The Department of English at Cornell University recently voted by a wide margin to change its name to the "department of literatures in English" in order to eliminate — as one faculty member put it — the "conflation of English as a language and English as a nationality," the Cornell Daily Sun reported.
The Daily Sun — the college's student newspaper — said faculty members of color proposed the name change during the English department's first faculty meeting of the fall semester. The paper said a significant majority of the department approved the name change, and now all that awaits is an OK from the administration.
Director of Undergraduate Studies professor Kate McCullough, English, indicated to the paper that the change would help do away with the "conflation of English as a language and English as a nationality."
More from the Daily Sun:
The decision to demand such a change was spurred by this summer's resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd's death, according to Prof. Carole Boyce-Davies, English, one of the original proposal writers. As a result, the faculty felt a sense of obligation to react in their own department.
"Faculty around the country — not just faculty of color, but faculty in general — began to look at the institution to see how we can help advance a discourse that challenges structural forms of racism which get reproduced in students and in teaching over and over again," Boyce-Davies told the paper.
She added to the Daily Sun that there was worry about how the department as a whole would react.
"What surprised us was the fact that so many of the white faculty of the English department signed on — we were amazed," Boyce-Davies told the paper. "By the time we were ready to officially take it to the department as a whole, we had over 75 percent of the faculty signed on."
Department chair Prof. Caroline Levine added to the Daily Sun that smaller discussions about anti-racist changes have been happening for years, but current events gave faculty confidence to take concrete, unified action.
"I think leadership matters," Levine noted to the paper. "This isn't just us doing a symbolic gesture; this is in keeping with the University's call to have us really rethink our everyday practices around racism."
(H/T: The College Fix)