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Call for increased diversity, accessibility, and transparency from AWP

This petition had 717 supporters

The AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) serves as the flagship organization for creative writing programs, conferences, centers, and individual writers, providing much-needed support and community. As writers, we are grateful for the work it does to support us; we see AWP as a crucial resource and strong advocate for our work. But we call for it to change its practices to improve diversity, accessibility, and transparency.

The Problems

  • AWP 2016 rejected all panel proposals related to disability for its 2016 conference (more information available here) and has ongoing problems with providing adequate accommodation for disabled attendees (see this post for details). In short, AWP is not meeting the needs of writers with disabilities.
  • When AWP member and writer Laura Mullen publicly asked the AWP for a race and gender breakdown of rejected and accepted panels for the 2016 conference and a response to the lack of panels on disability, instead of providing information or explaining why it couldn't be provided, executive director David Fenza sent a letter to Mullen, cc:ed to her associate chair and department chair, accusing her of "cast[ing] aspersions" on AWP. In other words, in response to a request for transparency re: race and gender diversity, AWP took steps to damage a writer's career, maintain secrecy, and shut down dialogue. 

We are aware of the important work AWP does to create space and resources for writers. It is this very importance that makes it crucial for AWP to become more responsive to member concerns.

We call for AWP to make the following changes:

  • Retroactively accept at least one panel on disability for AWP 2016.
  • Publicly apologize to Laura Mullen for attempting to silence her by threatening her career and mischaracterizing her actions to her employer.
  • Commit to collection of optional demographic information as part of panel submission for all future conferences and make demographic acceptance/rejection statistics publicly available.
  • Commit to a transparency policy requiring that public questions from members be answered publicly whenever possible, and commit to consequences for AWP leaders who attempt to silence, intimidate, or erase public conversations and/or their members.


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