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Initiatives and Commitments Toward Racial Justice

We, the Department of Music at the University of California Santa Cruz, aligned with all institutions of conscience, recognize in our society a continuing epidemic of racism and racist violence, and we write to express our unequivocal support of Black Americans, and to declare new commitments to meet our responsibilities in pursuit of racial justice.

We commit to combating racial hatred, individual acts of racism, and institutional racism that form the context in which racist violence occurs. We commit our department to the conscientious support of students of color, and particularly to Black students, who struggle within the context of ongoing threats of racist violence that impact their education. We also commit to combating racism and Anti-Blackness within our own institution, and within our disciplines, through reforms in our curriculum; setting new priorities in outreach, recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion; and renewed attention to equity in our standards of academic advancement and excellence. With this statement we also express initiatives that manifest our commitments and point to measurable outcomes: increased diversity in our student body, staff, and faculty, and a curriculum that more meaningfully reflects the musics and cultures of our community and society.

In the fall of 2020, the Department of Music will launch a revised undergraduate curriculum. Our BA major will now have concentrations: “Global Musics,” “Contemporary Practices,” and “Western Art Music.” These three concentrations will work together to de-center canons and their associated value systems, and promote more open and exploratory modes of thinking and dialogue that foster both the celebration and critical examination of global musical practices. African and African American traditions--jazz, blues and hip hop in particular--will be areas of focus in the major: students will be exploring the music, culture, history and global impact of these wide-ranging traditions throughout the curriculum.

We recognize, however, that there is much more work to be done. Our disciplines—in many respects shaped by the investments of traditionally white institutions—carry with them a legacy of racial, cultural and gendered exclusion, as do many of the musical traditions they represent. In all three new concentrations, therefore, we seek heightened awareness of the impact of these structures of violence and exclusion on the music we study, teach and perform. At the core of any conscientious study of music are practices of active and responsive listening—practices that are not only essential to musical expression, but strengthen the meaningful work of equity and inclusion. We believe music is a global form of cultural expression that can be a powerful force of unity, creative collaboration and meaningful growth for us as global citizens in the 21st century. 

To put our commitments in practice we pledge to address implicit and systematic bias in our department through a regular implementation of anti-bigotry and bias-awareness education, and increased transparency for accessible processes for grievance against bigotry and bias. We pledge to ensure that ensemble courses spanning diverse music practices are equally valued in the curriculum. We pledge specific further improvements to our gateway courses, including courses in culture/history, theory/musicianship, and performance practice, to reflect with more integrity the significance of African American, Global African, and diverse Latinx, Latin American and indigenous American musical traditions, particularly relevant to our place as a Hispanic-serving institution of higher learning in California. We, as a department, united with all conscientious programs in the arts, also commit to upholding the rights of students engaging in social critique through combinations of creative work and activism, and we recognize that students of color face disproportionate oppression in their attempts to pursue visible work in social justice and related expressions. 

The value of this statement depends upon action, and on our ability to fulfill the promises and commitments made here. To hold ourselves accountable, we pledge renewed public dialogue about the results of our commitments, in the following forms:

  • With this announcement, we establish a Diversity Committee. This committee will convene in the Fall of 2020, with invitations to staff, students (undergraduate and graduate), and faculty (lecturers, applied lecturers, and ladder faculty). This committee is charged with assessment of our progress on:

    1. Decentering and diversifying the structure and content of our undergraduate and graduate curriculum.

    2. Incorporating diversity measures into our Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and our ongoing PLO assessment and revision process.

    3. Diversifying our undergraduate and graduate student body.

    4. Increasing our attention to anti-discrimination and bias-awareness measures and resources in our processes of recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion of faculty and staff.

    5. Building and developing our existing needs-based scholarship program, and ensuring its support of underrepresented communities and economically stressed students.

    6. Improving our outreach to prospective students, both on our campus and in California’s high schools and junior/intermediary/community colleges, with the aim of inclusivity in our recruitment to our programs and courses. 

    7. The diversity committee will report annually on our measures toward these goals, and their outcomes. It will also make recommendations on how better to accomplish, stay accountable, rearticulate and expand those goals.

  • With this announcement we commence a new department scholarship dedicated to undergraduate and graduate students whose research and/or creative work is aimed at critiques of racism, racial injustice, and cultural marginalization within the discipline of music, or in society more broadly. The scholarship, funded by music faculty as well as new and existing donors, will be open to all student applicants, and will be adjudicated by a committee including members of the music department faculty and student body, and will include representation from both faculty and student groups outside our community.

In solidarity,

Faculty and Staff of the Department of Music at UC Santa Cruz 

July 1, 2020