The Spanish Department is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in our teaching, advising, mentorship and scholarship. We strive to be a welcoming department for all learners of Spanish and its many varieties. Our commitment extends to all levels of our curriculum, from introductory language classes, to advanced language classes, to 300 and 400-level courses, to the Senior Seminar. Inside the classroom, we aim to achieve equity and inclusion by engaging in practices that strengthen cultural knowledge and linguistic confidence and agency, rather than linguistic insecurity. Outside of the classroom, we aim to promote community connections both on and off campus and to reflect the diversity of our students in our faculty. Ultimately, we are dedicated to fomenting an intellectual community in the Department where all students feel that they belong, regardless of their heritage or language ability.
The following are some concrete steps that the Spanish Department has taken to demonstrate and build on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion:
- The Spanish Department considers examining our relationship with Latinx students to be an essential anti-racist practice. As a starting point, we compiled demographic data, considered pedagogical approaches to the education of Heritage Language Learners, and interviewed both students and faculty about their experiences and visions for the department. The resulting Spanish Department Self-Study: Heritage Language Learners, completed in November 2021, informs our assessment of the placement exam process, outreach to incoming language students, course development, community engagement, and recruitment practices.
In an effort to develop a trajectory that is marked out for Spanish Heritage Language Learners in our courses, we are in the process of developing a two-semester sequence with Spanish 105: Spanish for Bilingual Students and Spanish 205: Finding Your Bilingual Voice.
- Department faculty have committed to a series of monthly conversations in which each faculty member shares some aspect of their teaching or research with an anti-racist, equity-minded focus. With structural guidance from the Center for Teaching and Learning, these pedagogical circles have been collaboratively designed to provide ongoing feedback and incubate innovative curricular ideas that align with the Department’s and individual faculty’s goals for antiracist teaching and research. The CTL highlighted this initiative in its December 2021 newsletter.
- The Department collaboratively built a field-specific reading list with primary and secondary sources to inform our antiracist initiatives.
- We are hosting a multi-year series of roundtable discussions and lectures under the theme of Decolonizing Iberian Studies specifically focused on antiracist pedagogical innovation in the teaching of the culture and literature of Spain. Our first event is a roundtable on “Migration and Diaspora” with four invited faculty of diverse backgrounds on February 25, 2022. This lecture series has been designed to lead to a co-taught course on Decolonizing Spain, slated for the Fall 2024 or Spring 2025 semester.
- The core course for the Spanish major, Spanish 301: Literature and Culture of the Spanish-Speaking World, has been thoroughly revised and updated through an antiracist lens to concentrate on the diversity of literary voices in Latin America. Readings include a significant number of Afro-descendant and Indigenous authors, as well as authors from Latin American immigrant communities in the United States. This diversity of material allows for semester-long discussions of topics such as racism, racialized identities, antiracism, discrimination, marginalization, the value and circulation of Indigenous voices, and legacies of colonialism.
- The Department has integrated more diverse authentic materials from the Spanish-speaking world into our language sequence. Beginning with Spanish 101 and Spanish 102, students are exposed to concepts and basic vocabulary to discuss topics such as the use of blackface in Spain and other countries; physical attributes that align more closely with students’ identity; movements that empower women, especially from historically-marginalized groups in Latin American; and the differences between terms such as Hispanic, Latino, and Afrolatino. In Spanish 201 and Spanish 202, faculty incorporate authentic material from diverse authors and artists throughout the Spanish-speaking world leading to discussions that touch on themes such as racism in publicity, anti-Muslim sentiment in Spain, identity formation, immigration and linguistic racism.
- A partnership with the Center for Community Engagement has spurred a number of course-related community-based projects and collaborations that allow our students to engage with Spanish speakers in the surrounding communities across the curriculum. Senior Spanish majors may opt for a community-based capstone project, which involves collaborations with organizations such as the Caminantes Spanish-language program at Fort River Elementary School in Amherst; the Amherst Survival Center; the Holyoke Public Library; the Mead Art Museum; and the International Language Institute in Northampton.
- We have worked with the Spanish Language House in Newport to development additional community events in partnership with La Casa. We have also held two successful alumni events connecting current students with former Amherst Spanish majors to encourage professional networking and create community among students and alums.
- We have developed new courses that explicitly engage an antiracist curriculum, including Spanish 312: Language, Identity, and Race; Spanish 461: Racism and Anti-Racism in Latinx and Latin American Cinema; FYSE 122: Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Latin American Arts. In addition, many established 300 and 400 level courses have been revised to include antiracist content and/or restorative justice pedagogical practices.
- The Department is developing practices to help students identify possible thesis topics at different junctures throughout the curriculum, in an effort to demystify the process and mentor potential thesis students earlier. In addition, we have revised our thesis guidelines and application process to make them more transparent and accessible to students.
- The Department distributes a yearly newsletter highlighting the achievements of our community of faculty, students and staff. Individual faculty publish on topics related to race and antiracist pedagogy in their research. The newsletter spotlights our efforts at creating community and is distributed to current students, alums and friends of the Spanish Department. We also highlight our students and alums throughout the year via our Instagram account, @amherstmamuts, in an effort to create and sustain community in a variety of venues.
Furthermore, we are dedicated to the goals and actions of the Amherst Anti-Racist Plan as described by President Martin in her letter to the community dated August 3rd, 2020.