UW Linguistics Anti-Racism Statement

  • Black Lives Matter

We, the UW Linguistics Department, stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), and those who combat police brutality and all forms of systemic racism in our society.  The senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, and Breonna Taylor are some of the latest episodes in a long and shameful history of violence against Black communities in the U.S. and the greater BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community.  Concurrently, the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt BIPOC communities disproportionately, laying bare the structural disparities in our society when it comes to housing, education, healthcare, and so many basic rights.

We believe that, together, we can do more to combat systemic racism and its effects.  As a linguistics department, we also cannot ignore how language—and the study of language—can reflect and perpetuate imbalanced power structures (e.g., white supremacy).  To that end, we take our inspiration from the LSA Statement on Race and the research that led to its development (Charity Hudley et al 2018).

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As a department, we have built a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the following ways:

  • We have established a diversity committee to track recruitment and retention data, identify racial bias in these processes and to formulate our departmental mission statement. Looking forward, this committee will be empowered to develop procedures to counter racial bias in admissions, recruitment, retention, and other departmental processes and liaise with other committees to target these issues.
  • We have incorporated equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) statements into our rubric in faculty searches.
  • We use EDI statements and actions as a component of our annual faculty merit and our promotion and tenure rubric. This serves at least three purposes: (a) to encourage annual reflection on what actions we are taking as individual faculty members, (b) to learn from each other (since all faculty can see each other's annual merit forms), and (c) to make sure that faculty effort on EDI is credited and not left as invisible labor/diversity tax.
  • Using departmental funds, we have established a Linguistics Award in Diversity Scholarship aimed at recruiting graduate students who are from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds and/or who conduct research on understudied areas of language.
  • Faculty and students have conducted actively anti-racist research. For example, Wassink, Gansen, and Bartholomew (under review) investigate racial bias in a widely-used commercial automatic speech recognition system, using a large corpus of data drawn from a multiethnic speaker sample (African-American, ChicanX, Yakama, and European-American talkers).

But we know that these existing steps are not nearly enough to acknowledge and remedy the ways in which linguistics as a field and the academy in general perpetuate injustice towards underrepresented groups. 

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As a department, we will implement the following changes:

Department Level: Recurring

  • We will add graduate student representation to the department's diversity committee to provide a wider array of viewpoints. In addition to assisting the diversity committee in its ongoing goals, the graduate student representative(s) will help identify racial bias and related concerns felt by students, so that the department may better address these issues.
  • We will implement a quarterly anonymous climate survey. The survey will provide a venue for department members to voice feedback and concerns.  Moreover, issues of concern identified by the diversity committee will be targeted in each survey to obtain the perspectives of members of the department.
  • The diversity committee will use time in one faculty meeting each year to review the Dean’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic planning guidelines and departmental recruitment and retention data.
  • The diversity committee will publish a quarterly newsletter about accomplishments and future goals, including a synthesis of the results of the climate survey.
  • We will have a forum ("town hall") during a colloquium spot each quarter, where faculty, students, and staff can discuss ideas and concerns regarding the department, including but not limited to those identified in the climate survey.
  • We will update the department's fact sheet each year to accurately and fully represent our community.
  • We will review the selection process for our research colloquium series to ensure that it provides a platform to project and amplify the diverse voices in our field.
  • We will have at least one colloquium speaker each year who will speak on racism and inclusion in academia and linguistics specifically.
  • We will create a quarterly venue for reading and discussing works on race in America. Possible readings include Invisible Man, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult, King: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr, Eloquent Rage, Algorithms of Oppression, and Race after Technology.
  • We will take steps to ensure that future hiring committees place greater emphasis on diversity and anti-racist work. Possible avenues include listing anti-racist research directions among desiderata in job descriptions, developing an appropriate rubric for evaluating EDI statements, and actively recruiting applications from minoritized (especially Black and Indigenous) scholars with direct, personal communication.
  • We will promote more equitable hiring and recruitment of faculty, students, and staff by (i) actively recruiting from minority-serving institutions (e.g., HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs) and (ii) posting all job listings on recruitment websites geared towards underrepresented populations.
  • We will conduct outreach to actively recruit BIPOC students for our undergraduate courses at UW.

Department Level: One-time

  • We will look into avenues for mandatory diversity training in the department, minimally making everyone in the department familiar with UW's Race & Equity Initiative.
  • We will discuss expanding the graduate requirements to include additional proseminars that (i) specifically study and address racism, diversity, and inclusion in academia and in linguistics especially, both in terms of teaching and research, and (ii) focus on career development and imposter syndrome, which research has shown to be more prominent among underrepresented groups (e.g., Ewing et al. 1996 and Cockley et al. 2013). The graduate students will compile recommendations for what they would want to see in and how they would want to structure such seminars.
  • We will expand on the Linguistics Award in Diversity Scholarship prompt to welcome applicants to share how their background and/or experience with diversity has informed their approach to research. This will help attract more—and more diverse—applicants.
  • We will discuss and vote on removing the GRE requirement at the department level. GRE scores do not correlate with graduate success and continue to reflect gender and ethnic gaps (cf. Bleske-Rechek and Browne 2014). The GRE is not a requirement of the Graduate School and many peer institutions are moving away from requiring it.
  • We will develop a linguistics outreach program at high schools and community colleges, especially those that serve more diverse Seattle neighborhoods.

Individual Level

  • We encourage everyone in the department to read the Charity Hudley et al. (2018) paper: Linguistics and race: An interdisciplinary approach towards an LSA statement on race.
  • We encourage instructors to work towards incorporating 50% readings and resources from BIPOC scholars into their curricula as a means to better reflect the diversity of their respective sub-fields and to amplify the voices of scholars from underrepresented groups. To aid in this effort, we will create a living, departmental repository/bibliography that members of the department can use to recommend and discover research by minority authors, drawing inspiration from this spreadsheet on marginalized scholars in language studies.
  • We encourage faculty to include on their website a thorough statement that explains their personal approach to diversity and inclusion in teaching and research.

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References

  • Charity Hudley, A. H., Mallinson, C., Bucholtz, M., Flores, N., Holliday, N., Chun, E., & Spears, A. (2018). Linguistics and race: An interdisciplinary approach towards an LSA statement on race. Proceedings of the Linguistics Society of America, 8, 1– https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v3i1.4303
  • Cokley, K., McClaiin, S., Enciso, A., & Martinez, M. (2013). An Examination of the Impact of Minority Status Stress and Impostor Feelings on the Mental Health of Diverse Ethnic Minority College Students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 41(2), 82– https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00029.x
  • Ewing, K. M., Richardson, T. Q., James-Myers, L, & Russell, R. K. (1996). The Relationship between Racial Identity Attitudes, Worldview, and African American Graduate Students’ Experience of the Imposter Phenomenon. Journal of Black Psychology, 22(1), 53–66. https://doi.org/10.1177/00957984960221005
  • Bleske-Rechek, A., & Browne, K. (2014). Trends in GRE scores and graduate enrollments by gender and ethnicity. Intelligence, 46, 25– https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2014.05.005
  • Wassink, A. B., Gansen, C., & Bartholomew, I. (under review) Uneven success: Automatic speech recognition and ethnicity-related dialects. Speech Communication.

Download UW Linguistics Anti-Racism Statement in pdf form.