The Department of English at Michigan State University champions teaching practices that acknowledge difference and advance equal access to education. Through the study of literature and film, our curriculum inspires discussions about race, ethnicity, gender, class, sex, sexuality, ability, and religion. Our teaching, scholarship, and service are explicitly committed to advancing equity and justice and questioning established power structures. We foster curiosity through the study of literature and film and through creative production. We endorse the principle of education for institutional change, aimed at ending exclusionary practices and creating a more equitable academic environment.

We teach critical thinking and creative problem solving—skills essential to democratic social engagement. We value research that informs public debate and empowers future scholars and artists to generate transformative methodologies. By going beyond conventional approaches to the arts and humanities, our faculty and students examine the political and social power of language and images, and analyze how cultural expression can serve to reproduce injustices. We also explore how pedagogy, literature, film, and art often expose and resist systemic inequalities.

Our professional service and community outreach are grounded in the principle of social awareness, and guided by honesty, transparency, integrity. We support efforts that urge the University to examine its institutional practices and values, and that address historical biases and ongoing discrimination. When appropriate we engage the broader community in conversations concerning cultural and political inequities. Our aim is to foster an educational experience that is wholly informed by upholding equity and justice.

The Equity and Justice Committee was established in 2019 to support the above mission.

Statement on Solidarity with Palestine

The following statement was approved by the Equity and Justice Committee in April of 2024, in keeping with the committee’s mission. It was drafted collectively, discussed in a faculty and staff meeting, and distributed for voluntary signatures within the department.

The undersigned members of the Department of English at Michigan State University stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine as they face plausible genocide at the hands of the Israeli government. We join all students, scholars, artists, and activists, including those in Israel and Holocaust survivors, on our own campus and in our department, who have called for a permanent ceasefire. As educators and researchers who are committed to studying the complexities of history and intersectional cultural identity, we want to state, in unambiguous terms, that we remain dedicated to protecting the safety and dignity of all our Jewish and Muslim community members. We acknowledge how these ongoing events have impacted our Jewish American colleagues and students, who have been placed in a unique, complex, often untenable cultural and emotional position. However, we reject claims that criticism of the Israeli administration and the advocacy for Palestinian human rights are anti-semitic. 

We begin by acknowledging that Israel has occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since 1967. We also acknowledge and condemn the killing of 1,200 people, mostly Israeli civilians, perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023. We join urgent calls for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian political prisoners, and condemn the ongoing killings of civilians.

From Oct. 7 2023 to April 17, 2024, the Israeli government has killed over 34,000 people, of whom 13,800 have been children. Officials within the Israeli government have called for the annihilation of Gaza, going as far as to declare this war “Gaza Nakba 2023,” referencing the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from within the newly established State of Israel. We consider these to be calls for further ethnic cleansing, apartheid and indeed genocide

We are also appalled at Israel’s systematic destruction of universities and schools and the killing of professors, teachers, and students, as well as the destruction of cultural heritage sites, buildings, and artifacts across Palestine. These acts constitute the crime of scholasticide. As educators, scholars, teachers, and cultural heritage workers, we are compelled to advocate for our Palestinian colleagues and their students whose rights to education have been systematically violated. 

We are opposed to the normalization of these atrocities in the name of fighting terrorism. We also condemn the ongoing violations of Gazan human rights and obstruction of humanitarian aid carried out by the Israeli military, including blocking medical supplies and food aid which has produced famine conditions in Gaza. These acts constitute war crimes as per Article 33 of the Geneva Convention. Israel has ignored every call from the United Nations and representatives of the United States to establish a ceasefire, and has continued its military campaign. 

The strategic plan in the Department of English has laid out our commitment to issues of equity and justice for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and disabled people. We believe that standing against ethnic cleansing and genocide aligns with this commitment. We call on the MSU Faculty Senate to reconsider their rejection of the draft resolution demanding that MSU divest from “financial holdings that support and profit from Israel’s military campaign and plausible acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip.” The Department of English’s own endowment holdings are managed by MSU, making our finances directly complicit in these investment decisions. 

With this statement, we reaffirm our unwavering support for human rights and international law. We support our English graduate students, who issued a statement in solidarity with Palestinian civilians in November 2023, and multiple MSU undergraduate groups who have made similar calls upon the University.

Signed by:

  1. Kuhu Tanvir
  2. Divya Victor
  3. Zarena Aslami
  4. Pedro Noel Doreste Rodríguez
  5. Kristin Mahoney
  6. Sarah Bruno
  7. Justus Nieland
  8. Joseph Darda
  9. Jeffrey C. Wray
  10. Jyotsna Singh, Emerita 
  11. Salah D. Hassan
  12. Sheila Contreras
  13. Scott Michaelsen
  14. Joshua Yumibe
  15. Natalie Phillips
  16. Tim Conrad
  17. Kaveh Askari
  18. Stephen Arch
  19. Juliet Guzzetta
  20. Gary Hoppenstand
  21. Peter Johnston
  22. Kathleen Fitzpatrick
  23. Joshua Lam
  24. Leonora S Paula
  25. Sara Allison
  26. Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai
  27. Julian Chambliss
  28. Bradley Deane