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The Department of English adopted the following statement by majority vote:
In Memory: Dr. Refaat Alareer (1979-2023), Professor of English at the Islamic University in Gaza
The Department of English notes with sorrow the killing of our colleague Dr. Refaat Alareer, Professor of English at the Islamic University in Gaza, by an Israeli airstrike on December 7, 2023 that also killed his brother, sister, and four young nieces when their home was destroyed. Dr. Alareer was a teacher, a poet, and a mentor to numerous Gazan students who became writers, journalists, and poets with his encouragement and support. He was the editor of the 2014 anthology Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, published by Just World Books, and a co-founder of We Are Not Numbers, a project launched in Gaza after Israel’s 2014 attack, to mentor and support young writers in the besieged territory to tell their stories to the world. During Israel’s current war on Gaza, he had already had to witness the deaths of three of his mentees and fellow writers: Huda al-Sousi, Raed Qaddoura and Mohammed Hamo. Anyone who heard his interviews on media outlets like Democracy Now or read his work in Electronic Intifada or The New York Times will have recognized his gentleness, his care, and his humor. He was a beloved teacher of Shakespeare and of World Literature, with a PhD on John Donne, whose impact on Palestinian nonviolent resistance was incalculable. Dr. Alareer was also convinced of the essential role that the teaching of English played in giving Gazans, locked for 16 years in the open-air prison imposed by Israel’s blockade, a means to communicate their perspective and their reality to the world at large. His loss to our profession and to the capacity to bear witness through journalism and literature is immeasurable.
Refaat Alareer is not the only academic or writer to have been killed in Israel’s two-month onslaught since October 7, whose seemingly indiscriminate onslaught has taken the lives of journalists, writers, medical personnel and scholars, including the President of Islamic University, Sufyan Tayeh, a leading researcher in physics and applied mathematics, killed along with his family in an Israeli airstrike on December 2. While it may seem misplaced to single out one individual among the already well over 18,000 Palestinians who have died in this latest Israeli war on Gaza, the untimely killing of so brilliant and exemplary a colleague cannot leave us untouched. Israel’s indiscriminate bombing seems bent on destroying not only Hamas, but Palestinian infrastructure, civil society, and its cultural institutions, and we can only add our voices to the widespread call across the United States and globally for an immediate, permanent, and unconditional ceasefire, the release of hostages and other political prisoners by both Israel and Hamas, and the pursuit of a meaningful political process that will ensure lasting peace and the realization of Palestine’s legitimate aspiration for self-determination and liberation.
This statement represents the personal views of the majority of members of the Department of English and not those of the University of California.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are reflexively represented in faculty research and pedagogical practice. They guide our collective sense of how best to serve diverse student potential and need, including the re-mapping of department requirements and course offerings. While typical departmental DEI statements narrowly focus on bodies and identities that tend to tokenize faculty and students of color, this department distinctively defines DEI as the impact that under-represented scholars and students and their histories and communities have on our conceptualization and practice of scholarly research, pedagogical innovation, and intellectual community.
In other words, our commitment to DEI fundamentally critiques tokenism, which itself often promulgates homophobia, ableism, sexism, and racism. Instead, we take on the much more complex challenge of embodying and encompassing the diversity of methodologies, curriculum, materials, histories, disciplines, and inter-disciplines, to create a vibrant department community.
The department’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion includes epistemic diversity, equity, and inclusion, e.g., conceptual and not just numerical and taxonomic goals. The department provides a model for concretely centering and valuing devalued epistemologies.