Dear WGS Students and Faculty,
I hope this message finds each of you safe and healthy amid this terrible crisis facing the entire world, including our local communities. I know that all of us are affected in different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic and in ways that extend far beyond the direct effects of the disease. Our students and faculty are all having their lives upended with the switch to online instruction over the next few weeks and potentially through the end of the semester. Folx are being laid off and/or losing shifts, and financial anxieties are compounded by more generalized fear over the seemingly inevitable spread of the novel coronavirus throughout our region. And we are witnessing a disturbing rise in xenophobia and hyper-nationalism, particularly as it pertains to East Asian groups.
By virtue of necessity, we are physically separated from each other for some unforeseen amount of time. Our classrooms will be virtual and our professional relationships are likely to be almost fully digitized for at least several weeks. This will be hard. I write to say that I am thinking of all of you. I am hardly a foolish optimist—frankly, I’m a cynic by training!—but I am confident in a few things that are worth saying here. As a collective, we represent a multitude of stigmatized and socially marginalized social groups who have thrived, innovated, and changed the course of human history even as powerful forces have tried to separate and divide us. In the face of “social distancing,” I can’t help but think of the remarkable ways that women and femmes, Black and Brown communities, queer people, trans folx, and oppressed groups worldwide have used digital technologies to connect with each, share ideas, and catalyze profound social change. From #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName to #MeToo and the Arab Spring, Internet technologies have helped us do extraordinary things that were previously impossible. And when this is over, we will certainly collaborate and build new futures that we cannot even imagine today.
Even as we may find ourselves physically isolated in the coming weeks and months, I want each of you—especially our students—to know that the WGS faculty is with you. If you need us, please reach out. And do what you can to take care of each other. We cannot cure COVID-19, but we can help in other ways. We are here for you.
Warmest wishes for a safe and happy spring break,
Chair, Interdisciplinary Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality