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NWSA Statements

November 28, 2016

The National Women’s Studies Association Statement on Combatting the Climate of Fear, Division and Xenophobia in the Wake of the U.S. Presidential Election
 
The National Women’s Studies Association met in Montreal, Canada in the immediate wake of the November 8, 2016 U.S. presidential election, and many of us were shaken by the results. As transnational, indigenous, intersectional and anti-racist feminist scholars, and practitioners, and scholars of conscience, we feel compelled to speak out about the implications of this political moment for the work we do and the communities of which we are a part. Throughout this election season, and in the weeks since November 8th, women and girls, LGBTQIA people, poor and working people, Muslims and Arab-Americans, Jews, Black people, indigenous people, Mexicans, Latinx, immigrant communities, and people with disabilities have been threatened and maligned. Racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, ablest, transphobic and misogynist views have been rampant in the public sphere, sparking instances of harassment, intimidation, and assault. Women have been insulted and mocked, sexual assault has been trivialized, and Black communities have been disparaged and maligned. Millions of undocumented residents fear unjust deportations. And climate change denial places the future of the entire planet at risk.
 
We recognize that none of us are entirely safe. Intellectuals and teachers have been, and continue to be, the victims of authoritarian regimes around the world and over time. Although critical thinking and transgressive pedagogy are often perceived as dangerous to certain political agendas, NWSA embraces these features of our work and calls on members to use our collective energies to push back against the climate of fear, xenophobia and anti-intellectualism that have become so prevalent. We must do what we do best which is to provide alternative ways of thinking, expose myths and lies through our research and writing, engage a broader public, and insist upon critical and dissident inquiry that interrogate unsubstantiated claims, and build bridges of unity and understanding. In our ongoing efforts to democratize and decolonize colleges, universities and academic scholarship, we must teach to the urgency of the moment, and in doing so reach out beyond our campuses and beyond national borders.
 
We encourage our NWSA members to stand with, defend and provide sanctuary for our students and colleagues who are most vulnerable. In these challenging times we must embrace and reclaim the activist roots that carved out a place for women’s and gender studies and other interdisciplinary, critical areas of study within the Academy over forty years ago. In addition to recognizing the continued importance of the rigorous and clarifying scholarship that has been the hallmark of NWSA members, we also encourage members to organize teach-ins and vigils, and to explore ever more creative forms of learning, sharing, and mobilizing. Speak out loudly and consistently through letters, petitions and collective statements. We cannot accept the skewed argument that it is not our place, or it is somehow unprofessional, to speak out. On the contrary, speak out we must. It is our ethical obligation to do so. And in doing so we are inspired and empowered by our collective effort.
 
NWSA has more than 2,000 individual and 350 institutional members working in varied specialties across the United States and around the world. Through scholarship, pedagogy and praxis our members actively pursue knowledge to promote a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential—one free from ideologies, systems of privilege or structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others. It is with this mission in mind that we call upon our NWSA membership to be vocal, to be courageous, to be bold, to be visible and to be engaged with each other and with a larger public in this critical time. Despite our trepidations about the future, we are bolstered by the creative, generative, humane and principled stances and actions many have already taken. We stand with and remain supportive of our members in the work that lies ahead.




EC Letter in Support of Academic Freedom

John Ettling, President
State University of New York -- Plattsburgh
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY  12901
 
September 28, 2016
 
Dear Dr. Ettling:
 
As members of the National Women’s Studies Association’s Executive Committee, we were disheartened to hear about the harassment Professor Simona Sharoni has experienced on social media, email, voicemail, and through Freedom of Information Under the Law requests in response to her scholarly work and commitments.
 
NWSA’s executive committee wants to underscore its support for academic freedom and highlight the need to embrace difficult dialogues and dissent in the academy and wider society. Our members actively pursue a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential: such a pursuit, however, requires robust support of academic freedom. We therefore write to express our collective concern about any efforts to undermine academic freedom, which is fundamental to scholarly inquiry.
 
Higher education can and should serve as a model for how to navigate contentious issues and address complex questions, but only if faculty members can be fully assured of their academic freedom being protected and supported. This essential principle is core to our members’ work as feminist scholars and intellectuals, and to every member of a vigorous democracy.  
 
Sincerely,
 
Vivian M. May, President
Nana Osei-Kofi, Vice President
Diane Harriford, Treasurer
Carrie Baker, Secretary
 

EC Letter on Pulse Nightclub Attack

June 22, 2016

Dear NWSA members,
 
As members of the Executive Committee, we write to express our collective outrage over the attack at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub during its Latinx-themed night. We recognize this heinous act for the hate crime it is against LGBTQ people, people of color, and those who live at the intersection of these communities. In this difficult time, we urge our community of scholars, educators, and activists to draw on the insights of feminist/anti-racist/queer activists and thinkers to address hatred and violence, imagine alternatives to domination, and foster community.
 
