Despite the fact that the study of political science is intricately related to questions of power, our discussions about inequality and hierarchy rarely focus on the ways these dynamics impact the department itself or the practice of teaching political science. Motivated by this lacuna, a group of graduate students – led by Sarah Drier, Kirstine Taylor, Paige Sechrest, and Nora Webb Williams – established the Equality Initiative in Political Science (EIPS) in the fall of 2014. The initiative sought to create a space for an open, proactive conversation about how gender, race, class, and sexuality affected our department and our discipline.
In its first year, EIPS held a number of panels with faculty, graduate students, and staff in order to discuss where issues of inequality were encountered, how to facilitate healthier, supportive classrooms, what services were or should be available, and how the department could keep issues of inequality at the forefront of discussions and policy. In addition, EIPS began a “Brown Bag Lunch” series in order to create a safe space for graduate students to discuss issues of inequality they face in lecture, seminar, within the department, or on the job market.
This year, EIPS continued under the guidance of a new steering committee (Kiana Juarez, Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, Vanessa Quince, Paige Sechrest, and Anna Zelenz). Last October, the initiative proudly hosted a panel discussion on “Race in Academia” during which Professor Christopher Parker and PhD students Hannah Walker and Elizabeth Chrun discussed the experiences of people of color as students, scholars, and educators in our department as well as in the discipline more broadly. Additionally, EIPS held a department-wide “Inequality and Privilege Workshop” in February facilitated by Meixi Ng of the University of Washington College of Education. This spring, we hope to begin a discussion regarding the difficulties and necessities of “activist scholarship.”
EIPS hopes to continue a discussion of how power disparities operate in our department, seminars, classrooms, career trajectories, and the discipline at large. We also hope to create a space in which those who study these issues and those who experience these issues can come together for necessary reflection. The success of EIPS stems from the department’s willingness to support graduate student initiatives, as well as the willingness of students and faculty to openly and honestly discuss their positions as educators, students, and researchers within political science.
Article written by Political Science PhD Candidate Anna Zelenz.