Dear Members of the Puget Sound Campus Community,
We hope this message finds you well. Every four years since 2006, the Race & Pedagogy Institute (RPI) and its Community Partners Forum has organized and hosted the quadrennial Race & Pedagogy National Conference (RPNC) where the Puget Sound campus and region is transformed into a hub of intellectual thought and space to foster conversation about race and its meaning in formal and informal educational spaces, in its intersectional forms, and across academic disciplines. The quadrennial sequence was inspired by a vision to ensure that every University of Puget Sound student would have the opportunity to attend the RPNC as part of their academic career as an undergraduate and/or graduate student at Puget Sound. The most recent RPNC in 2018 was entitled Radically Re-Imagining the Project of Justice: Narratives of Rupture, Resilience, and Liberation. Following this cycle, in 2022, we would now be in a “conference” year.
At this moment, the Institute and Puget Sound campus lack capacity to produce a high-quality national conference. For those of you who have worked with us in developing previous conferences, you know the planning process starts two years prior to the conference. With that timeline in mind, in the context of COVID disruptions, and amidst the conditions and impact of personnel departures, structural barriers, and associated institutional struggles, we have made the difficult decision to delay the start of the planning process for the next conference until the Race & Pedagogy Institute, African American Studies Department, and Puget Sound campus have capacity to engage the building of a national conference. Importantly, this readiness involves RPI’s long-standing priority of paying attention to our relationships with our Community Partners Forum, campus constituents, and other individual and organizational community partners. Cultivating the well-being of oneself and others in mutual care as a political act in the tradition of Audre Lorde’s A Burst of Light (1988) is also a priority for the sustainability of RPI. For Puget Sound community members old and new, the RPI Community Partners Forum, and anyone who has been engaged with us since our founding in 2003, we acknowledge that this news about the conference is disappointing. Please know that we share your disappointment.
RPI is a collective group composed of faculty, staff, and students, and a variety of community members, K-12 educators, scholars, artists and others seeking an understanding of the complexities of race and how it impacts our relationships and lives within society. We educate students and teachers at all levels to think critically about race, cultivate terms and practices for societal transformation, and eliminate racism. This yearning brought thousands of individuals to the Puget Sound campus for four national conferences. This yearning created a community that stretches beyond the boundaries of this campus and region to share information, ideas, and plans for collective action. We remain committed to bold flagship work in forms yet to be imagined.
Many of you see RPI’s work and impact as you traverse campus locations or work collaboratively with RPI’s leadership team and others who continue to engage in a wide range of critical roles at the University in the service of RPI’s mission. This work includes membership and leadership on University committees, across multiple academic programs and departments, with student organizations, and in cross-institutional and community-based settings, including work with Tacoma Public Schools, the Puget Sound School of Education, and the Northwest 5 consortium of private liberal arts colleges. This work also includes continuing to build and sustain a robust African American Studies program that recently graduated its largest class of majors, and is operating without the replacement of a tenure-line faculty position previously held by Dr. Dexter Gordon. RPI benefitted from the stability and capacity provided by that full–time position with its associated structural campus and community resources.
In closing, we appreciate your various forms of engagement with RPI during its 20-year history, including this turbulent period. The support, patience, time, and care of campus and community members are critical for sustaining the Institute and its mission.
RPI Leadership Team
LaToya Brackett, Nancy Bristow, Grace Livingston, Anna Mondschean, Renee Simms, Jonathan Stockdale, Aldrin Villahermosa II, and Carolyn Weisz
Date: October 14, 2022