In anticipation of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. President on January 20, 2017, we, the graduate students of the Department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley commit to freedom of thought and expression, both within the classroom and beyond it. As educators, we are deeply troubled at the prospect of a federal administration that openly disdains the notion of a free press and will further endanger the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable inhabitants of this country. Such threats have existed since the United States’ founding; at the same time, the incoming administration promises to enact yet more harmful policies and lend political legitimacy to the violent hatred promoted by the growing white nationalist movement.
As comparatists, we recognize the importance of engaging with myriad voices, languages, and experiences, even in the darkest of times. We must remember that the exercise of intellectual freedom is most critical when it is most at risk. Although Comparative Literature has grown and changed a great deal since its earliest beginnings, we still have much work to do in creating a welcoming, inclusive, and just environment for all. We do not yet know what forms our actions and resistance will take, but today we choose to reaffirm our shared ethics and values by committing ourselves to the following:
We are committed to standing in solidarity with all members of the community who are endangered by the policies proposed by the incoming Trump administration, including but not limited to folks of color; LGBTQ+, transgender, and gender-nonconforming folks; Muslims; people with disabilities; women; all those with precarious access to medicine; and undocumented individuals.
We are committed to learning from one another, and we affirm the value of border crossings of the past, present, and future, be they national, cultural, linguistic, gendered, religious, ethnic, racial, etc.
We are committed to creating and sustaining safe and accessible spaces founded on collaborative inquiry and comparative critical thinking with room for respectful disagreement and lively debate.
We are committed to protecting every individual’s right to freedom of speech; at the same time, we do not condone speech that promotes hatred or violence.
We are committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in and beyond the classroom.
Lida Zeitlin Wu
Paul De Morais