CMS Statement of Reopening
The faculty of Cinema and Media Studies affirm the following statement from the Department of English:
“To keep our campus and our communities safe--in the absence of a vaccine for Covid-19--the English Department and the Program in Creative Writing have established the norm to teach remotely in the Fall of 2020. We have made this decision as a collective, after careful reflection and in solidarity with the South Side community, students, and university workers. We also affirm that individual faculty decisions about remote teaching will have no impact on the department's decision-making about retention, promotion, tenure, or compensation.”
We also wish to add two points:
First, we remain committed to a model of in-person teaching, and believe that remote learning is not a substitute for face-to-face discussion, instruction, and conversation. While the current situation with COVID-19 makes remote instruction a necessity, this should not be the long-term goal for our pedagogy or educational structure.
Second, we urge the University of Chicago to take seriously the impact of re-opening campus not only on faculty and students but also, and especially, on the staff at the University and the communities in which we all live and work. It is vital that the University provide support for the staff who work to make sure that the University operates effectively. It is equally important that the University recognize the physical and social harm that pushing students into the rental market may have on the South Side community, from the availability of housing to the spread of COVID-19; the University needs to provide adequate resources to mitigate those effects.
Black Lives Matter
Engaged in the current moment, with its challenges and struggles and aspirations, the faculty of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies wish to make three points:
We believe that Black lives matter, that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and innumerable others matter. We believe that their deaths are the result of a system of policing—though not only policing—that has failed in its most basic responsibilities. We believe in the mission to defund the police, including our own university police department.
As scholars of media, we are aware of the importance of moving images to the protests over the past two weeks, as well as the long history of screen representations that have devalued Black lives. We are aware of the role of cell phone videos to the struggle of Black people against police brutality, as a form of visibility and transmission, and of the dangers assumed by those holding the cameras. We are also aware of the contested history of media representation of police and policing agents, from cinema to television to video games. We believe this awareness is a necessary part of how we conceive our work, and how our department orients itself to the community in which it is situated.
As a department deeply committed to the study of Black media, politics, and representation, we believe that we have a unique opportunity and obligation to communicate with our community. We commit ourselves to public events and programs, whether existing projects like the South Side Home Movie Project and the Game Changer Lab or projects we call into being, as a way to learn from and support the political movements that are on the forefront of this struggle. We commit ourselves to producing scholarship that is engaged with and contributes to our understanding about how cinema and media have participated in racism, and how our discipline might further anti-racist movements. We believe in continuing to work to make our department, as one community among many, a place where this ongoing work can take place amongst students, staff, and faculty.
Graduate Students United
The faculty of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago urges the university administration to recognize Graduate Students United (GSU) as the collective bargaining agent for graduate student workers and enter into good-faith negotiations without delay. In October 2017, the graduate students voted to form a union. We believe that this collective decision should be respected.
We also call upon the administration to refrain from actions that may undermine our graduate worker colleagues’ rights to organize or their freedom of expression, including: retaliation against graduate workers or picketers; attempts to replace graduate student labor; efforts to track participation or non-participation in the action; or any threats thereof.
We encourage our faculty colleagues to join us in this stance.