The home page of the University of Chicago’s Department of English currently contains the following statement:
The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.
For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.
I’m wondering how this can be enforced. Suppose that an accepted student, a few months after enrolling (which means turning on Zoom from his/her/zir/their mom’s house?), decides “In demography and in the workforce, Blacks in the U.S. are being replaced by Hispanic and Asian immigrants, so in looking toward the future I would rather do a thesis in Hispanic Studies.” Can the university then expel the student? The department says:
all scholars have a responsibility to know the literatures of African American, African diasporic, and colonized peoples, regardless of area of specialization, as a core competence of the profession.
What if, after a year of reading these literatures, a student says “these authors are terrible compared to what Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans have written in English; I want to do my thesis on the lyrics of K-pop”? Does that student similarly get expelled?
From a cross-country trip in the Robinson R44:
Update, September 22: the home page has been edited to remove the Black Studies-only limitation. But the brave language lives on at archive.org: