If you want to be accepted as a graduate student in the University of Chicago’s English Department, you will not succeed in your application unless you want to work in and with black studies.
In July, the department issued a faculty statement stating:
The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence.
As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality. For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies.
The statement continued by claiming, “English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness,” adding:
Our discipline is responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why. And while inroads have been made in terms of acknowledging the centrality of both individual literary works and collective histories of racialized and colonized people, there is still much to do as a discipline and as a department to build a more inclusive and equitable field for describing, studying, and teaching the relationship between aesthetics, representation, inequality, and power.
The statement insisted, “We believe that undoing persistent, recalcitrant anti-Blackness in our discipline and in our institutions must be the collective responsibility of all faculty, here and elsewhere.”
University Assistant Director for Public Affairs Gerald McSwiggan told Campus Reform that the university “can accept a limited number of Ph.D. graduate students in the 2020-21 application season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited employment opportunities for English PhDs.”
He added, “Currently, there are 77 Ph.D. students studying a wide variety of disciplines within the English Department, and the department is admitting 5 additional Ph.D. students for 2021. The English department faculty saw a need for additional scholarship in Black Studies, and decided to focus doctoral admissions this year on prospective Ph.D. students with an interest in working in and with Black Studies. As with other departments in the University, the department’s faculty will decide which areas of scholarship they wish to focus on for Ph.D. admissions in future years.”
The University of Chicago ranked sixth in U.S. News and World Reports’ list of Best National University Rankings. “U.S News and World Report gave the University of Chicago a score of 95 out of 100, reporting an undergraduate enrollment of 6,734 and $59,298 tuition,” NBC Chicago reported on Monday, noting that the U.S News and World Report website added, “The University of Chicago is known for its location as well as its rigorous academic and enrichment programs.”