Recent tragic events have shaken students, staff, and faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Studies. They forcefully demonstrate that patterns of racism and intolerance are still deeply embedded in the fabric of our society. In consideration of this, we, the Faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, wish to state our support of the principles of Black Lives Matter.
Scholars of the Ancient Near East deal every day with the great civilizations of Africa and Western Asia. In the most basic sense we aim to reveal the details of these cultures, to bring them to life in the present. In the course of our research, we collaborate with people from Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere, individuals representing many ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. Still, our field of Near Eastern Studies has had difficulty attracting students from underrepresented minorities and diversifying our faculty. We are also well-aware that the history of our field is intertwined with colonialist practices and mindsets which must be acknowledged and overcome. Having benefited from discussions with NES graduate students and alumni, the NES Faculty wishes to affirm its commitment to:
- bring more diversity to the undergraduate and graduate programs (both using what available funds we have and vigorously advocating to the University administration for support for this effort).
- promote more diversity in the hiring of staff and faculty.
- do a better job of outreach in Baltimore and beyond (including in the places where we do research).
- establish better relationships both with sister-departments within the University who work in the fields of race and cultural diversity and with other colleges and universities in the Baltimore area.
- explore ways to use our funds to support minority-owned businesses here in Baltimore.
These are mere starting points, and must be acted upon to carry weight. With this statement we, the faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, proclaim our intent to do just that. In conclusion, we thank those who have written to us and shared their thoughts on these supremely important issues.