Letters from the Director
Announcing the Establishment of the Americas Institute
August 13, 2020
A short while ago, an exciting email went out from President DeGioia to the entire University community announcing the establishment of the Georgetown University Americas Institute. Some of you may have heard this was in the works; today’s announcement makes it official! You can read the original announcement below my signature.
The Americas Institute is the culmination of many years of work by colleagues across the University, and it represents a transformational moment for Georgetown’s engagement with Latin America. Indeed, this establishes Latin America as the first (and for the moment, only) university-wide regional platform; others hope to follow suit, but Latin America is the pioneer, and we at CLAS could not be more happy. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of Rolando (C’68) and Monica Gonzalez-Bunster for the visionary gift that is allowing us to launch the Americas Institute.
The Americas Institute is designed to build upon, and help connect, the existing University units that engage with Latin America. The Center for Latin American Studies, housed in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and drawing on faculty from the across the University, will remain the flagship intellectual and academic hub, especially in the social sciences and humanities, and our graduate and undergraduate programs will continue to form an outstanding cohort of scholars and leaders for the future. Happily, the Institute will bring us some additional scholarship and research resources, ensuring that we can attract and retain the very best students and faculty members, as well as visiting scholars and practitioners, drawn from across the hemisphere and globe.
The Americas Institute will also build out opportunities for collaboration with our University partners, including the Latin American Leadership Program in the McDonough School of Business, with its innovative executive programs; the Center for the Advancement of the Rule of Law in the Americas in Georgetown Law Center; the Americas Initiative in Georgetown College, and the McCourt School of Public Policy. Each will contribute from its strengths, and the Institute will facilitate ever closer collaboration.
Finally, the Americas Institute will increase our outreach in the region and in Washington, hosting high-level dialogues, events, and programming that address the most crucial issues in our hemisphere. CLAS will, of course, be a key player in this through its faculty expertise, student engagement, and closer partnerships in Latin America.
You will see many more announcements in the coming months as the Americas Institute takes shape, but I wanted to share the excitement from our CLAS perspective. In this time of severe challenges in the region and the world, the Americas Institute opens new opportunities for us to engage, learn from, and strengthen one another across the hemisphere. With the establishment of the Georgetown University Americas Institute, we are inspired to take up that important task with ever greater creativity and solidarity.
With great gratitude for all you contribute to our community,
Matthew Carnes, S.J.
A Call to Action on Global Racism from CLAS and the SFS
June 18, 2020
As we approach one month since the murder of George Floyd, we continue to reflect on that act of police brutality and the murders of Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black men and women in recent years and over the centuries. The United States, and indeed the world, have seen historic protests over recent weeks — in which our Georgetown CLAS community has actively participated — affirming that Black lives matter and calling for dismantling of the systemic racism which permeates our societies. Our local Georgetown community has asked itself to look ever more deeply at its own embedded racial disparities, its historic involvement in enslavement and marginalization on the basis of race, and our daily practices that sustain or turn a blind eye to demeaning and dehumanizing behaviors.
Now, we reach a point at which it is crucial to take concrete action. Yesterday, in response to a letter from faculty, Dean Joel Hellman endorsed “making racial justice a foundational principle of the second century of SFS.” The Center for Latin American Studies fully commits to this goal, making racial justice foundational in all we do, and we invite all our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to engage with us.
In a letter to the CLAS community of students and faculty on June 1st, I stated that “At CLAS, we are committed to using all of our resources of research, teaching, and engagement to interrogate and transform the societies in which we find ourselves. As a community that studies, and cares deeply for, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, we are acutely aware of how harmful and destructive the forces of racism, oppression, and exclusion can be. Peoples of African and indigenous descent have been systematically targeted and harmed by these forces. And we have repeatedly seen horrific abuses of power by armed state actors, as well as the important and heroic role played by protest. Now, in these past days, we have been reminded that the Americas are truly one continent, and that the United States is just as prone as its neighbors to racial injustice and violence.”
Now, in this spirit, we ask you to take up two key tasks I highlighted then — to interrogate and transform. We at CLAS pledge ourselves to this task, and we need your help. First, help us interrogate, perhaps using questions like these:
- How do our embedded practices in CLAS and the SFS — ranging from student and faculty recruitment to the ways we socialize or the activities and accomplishments we celebrate — implicitly reflect biases that undermine the full incorporation of new members into our community?
