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A Message from the Chair

Michelle Stephens Photo 2

Dear colleagues, co-workers, students and friends,

In light of recent events both leading up to and in the aftermath of the recent national election, I write as the Chair of the Department of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, to assert firmly and unequivocally that our institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion in our department--and we believe at the university--remains unchanged. Such a commitment to free inquiry, civility, and a violence- and intimidation-free campus, does not shift with the winds of politics. Even more pragmatically, such a commitment is still upheld by the laws of our land. The department as a whole, and each of us as individual faculty, oppose racism, xenophobia, and misogyny; threats to immigrants, Muslims, and the free press; and the violation of international treaties and foundational constitutional principles. In line with these principles, we call on all members of our community to continue to treat each other with respect, thoughtfulness, and care, even as we engage in difficult conversations that reflect our racial, gendered, sexual, religious, cultural and political differences. If anyone becomes aware of a situation in which this is not happening, I ask you to please reach out to me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As scholars, students and teachers of literature, we believe in the power of literature to expand our imaginative and empathetic horizons, and to enhance our ability to see and feel from each other's points of view. As a department, we reject bigoted or discriminatory acts, threats, and statements, seeing them as words and deeds destructive of the basic conditions for creativity and learning. In so doing we also affirm Rutgers University's understanding of such behavior as abhorrent. Such an understanding is evident in the University's Non-Discrimination Statement, which reads as follows: "Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or any other category covered by law in its admission, programs, activities, or employment matters." As the University's Commitment to Diversity Statement also asserts: "As a university, Rutgers recognizes that the diversity of its workforce should reflect the diversity of the state and the students we serve. We strive to cultivate a culture of inclusion at Rutgers, one in which individuals of various backgrounds and belief systems can come together in an environment of mutual respect, learning from each other and becoming better-prepared to participate in an increasingly globalized marketplace of ideas." Any member of the University community who believes that he or she has been subject to conduct that violates such a mission, or if you have any questions regarding Rutgers' commitment to these goals, please contact University Human Resources, Office of Employment Equity, as follows: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 57 US Highway 1, ASB II, Cook Campus Tel: (848) 932-3973 Fax: (732) 932-0049 The Director and the Office of Employment Equity staff are a resource for all members of the University community with regard to questions involving harassment and discrimination, and the Complaint Process: https://uhr.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/userfiles/DiscriminationHarassmentComplaintProcess.pdf

More pertinent to our community here in the department, please know that the faculty and staff are here to help, and encourage all students to come and talk with us. We are also committed to sponsoring a number of events to provide time for gathering to reaffirm our core values of tolerance and open-mindedness and commitment to knowledge and intellectual community. For now, I would like to assert that any instructors or students who wish to participate in the rally on Wednesday at 3 calling for Rutgers University to consider itself a Sanctuary Campus should feel free to do so without any repercussions from the department. On a sanctuary campus, the administration, faculty, and staff establish services and a climate of welcome for students of color, Muslims, LGBTQ students, and women, following the model of "sanctuary cities" such as Newark and Camden who have previously declared that their police, hospitals, and municipal agencies will refuse to report undocumented suspects, patients, and clients. I believe that such a declaration upholds Rutgers University's fundamental principles and missions as shared above.

Michelle A. Stephens
Professor and Chair of English
Rutgers University