MAA Advocacy Statement on West Virginia University and New College, Florida

We, the Advocacy Committee of the Medieval Academy of America, denounce the growing tide of political interference witnessed at both West Virginia University and New College of Florida. Experience in higher education proves that limiting students’ options saps intellectual development and undermines the professionalization of graduates who are expected to participate in multicultural communities.

Concerning West Virginia University, we are alarmed by the decision in August 2023 to eliminate 169 faculty positions and 30 degree programs, many of these focused on foreign languages and literatures, and the arts. All 24 positions in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics will be cut, and with that comes a profound loss for students. According to WVU’s core curricula, we can “appreciate our global society when we consider other ways of life, experiences, means of expression, histories, and modes of being.” Moreover, WVU’s own mission statement extols a “diverse and inclusive culture that advances education.”

As a harbinger of things to come, the evisceration of higher education has already been accomplished at New College of Florida, where six new highly partisan trustees, appointed under Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have launched an attack. The effects have not been limited to higher education, as evinced by the multitudes of marginalized people fleeing from or threatened by this reactionary legislation and the cultural consequences.

As medievalists, who have studied and thus witnessed the longstanding consequences of censorship, we know that these decisions will only harm the students of these institutions and the citizens of these states.

We recommend administrators and educators put real action and resources behind their commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and we stand in solidarity with our colleagues at WVU and New College of Florida, and with students, staff, and faculty who suffer similar hardships at other institutions.

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