In an August 6th statement titled More than Diversity—A Call to Action from University of Chicago Faculty, professors associated with the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC) demand “critical reflection and concrete action” in response to the University’s alleged “history of white supremacy and racial hierarchy.”
The statement outlines five categories of demands: increased autonomy of the CSRPC, the creation of a Department of Critical Race Studies, changes to the structure of governance for the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, defunding the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), and the enactment of reparations at UChicago.
In the statement, the co-signers lament the UChicago’s lacking support of the CSRPC, as purportedly evidenced by the University’s failure to recruit a CSRPC director and its 50,000 dollar budget cut for next year. The statement’s faculty affiliates call for complete independence of the CSRPC and a minimum annual budget of two million dollars. Part of this budget would go toward “build[ing] a race core for undergraduates.”
Next, the statement’s faculty affiliates demand the creation of a Department of Critical Race Studies: “Previous University of Chicago Provosts have actively discouraged the formation of such a Department here. This absence is particularly egregious in a university that prides itself on continuously questioning and challenging knowledge formations and their institutional groundings.” According to the statement, a Department of Critical Race Studies should be created by an External Advisory Council of faculty at peer institutions, and members should be selected by faculty affiliates of the CSRPC.
Faculty members also call for the restructuring of leadership at the University, so that the role of Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is separate from the role of Vice President for Academic Leadership and Advancement. And they demand that “equity” be officially stated as an objective of the University, alongside Diversity and Inclusion.
Additionally, the statement’s co-signers affirm their support for the student-led UChicago United and #CareNotCops campaigns, which call on the University to disarm and defund UCPD. The co-signers call for the University to hold a public meeting between representatives of #CareNotCops and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee.
Finally, the statement demands an acknowledgment of the University’s “debt to the enslaved people” and the creation of a truth and justice committee to “determine appropriate reparations for the University’s connections to slavery, Jim Crow, and other ongoing forms of racial exploitation, exclusion, and discrimination.” According to the statement, this committee should be run by community organizers from Chicago’s South Side.
The statement’s co-signers include five former directors of the CSRPC, over fifty current faculty affiliates—of whom the most popular academic disciplines are English, Literature, History, and Media Studies—and a number of current UChicago students as well as professors at other universities. The co-signers claim that if their demands are not met, they will refuse to participate in new faculty searches and all Diversity and Inclusion related committees. They will also refuse to allow the University to use their accomplishments for its promotion.
Provost Ka Yee C. Lee responded to the letter, affirming a commitment to ensuring that “the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and related efforts of University faculty, have the support needed to ‘become an even more vital part of the University of Chicago community.’” However, there has been no public response to the other demands outlined in the original August 6th statement, and the degree to which the Provost and the statement’s co-signers have corresponded remains unclear.