October 5, 2020
The VCU Department of History is committed to cultivating discussion and promoting action around the issues of diversity, inclusion and equity. We acknowledge long-standing disparities in academia, historical inquiry, the student body, and society. As historians working in Richmond, Virginia, we approach these issues within the context of a region traditionally overseen by members of the Powhatan Chiefdom, claimed by the Spanish, forcibly settled by the English, and worked by enslaved people. Throughout time, immigrants, women, veterans, conscientious objectors, individuals with disabilities, individuals who now identify as LGBTQ+, and BIPOC1 have all economically, socially, culturally, and intellectually enriched the wider community. We also recognize that these groups, as well as individuals included among the list of VCU’s protected identities,2 have faced historical and contemporary discrimination. To address these disparities, the department will collectively encourage equitable and diverse representations in curriculum, programming, recruitment, enrollment, and other practices, while maintaining the integrity of academic freedom.
Many departmental faculty and graduate students examine in their research how social disparities and power dynamics shape experiences of class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, and religion in different eras and contexts. We recognize that these disparities remain relevant and have informed our roles as historians. We encourage all history department faculty, staff, and students to reflect on individual efforts, weigh departmental policies, observe unequal access and power dynamics in the classroom and in common areas, and seek concrete strategies for implementing equity in our department, our college, and our university. As historians, one of our key mandates is to examine change over time, and we recognize that the concerns of future students, staff, and faculty regarding equity may look very different. We therefore treat this as a living document subject to revision.
June 15, 2020
We, the VCU History Department, support the efforts of our students, the university, and the community to root out the systemic racism present in our nation both in the past and in the present. Situated in the city of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy and a city with a large African American community, we believe it is our responsibility to encourage progression toward a more equitable society. The worth of black lives should not be disregarded, and as members of a diverse academic institution we cannot be silent. To be silent during this moment would be to ignore the literal and figurative suffocating of black Americans and communities of color. Our department, our city, our nation, and our profession demand change and challenge our society to tackle the racial injustices that permeate black lives. To this end, we fully support the American Historical Association’s statement condemning and historicizing structural racism in the U.S. (linked below). Further, we as a department, have recently formed a Diversity Committee composed of diverse faculty to recommend systemic changes to our departmental practices and structures in order to enhance equity and inclusion for populations historically overlooked.