Thank you for the opportunity to write today about the future of Eastern Washington University.
I’m Mimi Marinucci, I use she/her pronouns, and I am professor of both Philosophy and Women’s & Gender Studies. I’ve been here since fall of 2000, when I completed my PhD in philosophy from Temple University in Philadelphia – which is much more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse than eastern Washington.
I was nevertheless impressed by the level of commitment to diversity expressed by our university leadership at that time.
The students 20 years ago were often more naïve than the university administration, and they occasionally had their minds blown when I and other faculty introduced them to such issues as queer identity, toxic masculinity, white privilege, marginality, intersectionality, disability awareness, and the like.
But in the past few years, I’ve noticed a shift. It now feels like the students, rather than the university administration, are leading the way in the area of diversity.
What students are demanding and what students deserve is for us to prepare them to live in the world. This world. This diverse world.
In much the same way that it was a mistake (both in general, and at this particular moment) to attempt to dismantle the office of Diversity and Inclusion, it would be similarly careless to weaken programs like philosophy, women’s and gender studies, and many others, which are literally in the business of addressing issues of justice and ethics while also thinking critically and creatively about how to create a better world. It would be a mistake to dismantle or downplay philosophy, race and gender studies, and the like during a major health crisis, during a major economic crisis, or during a widespread movement for social change around issues of racial justice.
In the short run, of course, I am concerned about the faculty and staff members I perceive to be at greatest risk. In the longer run, however, every EWU employee and every EWU student is at risk. That risk will be greatest if the university is not responsive to the needs of our local and global communities.
What our university needs, what our nation needs, is not less philosophical thinking but more. Not less thinking but more. Not less diversity education but more. Not less education, but more.
We need to invest in thoughtful examination into how to live well if we hope to get through the crises we are experiencing.