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President's Message

Diane Keeling

Dear ORWAC Members,

It is difficult to express the anger, pain, grief and exhaustion that comes from processing and responding to the brutal treatment of Black lives, Trans lives, Migrant lives, the propensity of national racism, the barriers to voter rights, the negligent handling of our education system and global pandemic. At the same time, it is inspiring to see many of our current members, past presidents and past executive board members continue to speak-out and write in our field’s journals about the racism, heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism and coloniality, and ableism that animates our departments, universities, and professional organizations. The ORWAC executive board is listening, and we are working to more justly act out our intersectional politics.

At this past WSCA conference, Leslie Harris, now immediate past president, hosted ORWAC President’s Roundtable discussion on “Meaningful Diversity, Equity and Justice: ORWAC’s Legacy and Future.” Invited participants and members who attended identified both strengths and areas of concern regarding ORWAC’s commitment to diversity, equity, and belonging.

While we have strengths, panelists and members agreed that ORWAC consistently signals a concern with women at the exclusion of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, class, and ability. This signaling occurs through both the name of the journal and the organization, but also in other places such as the repetition of “for women” in the grant award. Additionally, concerns were raised that the intersectional research published in WSIC has largely demonstrated a hollow commitment to intersectionality without quality and depth; scholars of color are too often commodified or positioned as backup support in the organization; and all of the editors of WSIC have been white. These concerns and others regarding fair compensation for WSIC editorial work and value-driven award selection processes, sparked discussion among executive board members that resulted in a collective decision to audit every level of gatekeeping in the organization.

The executive board has conducted our own initial audit and updated the organization’s website and documents with changes. However, we also require the expertise of voices that are currently excluded in the executive committee to incorporate a variety of marginalized experiences and expertise in the discipline, scholars who engage in substantive diversity work both in terms of their research and practice with skills in building and maintaining networks.

We are currently forming a special committee that will be compensated to audit all of the organization’s gatekeeping documents and practices. The committee will craft a report that provides recommendations for how the organization can support and enhance its diversity, equity and sense of belonging. The audit will evaluate:

The special committee’s report will make recommendations for the board and members to discuss and vote on. Our executive board is committed to immediately acting on the recommendations of the special committee and putting resources behind how we plan to address organizational inequities and power differentials. Committee members will craft a timeline appropriate to these audit goals and their work schedules, with a contingent deadline of November before the NCA executive board meeting. We hope to bring recommendations to you at our next annual meeting during WSCA’s annual conference.

Marnel Goins, Past President of ORWAC, is president of WSCA this year. The annual conference will be hosted in Irvine, CA February 12-15, 2021 with a conference theme of “Cultivate.” The deadline to submit papers, panels and roundtables is September 1, 2020.

The pandemic has made it difficult to predict whether or not our home institutions will provide funding or even if the conference will be hosted in person. We are working under the assumption that the conference will occur in some form. If you have research, I encourage you to submit. It may be a particularly advantageous year for a top paper award. Great research is still happening, and I am eager to hear from seasoned and emerging voices in our field about how we must and can continue to address oppression, prejudice and inequity. The conference call is included in this newsletter.

I am honored to be able to serve in this role of ORWAC president and to work with such a motivated executive board. Thank you to vice president Jenna N. Hanchey for putting this newsletter together and to our graduate student representatives Danielle Biss, Sarah Dweik, and Kristen Herring for their creativity with Ask the Oracle—be sure to have a look. Also, don’t miss the most recent issue of WSIC that leads with a conversation and commentary on African Feminist and Queer Coalitions.


Be well and keep going,

Diane Marie Keeling
Associate Professor
University of San Diego


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