Commitments to Social Justice

GWST is deeply committed to social justice, here at UMBC and around the world.

In order to continue to hold ourselves accountable to the promises we’ve made, here, we share all the statements we have shared or signed onto as a Department. While we know that these statements are just one small aspect of the work, it is important that we share them and make them accessible to all those in the community who wish to view them and hold us to the commitments we’ve made.

This statement was posted on myUMBC on June 5, 2020.

The faculty and staff of UMBC’s Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies (GWST) department want to affirm our support for and solidarity with our Black students, faculty, and staff at UMBC and beyond. Black Lives Matter. Black Women’s Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Black Queer Lives Matter. Now and Always.

We also acknowledge that it is not sufficient to say that and go back to business as usual. GWST is committed to doing the hard work of reckoning with institutionalized racism, white privilege, and white supremacy in our own practices, and in the practices of the university. 

To this end, we make the following commitments and demand that the university do the same:

  1. We all take an intersectional approach to our research and teaching, addressing the complex intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, nationality, and other cleaving social differences to understand the operations of power, oppression, and freedom in historical and transnational perspectives. We will deepen this commitment and center the research and contributions of Black scholars in our classes. We must cite Black women scholars, artists, and activists.

  2. UMBC sources many supplies, including university furniture, from Maryland Correctional Enterprises (MCE). We understand that the system of mass incarceration is rooted in the logics of white supremacy and chattel slavery, and that Black and Brown people, including queer and trans people, are incarcerated at incredibly high rates compared to their white peers. MCE claims the program gives incarcerated people job experience and satisfaction, but we understand it as part of the production of a material interest in extending the system of mass incarceration. We demand that UMBC lobby for the repeal of the state requirement to purchase from MCE. This is an important material step to take on the road to ending systems of incarceration for all. We commit to beginning this work at UMBC.

  3. While UMBC has been a forerunner in recruiting and admitting Black, Brown, and other minority students, we push for the increase of admission of Black students. We will continue our commitment to their success at UMBC by working to sustain and expand the necessary tools and resources to succeed during their time here.

  4. We will push the university to invest in hiring and retaining Black faculty members by supporting the Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship program and in our own hiring priorities. UMBC faces a hiring freeze, and when it thaws, increasing the number of Black faculty members on campus needs to be an institutional priority. We will make this argument in larger institutional settings and push for real material changes.

  5. It isn’t enough to bring Black and Brown faculty to campus. We must work to address the institutional, organizational, and individual iterations of white supremacy and multiple forms of racism that create hostile and unsustainable climates for BIPOC faculty. Part of our retention plans must commit to the work of anti-racism on the campus as a whole.

  6. We also commit to continuing to push the university to acknowledge, recognize, and value the invisible labor that our Black and Brown faculty, students, and staff do to build and maintain an inclusive culture on campus.

  7. As we anticipate budget cuts resulting from the pandemic we commit to doing our part to ensure those cuts do not fall disproportionately on Black and Brown faculty, staff, and programs.

  8. Many of the staff workers at UMBC are Black or Brown. We commit to working toward fair compensation for staff, both contractual and contracted, by pushing administrators to ensure fair contracts for all workers at UMBC.

These are big goals, but they are feasible goals that we are committed to honoring while working closely with faculty, staff, and students at all levels. We recognize that reckoning with anti-Black racism requires committing to a horizon that marks the world we want as we struggle, learn, and lead together on our way there. We see you, we hear you, we are ready to listen, and we are ready to work.


Maria Celleri

Kate Drabinski

Elle Everhart

Katie Kein

Carole McCann

Mejdulene Shomali

Inclusion Council: The Inclusion Council was announced on June 30, 2020, and the group began immediately to develop short- and long-term recommendations and goals. Dr. Carole McCann currently sits on the Inclusion Council, and several department members served as members of the Inclusion Council workgroups that developed recommendations in Spring 2021.

Retriever Courage: Following the lawsuit filed against UMBC and the subsequent student protests in September 2018, UMBC established Retriever Courage. Several department members have been and continue to be involved in the work of Retriever Courage.

Retriever Rise

NWSA Statements: As an institutional member, GWST has signed onto and endorsed statements released by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA). Those statements can be found here:

Gender Studies Departments In Solidarity With Palestinian Feminist Collective: GWST stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and, as such, we answered the call from the Palestinian Feminist Collective and signed onto their statement, along with several other gender studies departments across the world.