibility to represent the diversity of Massachusetts because many of our majors amplify their voices using campus media as undergraduates and assume influential media roles after graduation.

To that end, the department is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in various concrete ways. In the classroom, our curriculum includes classes in Social Justice Journalism, Covering Race, Community Journalism (which partners with high school students in Springfield, Mass., The African American Freedom Struggle, and the Press and Journalism in Jail. Many other courses address these issues as well.

In 2017, UMass Journalism started sponsoring the Rebirth Project, a student media outlet designed to feature the voices of underrepresented students.

In 2018, the Journalism Department offered a free weeklong Summer Journalism Institute for underrepresented and first-generation high school students from around the state. Modeled on a successful program from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, we plan to continue this program after the pandemic abates as a way to foster a more diverse community over time.

We work to bring diverse voices into the department as guest speakers. Over the past five years, our guests have included Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas, Women Photograph founder Daniela Zalcman, Marshall Project Managing Editor Gabriel Dance, author Mona Eltahawy, sports journalist Kate Fagan, and radio journalist Chenjerai Kumanyika.

Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning

The department of landscape architecture and regional planning is taking a proactive approach to making our community a more supportive and inclusive community.  Under the direction of the department’s Diversity Committee and Prof. Darrel Ramsey-Musolf, we will undertake a self-evaluation of our programs, courses, and events to ensure that we are promoting a more equitable future. The professions of landscape architecture and regional planning are deeply embedded in shaping the physical, the social, and economic landscape of our cities, and diversity and inclusion are key aspects of professional education. The self-evaluation will be a year-long process that will begin in fall 2020 with a series of town meetings and convening a committee of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to conduct the self-evaluation.  The spring 2021 semester will include additional feedback on the self-evaluation and developing a report and implementation plan.    

In addition to this year-long self-evaluation process, the Department will host a series of speakers as part of our Zube lecture series that will be focusing on resilience, climate change, and diversity issues.  These include talks by our new assistant professor Samantha Solano on Aug. 27th entitled, Landscapes Unrepresented.  

On Sept. 24, professor Kofi Boone from North Carolina State University will give a talk entitled, Notes on Resilience.  Prof. Boone will be the Department’s BRiDGE Scholar and will give two additional seminars on pathways for underrepresented groups in the profession of landscape architecture.  The BRiDGE Scholar program through the UMass School of Earth and Sustainability brings early-career scientists from underrepresented backgrounds to campus to discuss their work.  

With regards to courses, we have a new undergraduate course being taught by Prof. Darrel Ramsey Musolf, SUSTCOMM  397R Special Topics- Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Urban Environments that will focus on diversity and inclusion issues (see attached flier). Some other existing courses that include this topic are:   

  • SUSTCOMM  110 Transforming Your World: Introduction to Community Engagement taught by Prof. Emeritus Ellen Pader  
  • REGIONPL  597P Special Topics- Housing Policy in the U.S. taught by Prof. Darrel Ramsey Musolf  
  • REGIONPL  630 The Theory and Practice of Public Participation taught by Prof. Elisabeth Hamin Infield 
Legal Studies

The Legal Studies Program will be offering a course (likely in the 2021-22 academic year) on “Bias in the American Legal System.”

In addition, the program is funding internships to enable students who might not otherwise have the chance to do internships to take part in high-impact internships.

Resource Economics

Efforts to improve Diversity and Inclusion 

The Department of Resource Economics recognizes that we can and must do better to improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Economics Profession. The recent murders of Geroge Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and so many other black people at the hands of police demands that those in power not be silent on issues of diversity and inclusion. To that end, the Department of Resource Economics will undertake the following steps to become more diverse and inclusive. We must acknowledge the contributions of our current graduate students in the development of this plan. 

  • We will appoint a Departmental committee to research and make recommendations as to how to actively and continually educate ourselves and  address these issues of racial justice and inclusion. 
  • We will increase our mentorship of underrepresented students in our classes. The Resource Economics Graduate Council and the Undergraduate Advising Team will initiate a series of mentorship events for UMass undergraduates interested in pursuing graduate degrees in economics. 
  • We will increase our mentorship or our underrepresented graduate students and faculty. 
  • We will actively cite Black academics in our research, and make efforts to ensure that our Seminar Series is as diverse and inclusive as possible.  
  • We will advertise our new Undergraduate Major in Managerial Economics broadly with the goal of increasing our enrollments of Black, Indigenous, Latino, Women, as well as First-Generation students. 

