UMass prof vows to bring social justice teachings to classroom

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AMHERST — An aspiring University of Massachusetts professor of postcolonial literature has made a public vow to “shift the focus” of her classes in order to hone in on social justice topics like “race and policing in America,” according to a “Diversity Statement” she recently posted to her personal website.

“I firmly believe that diversity, in all its manifold manifestations, should be at the forefront of course design rather than attended to or accommodated as an afterthought,” wrote Amanda Ruth Waugh Lagji, a PhD candidate at the school, who works in the English department.

Waugh Lagji in her statement also notes she “strives to make diversity a perspective as well as a methodology in the classroom by considering the assumptions and values we (myself, and my students) bring into the classroom space, and I try to make the classroom a safe space for those conversations.”

Waugh Lagji did stress that “‘safe’ does not necessarily mean ‘comfortable’ and class discussions around issues of diversity often feel productively uncomfortable.”

She has not yet responded to a request for comment. In her online profile, Waugh Lagji notes that she is currently working on a dissertation titled “Waiting for Now: Postcolonial Literature and Colonial Time” and notes the “study challenges the narrative of the twentieth century as only a time of increasing acceleration and movement through an examination of the temporal dimensions of waiting in postcolonial novels by Nadine Gordimer, Alejo Carpentier, Njabulo Ndebele, Ayi Kwei Armah, among others.”

Waugh Lagji’s statement follows a school year that saw colleges and universities across the country grapple with students demanding “safe spaces,”railing against “microaggressions” and denouncing “trigger warnings.”

At UMass-Amherst, such topics came to a boil when an event billed as “The Triggering: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?” occurred on campus in late April. The discussion, featuring lightning rod Milo Yiannopoulos, political commentator and comedian Steven Crowder and equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, was frequently disrupted by a series of rowdy protesters intent on silencing the conservative trio.