Update on GrubStreet’s Workshop Ethical Guidelines & Cultural Belonging Series
Earlier this year, we updated the community about a few important initiatives we’re taking on to address issues related to plagiarism, appropriation, and cultural belonging at GrubStreet. We’re writing now to provide a brief update on our work to date and give a preview of what you can expect in the coming months.
1. GrubStreet's Workshop Ethical Guidelines
In response to community feedback that our plagiarism and appropriation policies needed more precise definitions that addressed cultural and social power dynamics, Education Director Dariel Suarez and new Head of Faculty Emmanuela Maurice put together a cohort of four instructors — in the genres of fiction, poetry, general nonfiction, and memoir — to address these gaps and generally deepen GrubStreet's Workshop Ethical Guidelines.
Through a series of meetings and conversations, the group put together pertinent questions and scenarios that typically arise in writing workshops at GrubStreet and elsewhere, and shared them with two consultants. The first is Jessica Silbey, a professor at Boston University who specializes in issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, and copyright law and has a comparative literature background with extensive experience consulting with artists. The other is Jaymee Goh, a cultural appropriation scholar, writer, editor, and Writing the Other workshop instructor.
After discussing and obtaining the consultants' perspectives and extensive resources, the cohort is now drafting an updated version of GrubStreet’s Workshop Ethical Guidelines, focusing on the distinction between plagiarism and cultural appropriation, how these things may or may not occur in a class, what GrubStreet's organizational process is for addressing in-class issues if they do arise, as well as what students' and instructor's expectations and responsibilities will be when joining a writing workshop, all through the lens of racial justice and power dynamics.
In the coming months, the group will put together a small committee of other instructors, students, and staff members to get their feedback and input before the final version of the guidelines are included in our Student Guidelines and our Instructor Guidelines for classes.
In addition, we expect to share general learnings from this work, added resources for our instructors and students, and a clear plan to provide future support and training for GrubStreet faculty with community building and our mission in mind. Already many ideas have surfaced about how this work can be expanded to invite honest discourse, center historically marginalized voices, and consistently offer a welcoming, inclusive, equitable, and artistically rigorous space in our workshops.
We anticipate being able to share our updated guidelines with the community this November.
2. Cultural Belonging and Reconnection Series
In the last few years, we’ve implemented new policies and practices to create a more equitable and inclusive space. Though we’ve made progress in this work, we know that we have continued work to do in order to create a space where all members feel a sense of belonging at GrubStreet.
With that in mind, and as GrubStreet continues our work to become a more diverse and inclusive organization, we have begun planning a free series of Cultural Belonging and Reconnection events that will be open to everyone in the community in the fall of this year. Through this series, we plan to engage our community — staff, board, instructors, students, and members — in meaningful conversations around what diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging mean at GrubStreet.
The series will include author presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions where we will explore how we work together to create a space that fosters a greater sense of belonging and community.
Our planning committee, made up of staff, board, instructors, and community members, has been meeting regularly since the start of the summer to plan for this fall series. We want to acknowledge that this series is not a panacea; creating conditions for belonging is hard work that requires a sustained commitment to building and learning together. We look forward to starting this phase of our journey towards greater inclusivity with our broader community this fall.
You can expect to hear more updates about each of these projects in the coming months. In the meantime, thank you, as always, for being a part of our community.