Resources for Economists 

There are many recent resources available to enhance the Diversity and Inclusion of our Field. These include but are not limited to: 

  • The American Economic Association’s Resources 
  • This New York Times article summarizing the events that led to the call for a prominent economist to resign his editorship of the Journal of Political Economy.  
  • These two statements by economists William Spriggs and Joelle Gamble on how our neoclassical assumptions can uphold racist systems. 
  • And, as a case study, these podcasts by Planet Money and The Indicator on Dr. Lisa Cook's 10-year struggle to publish a paper on racism's effect on innovation.
School of Public Policy

A Statement of Solidarity from the Staff, Faculty, and Director of the School of Public Policy

The last weeks have offered a compressed view of centuries of domination and oppression of African Americans in this country. We have witnessed intolerable exclusion: the rampage of Covid-19 through segregated communities weakened by dysfunctional health care, punitive policing, pollution, unemployment, and inadequate housing; racist threats in public parks; the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville; the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by lynchers in Georgia; and militarized and enraged responses to protest.

When we witness violence against and the profound, pervasive social exclusion of African Americans, we stand and declare, “Black Lives Matter.”

The murder of George Floyd by police with the complicity of other officers is shocking for not being shocking. The murderers of George Floyd and others, and officers who have stood by and done nothing while their colleagues committed murder, have violated fundamental human rights, the ethics of public service, and their professional oaths to recognize their badges as symbols of public trust. We demand justice and change.

We join Chancellor Subbaswamy in his call to stand united and reject racism and bigotry in all its forms. We must do more than wring our hands. As social scientists and scholars of public policy, we have a special capacity to identify and denounce structural injustice. We have a long way to go. We reaffirm our commitment as faculty and staff of the School of Public Policy to dedicate ourselves through our profession to fostering a more just society.

The Staff, Faculty, and Director of the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy

Link: https://www.umass.edu/spp/news/statement-solidarity-staff-faculty-and-director-school-public-policy

Sociology

The Department of Sociology is committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive and equitable department. We strive to create safe spaces to encourage productive dialogue about intersectional dynamics of race, gender, social class, sexualities, age, and other factors. We ask that all members of the Sociology community -- faculty, staff, and students --be mindful of our responsibility to create an environment that is welcoming to all, and where each person feels accepted, included, seen, heard, valued, and safe. Our undergraduate and graduate curricula are built around the critical exploration of institutional, cultural, and interactional intersectionalities.

The department has an ongoing Equity and Social Justice Committee, consisting of faculty and graduate students. Our complete Value Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can be found here: https://www.umass.edu/sociology/diversity_inclusion

The Sociology department has long addressed systemic racism and other problems in policing and the U.S. criminal justice system. We offer a pioneering, critical program for Criminology and Criminal Justice System Certificate. This certificate explores the sociological theories of crime, law, and deviance in order to understand, contextualize, and analyze criminal behavior and the criminal justice system. The classes that satisfy the certificate encourage students to analyze the criminal justice system from a sociological perspective. Our courses are taught by award-winning professors on topics such as Race, Class, and Crime; Race and Policing; Mass Incarceration in the U.S.; Violence By and Against the Police; Gender and Crime; and Hate Crime. Sociology faculty specialize in research on racial profiling, mass incarceration, sexuality, and public policy, child welfare systems, race and the penal system, and more. Students who pursue the Criminology and Criminal JusticeSystem certificate often go on to pursue graduate school or law school or go onto careers such as law, social justice, law enforcement, social welfare, and human rights.


June 5, 2020

The Law and Society Association held its annual (virtual) meeting last week and we held a spontaneous roundtable session about George Floyd and the uprisings titled “Cry the Beloved Country: George Floyd and America’s Continuing Racial Tragedy