Our Commitment to Diversity

We see this moment in the history of the SUNY New Paltz English Department as a true inflection point and this search as an opportunity to hire a scholar eager to participate in a re-envisioning of the study of literature, informed by current methodological, theoretical, and archival developments in the field. Scholars in literary studies are producing work on BIPOC, nonWestern, and LGBTQ writers from all historical periods, and such teaching and research have transformed the canon and the grand narratives of literary history in important ways. We recognize the need to complicate national traditions by expanding and intensifying our students’ exposure to different canons and ethnic traditions and to cultivate an understanding of literary study as an inclusive practice, one that complicates narratives that privilege the experiences of white settlers from northern Europe. To this end, we are looking for a faculty member who will contribute not only to the teaching of historically underrepresented writers but to the production of scholarship on writers of color. We are welcoming of all representations of diversity and intersectionality, but we recognize the urgency to re-center the perspectives of Latinx scholars and the ways in which that representation is critical to innovation and a more integrated curriculum.

The English Department contributes to the university and influences its students in wide-ranging and meaningful ways that go far beyond the English major. We educate students across many disciplines and—crucially—shape future teachers. We do so by providing first-year writing courses, general education courses—four of which are diversity-designated (including American Women Writers of the Twentieth Century, Contemporary Issues and Literature, Introduction to American Literature, and Multiethnic & Diasporic Literature)—and content courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels for students in the School of Education. We have been working to build a cadre of diverse teachers and scholars that benefit the whole campus as well as our students in the department. As a department, we seek to expand our purview and develop a more outward-facing presence that builds interdisciplinary connections with other programs and forges stronger links with the vital literary community of the Hudson Valley.

Over the past 9 years, our department has done all we can using existing resources to transform our program from Western and Anglocentric to global, multiethnic, and diasporic in content and design. We did so in part in response to our 2013 program review, which found a need for “a greater diversity of literatures” in our curriculum, supported by the hire of scholars trained in the study of the intersections of race, ethnicity, and literature. In 2014, we overhauled our core survey courses (previously four courses in British and American Literature), requiring English and Education students to take Transnational Literature (ENG343) and Multiethnic & Diasporic Literature (ENG353) as foundational courses, alongside two courses in British and American literature. Then in 2020, we designated two of our required core courses (Introduction to American Literature and Multiethnic & Diasporic Literature) as general education diversity offerings, which serve not only our majors but students in the university at large.

Since our 2013 program review, English faculty members have made a concerted effort to revise course syllabi to incorporate more writers and scholars of color. Our program review from 2020 found that that “[u]ndergraduate students especially appreciated the diversification of the curriculum and remarked on the fact that they were encountering texts and literary traditions they had been unaware of in their secondary education.” At the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels, however, our curriculum does not adequately reflect the exciting work around race and ethnicity that is taking shape in literary and writing studies, and a recent survey of graduate students found a yearning for more diverse literary content. To continue the momentum of curriculum transformation, we seek the participation of colleagues whose teaching and scholarship is grounded in the study of race and ethnicity, remaining sensitive to the labor of change that often falls disproportionately on BIPOC faculty and attentive to the responsibility of all faculty to continue to expand their consciousness and work toward achieving a more diverse curriculum. A new colleague whose work would focus on Multiethnic literatures and whose teaching could include courses on Latinx literature would be an invaluable spur to the structural changes we have already begun.

Candidates for this search would not only teach our DIVR offerings and help us to think through issues of race and identity in our existing courses, but they would also bring their scholarly expertise to expand our upper-division and graduate offerings with the introduction of new courses. Broadening our curriculum in this way would significantly enhance the position of our program in the region and serve students who might otherwise seek graduate studies elsewhere. In the SUNY system, for example, only SUNY Stonybrook regularly offers graduate-level classes in Latino/a Literature of the United States. Given the role our English MA program plays in training secondary education teachers in the region and the growing numbers of students of color in area high schools, this position would address a vital need for the region, and not just for SUNY New Paltz. There is no doubt that a more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse faculty—mirroring the increasing diversity of our student body–would enable our department to better meet the needs and concerns of its undergraduates and graduates.