We draw on an intersectional political framework to call for the collective liberation of all. Given that systemic racism, misogyny, ableism, colonialism, and homophobia are deeply interconnected, we condemn the Islamophobia that has emerged in the wake of the attack and urge you, our members, to find ways to contest the widespread culture of violence that surrounds us, including histories of violence against queer and trans people of color. This culture of domination is local and global, intimate and structural, and is pervasive. It includes: harassment and discrimination; gender violence, rape culture, and murder; the criminalization of divergent lives/bodies/loves and the violence of the carceral state; silencing, dispossession, and erasure; eugenic and genocidal practices; colonial gendered violence against Indigenous people; and militarization and war.
 
Diverse forms of brutality must be understood as distinct and yet interconnected. It is essential to think through how the Pulse nightclub shooting, the church shootings in Charleston, the murder of Indigenous women in Canada, and the murder of transgender sex workers in Brazil and elsewhere are interrelated without collapsing the important differences in each of these, and many other, contexts. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one that should highlight the role we all can play in refusing and resisting a culture of violence wherever we find it.
 
In this time of mourning and remembrance, we call on you, our NWSA members, to confront domination, intolerance, and hatred—in the intimacies of everyday life and on a wider, macro-political scale. We also underscore the importance of supporting each other and being mindful of the impact of myriad violences on ourselves, each other, our students, and our scholarship. Though the work at hand may be difficult, our collective labors to understand how systems of oppression are interlaced and must be thought through and addressed together are pivotal and deeply relevant.

Sincerely,
 
Vivian M. May, President
Nana Osei-Kofi, Vice President
Diane Harriford, Treasurer
Carrie Baker, Secretary
 

Contingent Faculty Solidarity Statement

February 9, 2016

As the largest feminist academic organization in North America, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is dedicated to leading the transformative and critical field of Women’s Studies. Our members recognize that systems of oppression are interlaced and take seriously the material conditions of knowledge production, labor commodification, workforce stratification, and structural inequities in educational practices.
 
The NWSA urgently calls for wider recognition of growing inequality in academic labor practices, and, in particular, the rising number of contingent faculty.[1] Contingent faculty colleagues often face heavy teaching loads, commute between multiple positions, and lack basic support in the academy. Such disparities have adverse effects on higher education more broadly. Given their critical role in higher education, contingent faculty need fair wages and benefits, professional development opportunities, structural and contractual protections for academic freedom, and due process protections.
 
The NWSA also underscores that the devaluation of academic labor, wage inequities, and disparities in hiring practices has been longstanding in the academy and connects to wider material and political contexts. Race, sexuality, social class, age, disability, gender, and citizenship are all factors that impact contingent employment. Comprehensive data on contingent faculty in the U.S. is unfortunately limited as the Department of Education’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty ceased in 2003, and nothing comparable has replaced it. Thus the NWSA calls on the Department of Education to reinstate this critical survey in order to make the issues surrounding contingency more transparent.
 
As feminist scholars, educators, and activists, our members actively pursue a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential. Given our deep commitments to an inclusive feminist vision and to contesting and dismantling multiple systems of domination, the NWSA is in solidarity with contingent faculty colleagues and issues this call for wider recognition of labor stratification and structural inequities in higher education employment practices. We are steadfast in our commitment to eradicating injustice and to fostering educational opportunities for all.
 
[1] The AAUP reports that more than 50% of today's total professoriate (across institutional types) is contingent and non-tenure-track positions account for 75% of instructional appointments in U.S. Higher Education. The MLA Academic Workforce Data Center reports that the number of part-time faculty went from 379,700 in 1995 to 757,700 in 2011; in comparison, there were 393,500 tenured and tenure-track faculty in 1995 and 430,600 of the same in 2011. In addition, a June 2012 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce [CAW] found that more than 60 percent of respondents who provided information about their gender were women, compared with 51.6 percent of faculty nationally. While nearly 90 percent of contingent faculty who responded to the CAW survey were white, the survey found that respondents who identified as black earned 25 percent less per course than those who identified as white.
 

Solidarity Statement

January 19, 2015

The National Women’s Studies Association releases this statement:

 
  • In light of endemic racialized state and extrajudicial violence within the U.S. and at its borders;
  • Following on the 2014 NWSA conference in Puerto Rico, an occupied territory where sovereignty struggles continue; and
  • Following on the conference plenary on Palestine,[1] wherein there was a strong show of support by a majority of more than 1,000 plenary attendees for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and for including injustices in Palestine among the issues we study and teach about.
 
As the largest feminist academic organization in North America, NWSA is dedicated to leading Women’s and Gender Studies, a transformative and critical field animated by the recognition that systems of oppression are interlaced and must be thought through and addressed together. Our members actively pursue a just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential: as feminist scholars, educators, and activists, for example, we advance critiques of misogyny, gender violence, settler colonialism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, classism, and all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism.
 
