The CUNY Academic Commons, Social Justice, and the Fall 2020 Semester

Dear CUNY Academic Commons Community,

The CUNY Academic Commons team welcomes you back to the Fall 2020 semester. We do so with excitement about our work at CUNY, and with concern about the multiple crises we face, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the continuing effects of systematic racism in our country and our communities.

As we return to remote classrooms and online work, the CUNY Academic Commons team continues to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protest movement. We share the outrage and anguish of so many members of our CUNY community, and we continue to mourn George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many other victims of police violence–including, in recent days, Jacob Blake. We advocate for a world in which policing is not prioritized over community investment and education and in which protests are not met with violence.

The Commons team commits itself to anti-racist work and to using the community platform of the Commons to create equitable spaces for knowledge sharing and connection. We intend, this semester and moving forward, to reflect upon our own practices, and to ensure that our platform meets the needs, and reflects the values, of the incredibly diverse City University of New York system.

As a faculty-managed, open-source community platform, the Commons already provides a flexible publication and community organizing space for the CUNY community. We have always been open source, and we offer free WordPress-based web-hosting to the CUNY community — all students and faculty can create accounts and set up sites for free. Faculty and students use the Commons for teaching, scholarship, service, and organizing, and do so knowing that the Commons is fully committed to protecting their privacy and data.

Beyond the work we are already doing, the Commons team commits to the following actions, which we will start this fall:

  • We will review our hiring practices to ensure that we are building a diverse project team;
  • We have created a new form that can be used by members of the Commons community who are interested in joining the CUNY Academic Commons Subcommittee;
  • We have created a new group, Anti-Racism at CUNY, that we will use to highlight anti-racist materials being published on the Commons and anti-racist projects and organizing across the CUNY system;
  • We will create a series of events and programs to highlight anti-racist work, including:
    • A regular virtual event series that highlights anti-racist projects created on the Commons and elsewhere in CUNY (budget permitting*);
    • A student-blogging initiative, to feature work by CUNY undergraduate and graduate students (budget permitting*);
    • A fellowship program to support the creation of anti-racist open educational materials and projects on the Commons (budget permitting*);

As a community platform committed to fostering safe spaces for Black and Indigenous People of Color and LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff across CUNY, we can’t do this work without you. We hope that you will continue to use the Commons to share your work and connect with others, and that as you do so, you will join us in ensuring that the opportunities of this moment are reflected in longer-term plans for equity and justice at and beyond CUNY.


* Note: In the face of a global pandemic and drastic state budget shortfalls, the CUNY Academic Commons (like much of CUNY) has not yet received its annual budget, but we anticipate being able to support these programs.

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