This hire will also contribute to SUNY New Paltz’s commitment to building and sustaining a diverse and inclusive campus community. Currently 26% of our majors identify as Asian-Pacific, Black, Latinx, or multi-racial. While our department’s student population is not as diverse as our campus population (of which 36% presently identify as students of color), the English Department might attract more diverse students if our coursework and faculty were more reflective of demographic shifts we are seeing in higher education. We also recognize that many interdisciplinary programs and departments like Black Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies rely on the faculty and offerings of larger departments like English in order to deliver greater choice in their own curricula.

In 2021, our external reviewers noted “the minimal racial diversity among the faculty,” recognizing that the major problem is one of staffing. Hiring freezes and several recent retirements have left the department understaffed in key areas, and our department is eager to address this shortage while also making its ranks more inclusive. Our most recent tenure-track searches have helped us make progress in this effort. In 2022, we welcomed a Queer Asian- American poet as well as a feminist scholar of Medieval literature to New Paltz. A specialist in Latinx Literature, hired in 2019, was nominated as a SUNY PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) Scholar. This colleague moved to another institution for family reasons but expressed real reluctance to leave the department. Our recent visiting professors have included a dramatic writer whose work focuses upon LGBTQ issues, a Queer Filipino scholar of early modern literature, and a specialist in global Shakespeare whose scholarship focuses upon performances of his plays in contemporary India. Our Creative Writing Program has also sought to introduce diverse voices by inviting authors from historically underrepresented groups to give readings, speak with our students about their professional experience, and teach in our annual Writer-in-Residence program. As a member of the campuswide Diversity Board, Professor Kris Jansma, our Creative Writing Director, has actively worked to develop pedagogical standards for the university’s general education requirement in Diversity and to expand the university’s inclusive course offerings.

In addition, English Professors Michelle Woods and Sarah Wyman initiated an ongoing campuswide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fellows Program for academic faculty and professional staff (11 Fellows in the inaugural 2020-21 program who have worked on diversifying curricula, staff, and programs). This initiative joins other recent undertakings on our campus. For example, the Art Department overhauled curricula across their programs; a public Disability Studies Annual Lecture program was established, alongside student-led seminars on Disability Studies (and the development of a potential TA-run Disability Studies focused Composition course in the English Department); anti-racist resource guides were produced for the library; new courses were developed, such as Anti-oppressive Pedagogies and Practices; the Office of Campus Sustainability intentionally recruited a diverse cohort of Sustainability Ambassadors; and the Counseling Center led a number of Anti-Racism 101 workshops.

Beyond expanding our curriculum and diversifying our faculty, the English Department invites new perspectives in how we carry out our most fundamental work on campus: teaching students to write, think critically, and become more empathic citizens; producing scholarship that contributes significantly to national and international discourse in our areas of expertise; serving on committees that carry out the unseen but essential work of the campus community; contributing to conversations and actions that move us toward the ideals of anti-racism. With the vision offered by this hire, we can see how a new colleague would contribute to new ways of bringing awareness to the social and emotional needs of our students, revealing the inherent biases in our hiring and governing structures, and modeling more collaborative and inclusive forms of scholarly inquiry.

The English Department is an environment in which BIPOC faculty can thrive. As a department steadfastly committed to fostering inclusion in its curriculum, faculty development, and mentoring, it is a place that can fully support and embrace diversity among students and faculty. The department recognizes the important role that mentorship, from guidance about professional development to university service, plays in supporting faculty through the tenure process. Professor Wyman has organized several events through the Faculty Development Center that have focused on mentoring early-career BIPOC scholars. BIPOC faculty have opportunities for pre-tenure leave, whether funded internally through the institutional Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Leave or externally through organizations like the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship. Moreover, we are sensitive to the ways in which faculty of color often face disproportionate burdens of service, and so we work closely with them to set reasonable expectations for departmental and university service that do not exceed what is equitable in order to afford them the necessary time and energy to produce the requisite scholarship for tenure. Additionally, the SUNY New Paltz Black Lives Matter at School Collective and the People of Color Network (POC-N) are committed organizations on our campus that support BIPOC faculty across departments and disciplines.