NIU Anthropology Anti-Racism Statement

As anthropologists of NIU, we join the voices in the United States and around the world in condemning recent and continued acts of anti-Black violence and racism. We grieve the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others at the hands of state-sponsored police violence. We stand in solidarity with our students, faculty and staff who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and with the Association of Black Anthropologists and their statement against police violence and anti-Black racism. We further condemn the recent disturbing rise of anti-Asian racism and hate crimes in the U.S. and beyond.

We recognize the legacies of colonialism, racism and white supremacy in the history and development of the discipline of anthropology. We pledge to reckon diligently and continually with that history in our efforts to decolonize teaching, research, museum collections, field sites and mentorship; to recruit faculty, staff and graduate students with the intent of further diversifying our department community; and to continue to develop anti-racist pedagogy that affirms our diverse students who have the power to enact change in our field and in the world. We are still learning, and we still have work to do—there are no easy answers or quick fixes in this struggle.

As scholars, activists, and educators, we declare our long-term commitment to advancing social justice and demanding action against power relations that result in oppression in our department, institutions, organizations and communities. Our department’s racial equity working group is committed to these goals.

Racial Equity Working Group

To respond concretely to the pressing need for racial justice in our society, in our university, and in our department, we created a racial equity working group in summer 2020. The group includes all Anthropology faculty, museum staff and a graduate student representative. Within this working group are four interrelated subgroups:

  • Department practices
  • Classroom practices
  • Outward-facing communication
  • Across-campus coordination

Action Items

Below are some of our action items that represent an integrated and structural commitment of resources to strengthening a departmental culture of anti-racism and ethical professionalism; achieving racial equity in research and teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels; and to the recruitment and retention of BIPOC students, faculty, and staff.

Some of our ongoing initiatives in the academic year 2020-2021 have included:

  • Developing cross-listed Anthropology/Black studies courses on dismantling racism and the Black experience, including a lower division gen-ed course, “Dismantling Global Racism” (to be taught academic year 2021-22)
  • Implementing decolonizing practices for department collections (Pick Museum of Anthropology, archaeology and human osteology), including establishing a department collections working group
  • Applying for grants to support the cataloging, assessment, and rehousing of department collections to ensure compliance with legal and ethical guidelines, with an immediate focus on Native American (U.S. based) collections
  • Meeting with representatives from NIU’s Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications to learn more about BIPOC student recruitment and retention
  • Revising our website to be more accessible and attractive to diverse student applicants, with attention to imagery and information about funding, internship opportunities, and careers in anthropology (ongoing initiative)
  • Hosting professional development workshops to increase graduate student success (fall 2020 workshops included grant writing; applying to doctoral programs; and looking for jobs)
  • Engaging our anthropology alumni network to establish internships and mentorship for current students
  • Prioritizing well-being, compassion, and flexibility in classroom environments
  • Conducting a survey of departmental teaching faculty to understand the treatment of race and racism in our curricula and to identify areas for improvement
  • Compiling shared pedagogy resources for decolonizing anthropology courses and promoting anti-racism in the classroom
  • Becoming active members of and maintaining open lines of communication with other campus groups, including Faculty Senate, United Faculty Alliance, Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, and NIU Anti-Racist Collective
  • Promoting, attending, and participating as panelists in Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) events, including workshops and town halls

Future Short- and Long-term Goals

  • Restructuring hiring goals to promote the recruitment of BIPOC faculty, including by aligning anthropology hiring needs with centers like the Center for Black Studies (CBS) and CLLAS
  • Actively recruiting candidates from underrepresented groups for future staff openings and reviewing job descriptions to ensure that qualification requirements do not devalue relevant experiences derived from alternative career paths
  • Actively recruiting students from underrepresented groups for research opportunities, including the Research Rookies program and Student Engagement Fund (SEF) projects
  • Disseminating a campus climate survey to NIU anthropology students
  • Hosting virtual (and eventually in-person) outreach visits with DeKalb and greater Chicago area high schools and community colleges (for undergraduate grogram) along with Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and HBCUs (for graduate program)
  • Sending personal welcome messages to all accepted anthropology students (undergraduate and graduate) over the summer and before the start of each semester
  • Developing a certificate program or joint minor with Black Studies
  • Working with professional associations, other educational institutions, and community groups to follow trends in promoting decolonizing practices and anti-racism in teaching and research
  • Working with relevant units on campus to define preferred terminology and suggestions for best inclusive teaching practices (e.g., CBS, CLLAS, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Asian American Resource Center, ADEI, Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
  • Updating physical media, including brochures and hallway banners, with imagery and descriptions that make our programs more inclusive and welcoming to BIPOC students
  • Committing resources to mentor BIPOC faculty and support their professional development along the academic pipeline, from junior faculty to full professor

If you have ideas of how we can improve our practices, we want to hear from you! Please contact askanthro@niu.edu.