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STATEMENT TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S STUDIES ASSOCIATION
In the aftermath of the 2015 National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Conference focused on “Precarity,” we write to rectify the detrimental oversights made by the Governing Council and Executive Director in regards to the distribution of voting ballots for, and information about, two Resolutions that have been under consideration for at least a year:
(1) The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Resolution, sponsored by Feminists for Justice in/for Palestine Ad Hoc Committee and the Anti-White Supremacy Taskforce; and
(2) The Contingent Faculty Resolution, sponsored by the Contingent Faculty Interest Group.
First, we are deeply troubled with the decision by NWSA to name two individuals, who have submitted each Resolution on behalf of the collective bodies that crafted them, as the responsible party for each Resolution instead of the name of the constituency groups who were sponsoring them. Such individualization not only erased the collective process that went into drafting and submitting the resolutions, it has subjected the two individuals to potential intimidation, harassment, and discrimination and for bearing the brunt of any and all tensions, backlashes, and retaliation. The problematic decision to refer to the Resolutions as the individuals who submitted them has placed both individuals in a PRECARIOUS position in which they would have to answer for the Resolutions while the rest of us (Governing Council, Delegate Assembly, Executive Director, and NWSA membership) are protected behind the shield of their names. To put it more clearly, in naming individuals NWSA has directly contributed to, and invited attacks on, these two individuals and relieved itself of any institutional accountability.
Second, we are outraged with the continued failure of the Governing Council and Executive Director to implement the requests for collective representation of the proposed Resolutions. During both the Membership and Delegate Assembly meetings last year and this current year, NWSA members clearly stated that the presentation of resolutions are collective acts. Numerous members requested that the NWSA website and ballots reflect that collective work by the naming the constituency groups as submitters, not individuals. We specifically asked the Governing Council and Executive Director to change the requirement that only allows for individual names as resolution proposers. Additionally, in the short time since voting has commenced there have been more requests to the Governing Council and the Executive Director to remove the names of the two individuals and replace them with the names of the two constituency groups or the two Resolutions’ names. Late in the day on 11/16/15, NWSA did remove the two individual names, replacing them with generic “Recommendation One” and “Recommendation Two.” We understand this generic renaming as the continued denial of our requests to identify the Resolutions with names that reflect the content and process of the Resolutions.
Third, we are concerned that by refusing to make the change prior to ballot distribution, NWSA Governing Council and Executive Director are in effect influencing voting outcomes. The careless and defensive email responses by the Executive Director to NWSA members immediately after members realized the problems with the appearance of the Resolutions is especially disconcerting. It took a campaign of emails and strong appeals to the NWSA leadership before the decision to remove individual names happened late in the day on 11/16/15. Again, the renaming to “Recommendation One and Two” remains to be a problem because it fails to reflect the content of the Resolutions. The refusal to make changes that reflect Resolution content, and changes prior to ballot distribution, raises three interconnected concerns of voting legitimacy:
(1) Members who voted before the changes were made may have been influenced by their relationship to the individuals who were listed in place of the Resolutions;
(2) Members who do not have background about the issues may not feel inclined to click the generic link and vote; and
(3) Generic names require members to do more work to figure out what the resolutions are about.
We demand that the Governing Council instruct the Executive Director and appropriate staff to correct the mistakes of using individual names and restore membership representation within NWSA leadership decisions by doing the following:
(1) Name the Resolutions on both the ballot and information page for their content: The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Resolution and The Contingent Faculty Resolution;
(2) Name the constituency group as the submitter on the Resolution information page: Feminists for Justice in/for Palestine and Contingent Faculty Interest Group;
(3) Remove the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from the BDS Resolution, as has been repeated asked since the publication of Resolutions information page because it is NOT part of the Resolution;
(4) Issue a detailed explanation and apology to the membership regarding the delays and failure to address the concerns and requests raised in this statement; and
(5) Restore Constituency (Caucuses and Taskforces) chairs’ voting power within the NWSA leadership that was removed by the passing of the new Bylaws. In an effort to continue the support of collective representation, we believe that it is important to have both the increase of Member-at-Large seats on the Governing Council and the collective representation of Constituency Groups.
This collective statement should not be interpreted as asking for a change in the substance of the Resolutions. Instead, it is a statement that questions the denial of members’ representation in NWSA by the Governing Council and Executive Director.
Additionally, this statement serves as a collective expression of support for these two individuals who are now further precariously situated because of poor judgment and lack of expediency by NWSA’s Executive Director and the Governing Council to correct these mistakes.
Moreover, this experience has reaffirmed the further distancing of members’ representation in decision-making processes in NWSA. The neoliberal individualization of collective work within NWSA and the foreclosing accessibility to leadership decisions undermines feminist solidarity and collective feminist work.
We expect NWSA leadership and the staff in the national office to be responsive to feedback, concerns, and requests from its members.
SIGNED: “Feminists for Accountability in NWSA”
ANTI-WHITE SUPREMACY TASKFORCE, NWSA
CONTINGENT FACULTY INTEREST GROUP, NWSA
FEMINIST MEDIA STUDIES INTEREST GROUP, NWSA
FEMINISTS FOR JUSTICE IN/FOR PALESTINE, NWSA
LESBIAN CAUCUS, NWSA
NEW ENGLAND WOMEN’S STUDIES ASSOCIATION, NWSA
Alexis Lothian, University of Maryland College Park
Ann Kennedy, Women’s and Gender Studies, U. Maine-Farmington
Caryl Nuñez, Wheaton College
Danielle Dirks, Sociology, Occidental College
Emily Hobson, University of Nevada, Reno
F. S. Hussain, University of Connecticut
Huma Ahmed Ghosh
Karen Booth, UNC Chapel Hill
Kimberly Williams, Mount Royal University
Krista Benson, The Ohio State University
Kwanda Ford, Claremont Graduate University
Heather M. Turcotte, Crime & Justice Studies, UMASS Dartmouth
Jessica Birch, Case Western Reserve University
Jo Trigilio, Simmons College
Jody Lisberger, Assoc. Prof., GWS, U. of Rhode Island
Joelle Ryan, University of New Hampshire
Juli Parker, Dir., Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality, UMASS Dartmouth
Laila Farah, DePaul University
Lauren Todd, Southern Connecticut State University
Lisa Johnson, USC Upstate
Marisa Allison, PhD Candidate & Lecturer, Sociology, GMU and Dir. of Research, New Faculty Majority Foundation
Mick Powell, The Feminist Wire
Piya Chatterjee, Scripps College
Rabab Abdulhadi, San Fransisco State University
Sarah Boeshart, University of Florida
Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, PhD, MSW- GWS, U. of Illinois at Chicago
Shannon J. Miller
Shireen Roshanravan, Assoc. Prof., American Ethnic Studies, Kansas State U.
Simona Sharoni, SUNY Plattsburgh
Tamara Lea Spira, Western Washington University
Vanessa Lynn Lovelace, University of Connecticut
TO SIGN ON IN COLLECTIVE SOLIDARITY, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To send emails directly to NWSA leadership, please send to all:
NWSA Office: email@example.com
President Vivian May: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Nana Osei-Kofi: Nana.Osei-Kofi@oreganstate.edu
Secretary Carrie Baker: email@example.com
Treasurer Diane Harriford: DiHarriford@vassar.edu
Elections Chair Adela C. Licona: firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director Allison Kimmich:email@example.com