English department cancels annual retreat, lecture

The Shannon-Clark lecture and retreat is one of many events canceled due to COVID-19

A fier notifying students that the Shannon-Clark lecture
and retreat are canceled. Photo by Grace Mamon.

A fier notifying students that the Shannon-Clark lecture and retreat are canceled. Photo by Grace Mamon.

Grace Mamon

In response to the coronavirus, the annual English department Shannon-Clark lecture and retreat was one of many events cancelled during winter term.

The featured speaker, Professor Kevin Quashie, is a professor of English at Brown University. He had planned on delivering a lecture titled “Black Awareness/Black Ethics” on Thursday evening.

Assistant professor of English and Africana studies Diego Millan met Quashie while working on his postdoctoral fellowship at Brown. Millan invited Quashie to campus and organized the event.

“The decision was mutual,” Millan said. “It was through conversation around where we were as a community in terms of our responses to coronavirus as well as his own concerns for travelling in the midst of unknowns.”

The Shannon-Clark Lecture is an annual lecture series involving an evening public lecture and a retreat the following day. Members of the department, faculty and majors are invited to meet with the invited speaker and discuss.

“The experience is beneficial for both the invited speaker and us as a community,” Millan said. “We get to sit with a really brilliant person and they get to work out ideas that they’re currently thinking through in addition to performing work that they’ve likely already finished.”

Department head Genelle Gertz said she relayed the information the university sent out on Monday to Quashie and told him to make whatever decision he felt was best. She said she was disappointed, but that she’s working with Millan to have Quashie return to campus next year.

According to Millan’s planned opening statement, “black feminist and women’s studies have long been central to [Quahsie’s] thinking and teaching about blackness, black culture and literary studies.”

Students have expressed disappointment about the cancellation, as the lecture and retreat is an annual staple of English department events.

Laurel Myers, ‘20, said she was familiar with Quashie’s work through her English capstone project.

“I was really looking forward to seeing him in person and seeing how his research has evolved,” Myers said. “And now I can’t.”

Among the copious recent cancellations, other students felt that it was inevitable.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because it is what it is,” Julia Habiger, ‘21, said.

Since the university made the decision to move to virtual instruction, all on-campus events have been canceled with the exception of commencement, which has not yet been canceled or postponed.