A Statement on Diversity
The Department of English at the University of Kansas has a longstanding tradition of valuing diversity in all its forms. We have worked to build cultural understanding, to foster an inclusive community, and to create an equitable environment for every one of its members. We recognize that professing and celebrating diversity is no simple, easily-attained matter. It requires constant self-examination, an ability to adjust to changing times, and a willingness to resist the lure of dogma and cant. The effort to set forth the principles of diversity demands that we continually strive to establish a welcoming atmosphere for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, physical ability, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, immigrant status, military status, or age.
Historically, we found our commitment to diversity to be a compass that enabled us to navigate through uncertain times. This guidance resulted in a variety of courses we have offered. Not only have they been rooted in traditional approaches but in innovative ones too, as shifting times offered new theories and methods. We have been quite strategic in diversifying our faculty hires, attracting the best and brightest new talent to enter the profession as well as seasoned veterans. These have been augmented by welcoming distinguished visiting professors, lecturers, and readers. The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship, instituted in 1977, has enabled us to attract distinguished scholars, several of whom became full-time faculty. We have also increased our graduate student diversity by launching a “Sneak Peek” recruitment initiative to bring prospective students from underrepresented groups to campus. And, since 1998, the department has been home to the Project on the History of Black Writing, an important program that recovers and preserves creative and critical work by formerly renowned and lesser-known artists and writers.
To remain fresh in our thinking and alert to the need for change, we constantly undergo forms of self-study. We recently conducted, for example, a department-wide Climate Survey, Safe Zone Training, and an Inclusivity Workshop. Knowing that fresh ideas and approaches are not the exclusive province of the English Department, we actively engage colleagues in interdisciplinary work in such departments as Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Theatre, Indigenous Studies, African & African American Studies, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and American Studies, as well as programs in Disability Studies, the Anti-Human Trafficking Network, and Colonialism.
The way forward has seldom been linear but generally circuitous, through fits and starts. But forward has been the trajectory. Over the years, when the principles of civility and mutual respect suffered from discourses rooted in divisiveness, intolerance, and discord, our department found stability and safe space in our pursuit of diversity. We seek that which is the best in all of us, not the worst. For in seeking the best, we rediscover and remind ourselves of the redeeming values that connect us.