Rutgers English Department announces list of "anti-racist initiatives," including deemphasizing traditional grammar

by Bryan Brammer · Jul 20th, 2020 2:10 pm
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Last Updated Jul 22nd, 2020 at 12:41 pm

The English Department at Rutgers University last month released a list of "anti-racist" initiatives and directives for the upcoming school year, including the deemphasizing of traditional grammar.

In an email sent on "Juneteenth" titled "Department actions in solidarity with Black Lives Matter," English Department chair Rebecca Walkowitz explained that the planned initiatives are a "way to contribute to the eradication of systemic inequities facing black, indigenous, and people of color."

Walkowitz described one of the initiatives as "incorporating ‘critical grammar' into our pedagogy."

"[Critical grammar] challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic' English backgrounds at a disadvantage," the email reads. "Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them with regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written' accents."

Since 2012, the Rutgers English Department has had a Committee on Bias Awareness and Prevention. In the email, however, Walkowitz lobbied that the department "move from a role emphasizing awareness and prevention towards a role emphasizing ‘culture change.'"

As a result of its mid-June meeting, the committee will also:

  • Require all English instructors to remotely attend at least one workshop on "how to have an anti-racist classroom."
  • Organize two teach-ins focused on Black Lives Matter, anti-racism, police brutality, and prison reform.
  • Develop internship initiatives to support the goals of "diversity and equity" and to "decolonize the Writing Center."
  • Design the reading for Rutgers Day 2021 to address anti-black racism and social justice.
  • Organize readings in 2020-2021 addressing issues related to the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism.

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