Comparative Media Studies/Writing is committed to inclusion, equity, and diversity in our faculty hiring processes; in our overall curriculum and individual teaching; and in our own writing, research, and media production. While our unit has grown both in size and in racial and gender diversity, we strive to approach each new hire as an opportunity simultaneously to increase the number of underrepresented groups among our faculty, administrative staff, and students, and to expand the scope of our unit’s engagement with and expertise in the experiences; representations and self-representations; and media practices and production of marginalized and politically targeted groups. We believe that we will become stronger as an intellectual and creative unit, and more responsive to the educational, emotional, and practical needs and interests of MIT’s diverse student body, to the extent that we continue to grow in our own diversity. We recognize, in other words, that the multiplicity of our histories, cultural backgrounds, and embodied experiences is a source of vitality, to be embraced and continually expanded.
We affirm that while the quality of our students’ work is important, their mental and physical health is most important. We affirm that we value one another first and foremost as human beings, with all of our distinctive differences. And we believe that, consistent with our individual strengths and abilities, we should help each other sustain the physical and emotional well-being that is vital to our success in learning, inventing, solving problems, thinking boldly, discovering new truths, growing as individuals, mentoring others, and collaborating effectively as team members. The scope of MIT’s mission – bringing knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges – compels us to seek, welcome and collaborate with talented people from everywhere, to create a stronger MIT. In pursuit of that mission, we also strive to create a community with equal access and opportunity, where we take care to treat one another with openness, respect, and kindness.
Our commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity stems not merely from an abstract notion of social good, but from an understanding that we live in a world in which access to power, resources, and social and political participation is embedded in our institutions and unequally distributed along lines of race, gender, sexuality, class, immigration status, religion, disability, and other forms of socially-constructed difference and that writing, storytelling, world-building, and media making are central to the ways in which power and inequality are both enforced and challenged.
We strive in our research, writing, production, activism, and teaching to examine critically these historical, contemporary, and global inequalities. And we strive to reveal the myriad ways that media and writing – from novels, poetry, creative non-fiction, graphic novels, journalism, and experimental writing to films, television, computing, gaming, mobile cultures, and immersive and surveillance technologies – are used to create, maintain, document, critique, and dismantle social inequalities. We believe that inclusion, equity, and diversity help us better understand the complexity and the evolving nature of media and writing’s role in processes of social stratification and social change.
We pledge to support MIT’s goals in creating and implementing an action plan to meet and exceed MIT’s 2004 goal of doubling underrepresented groups among faculty and tripling the percentage of underrepresented groups among graduate students within ten years. This proposed action plan and its progress will be reviewed periodically together with an Institute Visiting Committee.
The United States has a history of racism that undermines, still, the foundations of every institution. Among these institutions is academia. We at MIT have begun to reckon with our own history. But our efforts to end racism in our school and country remain deficient. Even in a department like ours that prides itself on a critical eye toward power, introspection about our role in racist structures and the change demanded of us needs to happen.
We in CMS/W are in a unique position at MIT. Because the Institute’s communications requirement means we teach every undergraduate, we make sure to build a substantial part of our curriculum around how we can document, critique, and dismantle social inequalities.
This position comes with opportunities and responsibilities. An environment lacking diversity cheats its own intellectual life. We must not merely be open to diverse faculty and student applicants but actively recruit candidates and create an explicitly anti-racist climate, and we must constantly assess and improve the support we deliver to community members of underrepresented backgrounds. These are essential elements of what will make CMS/W a better place.
Fundamentally, we must speak and act when there is injustice in front of us. Anti-racism is something we must recommit ourselves to every day, in every class, in every book, talk, meeting, and plan. We will make it more than just polite words on a page. This takes time, but we hope to make that an advantage: looking less to take one-time steps and more to contribute to a community of change.
Given attempts in recent years to seal the United States away from the world, specifically to exclude those of a particular religion from our country, and to deport those without citizenship who are legally protected, we in Comparative Media Studies and Writing insist on diversity and inclusion in our academic unit and in the entire Institute. We oppose religious tests for admission to the country, mass deportation raids, and all attempts to block international scholars and students from joining us or to remove them once they are here. We strive to include international voices in the reading lists for our courses and in our scholarship to enrich our thinking and enlarge our experience. We welcome thinkers of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions in our classrooms and in all academic discussions. We see tolerance and openness as essential values, not only for our particular intellectual work but for our society overall.