NWSA members have long challenged multiple forms of oppression and violence, including racialized state violence and sexual and gender-based violence, that disproportionately impact disenfranchised groups and communities within the U.S. and transnationally. NWSA members have also long been committed to solidarity politics as a means to contest and dismantle multiple systems of domination. NWSA is thus committed to an inclusive feminist vision that is in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and sovereignty rights globally, that challenges settler colonial practices, and that contests violations of civil rights and international human rights law, military occupation and militarization, including the criminalization of the U.S. borders, and myriad forms of dispossession.
 
As an organization that seeks to promote scholarly exchange, research and teaching collaborations, and educational opportunities for all, NWSA issues this solidarity statement. In so doing, we distinguish between institutional critiques and critiques of individuals working within those institutional contexts. Furthermore, we acknowledge Israeli and Jewish scholars and students who are critical of Israeli state policies that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and that violate international law. Finally, NWSA recognizes that systemic forces continue to negatively impact Palestinians’ political and human rights and educational opportunities and that the U.S. plays a significant role in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of settlements and the Wall.
 
Given our longstanding commitments to eradicating injustice as feminist scholars, educators, and activists, and in recognition of resonances and connections across borders and contexts, NWSA reiterates its support of academic freedom, political dissent, and the pursuit of education and research without undue state interference or repression.
 
[1]“The Imperial Politics of Nation States.” NWSA Annual Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico: Saturday, November 15, 2014. Featuring Angela Davis, Islah Jad, and Rebecca Vilkomerson with Chandra Talpade Mohanty as chair/moderator. The idea of a solidarity statement was also raised at the Membership and Delegate Assemblies and subsequently discussed by the Governing Council and the Executive Committee (which, in response, worked collaboratively to issue this statement).



Statement on Campus Safety Issues for Women, Particularly Women of Color

October 6, 2014

Dear Colleagues:

Since the news broke about the Arizona State University police stopping Professor Ersula Jawanna Ore, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, crossing (supposedly “jaywalking”) the street with excessive force and arrested her on May 20th, many of us have expressed concern, petitioned on behalf of Professor Ore, and followed closely the unfolding of what seemed a serious case of campus safety issue for women and particularly women of color. The NWSA Executive Committee wants to express its collective concern about these issues as well, and I write on their behalf.

At the same time, less known to most of us and related to the campus safety issue as seen in Professor Ore’s case, we learn that Professor Kimberly Williams, Instructor of Sociology at Coastal Carolina Community College, North Carolina, has had to go to court, battling for her own safety, against an angry student who brought a noose to campus days after publicly slandering Professor Williams and Black people.

Immediately following Professor Ore’s arrest, ASU’s initial investigation found that the police had acted appropriately (and ASU has since issued another statement about seeking independent investigation of the case); and in Professor Williams’s case, she received no protection from the institution, and the administration seemed more concerned with not “pleasing” one student.

We wish to express our utmost concern. As an association, we pride ourselves on the fact that “our members actively pursue a just world,” through activist and scholarly engagement, “in which all persons can develop to fullest potential – one free from ideologies, systems of privilege or structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others.” We deplore the police brutality in Professor Ore’s case, caught on dash cam video, and Professor Williams being left with no protection, in spite of the appeal to the college administration from her students and colleagues. While we mention two cases that emerged in May 2014, this letter concerns broadly safety for women on campuses across the nation. To help us gage our membership at their institutions, we would like to hear from you about issues related to safety in academia: http://preview.tinyurl.com/kugo9nx by November 1, 2014. NWSA’s Governing Council will review the responses at its November 2014 meeting in Puerto Rico.

We look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at our 2014 conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Yi-Chun Tricia Lin
NWSA President, 2012-2014
Professor of Women’s Studies
Southern Connecticut State University

Statement on University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Actions Against Professor Steven Salaita

October 6, 2014

Office of the Chancellor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
601 E. John St.
Champaign, IL 61820

Dear Dr. Wise:

We write on behalf of the Executive Committee of the National Women's Studies Association to join the public protests over your decision to revoke Professor Steven Salaita’s job offer in the Department of American Indian Studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

Professor Salaita was offered the position at UIUC in October 2013. By rescinding the offer in mid-August 2014, after Dr. Salaita had resigned from his tenured position at Virginia Tech, the UIUC administration violated the tenets of faculty governance. Even more troubling, however, is the connection, as reported, between Dr. Salaita’s opposition to the Israeli invasion of Gaza via Twitter and the sudden withdrawal of the job offer.

NWSA’s executive committee wants to underscore its support for academic freedom and highlight the need to embrace difficult dialogues and dissent. These principles are core to our members’ work as feminist scholars and intellectuals, and to every member of a healthy democracy. Higher education can and should serve as a model for how to navigate contentious issues, but only if faculty members can be assured of their rights to free speech.

We echo our colleagues and fellow associations who have called on you and urge that you restore Professor Salaita’s position as a tenured associate professor in the Department of American Indian Studies at UIUC.

Sincerely,

Yi-Chun Tricia Lin
NWSA President, 2012-2014
Professor of Women’s Studies
Southern Connecticut State University


Allison Kimmich
Executive Director