- How do our academic structures and approaches, from our course offerings and requirements to our syllabi and assignments, from our faculty to our internships and summer experiences, center (or, as sadly often happens in the academy, decenter) diverse voices, especially those of Black, indigenous, migrant, and other marginalized groups, as well as and those of women and diverse gender identities?
- How does our engagement of larger communities, both in DC and Latin America and the Caribbean, privilege some groups over others, and how might we better engage historically marginalized populations?
And at the same time, help us transform, perhaps along these lines:
- What specific new practices would help us make our CLAS and SFS community more welcoming, affirming, and supportive of students of African descent, as well as those of indigenous descent, migrant families, and from other marginalized or disadvantaged backgrounds?
- How might our CLAS and SFS syllabi, research, and teaching methods be modified to better bring out Black and marginalized voices? Which new authors or activities or voices ought we to incorporate?
- Beyond the CLAS offices and the University setting, and especially for alumni, what are each of us doing in our workplaces or internships to actively contribute to dismantling racist, unjust, and harmful practices, structures, and behaviors?
We have set up a special email account to receive ideas and reflections you would like to send to us, and we will plan to gather students, faculty, staff (and to the extent possible, alumni) for further conversations in the coming weeks to discuss them. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier today, President DeGioia announced that tomorrow, June 19th — which marks Juneteenth, when news of the end of enslavement of people of African descent finally reached those living in the most remote parts of the nation in Texas in 1865 — will become a University holiday. Perhaps each of us might take some time tomorrow to begin to engage our shared work to interrogate and transform, and to learn more about the experience of Black individuals and families in the United States.
At CLAS, we are actively committed to making racial justice foundational to all our work. We will rely on you, the members of our extended community, to help us make this value a reality, holding us and yourselves accountable and putting in the work and effort to transform your own local realities. We are blessed to be a diverse community here at CLAS, and it is in that diverse community that we place our hope for this important work.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Fr. Matthew Carnes, SJ, and the CLAS Team
Standing in Solidarity
June 1, 2020
Dear Members of the CLAS Community,
The past several months have been a time of tremendous disruption, dislocation, and challenge, both here at Georgetown and around the globe. The pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our daily activity, and it has cost the lives of over 100,000 here in the United States and hundreds of thousands more in the rest of the world. Among them are our friends, loved ones, and colleagues.
Now, in the midst of this public health crisis, the United States has been shaken once again by the persistent scourge of racism and police brutality.
In a message to the Georgetown community sent yesterday, President DeGioia called upon all of us to confront racism and the institutional structures in our society that have reinforced it for over 400 years. We know well that Georgetown, and the Jesuit order, were actively enmeshed in those structures, and over the last five years, the University has undertaken significant work to acknowledge its history and to promote reconciliation and justice. In that spirit, President DeGioia now asks each of us to look into ourselves and “determine how we contribute to perpetuating injustice and sustaining structures that cannot continue and that now must be reimagined.” And he implores us as a University community to “contribute to this work of reimagining the social, political, economic and moral structures to ensure justice for all—and especially for those for whom it has been too long denied.” In addition, Dean Joel Hellman has today invited “students, staff, and faculty to engage in dialogue and action to help SFS build a culture that will contribute to change.”
At CLAS, we are committed to using all of our resources of research, teaching, and engagement to interrogate and transform the societies in which we find ourselves. As a community that studies, and cares deeply for, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, we are acutely aware of how harmful and destructive the forces of racism, oppression, and exclusion can be. Peoples of African and indigenous descent have been systematically targeted and harmed by these forces. And we have repeatedly seen horrific abuses of power by armed state actors, as well as the important and heroic role played by protest. Now, in these past days, we have been reminded that the Americas are truly one continent, and that the United States is just as prone as its neighbors to racial injustice and violence.
At this moment, many of us are experiencing a wide-range of emotions — anger, fear, confusion, frustration, or even numbness or exhaustion. No matter what you may be feeling, please know that the CLAS faculty and staff are here to support you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us with any feelings or concerns you may have, or if we can help you as we make our way forward together. We are blessed to be a diverse community here at CLAS, and we are dedicated to working together to promote respect, inclusion, and justice for all.
Matthew Carnes, S.J.