CCCC has a long history of publishing statements on social and political issues related to the teaching of writing and rhetoric. The focus of these statements has often but not exclusively been US-centric. The organization has been silent on too many international issues of injustices; examples include the earthquake response in Haiti and Turkey, war in Syria and Afghanistan, organized terrorism in Nigeria, incarceration of Uyghurs in China, and the internal wars of many other nations. CCCC has also been silent on the US’s indifference toward issues that destroy the lives of international citizens such as the allowance of human trafficking and immigration policies that continue to break families apart and deny refugees safety in American cities. Given Vladimir Putin’s continued commitment to inflicting war upon Ukraine and its citizens, this changes.
CCCC stands in solidarity with our colleagues and students in Ukraine and those displaced from Ukraine for their safety. We also stand in solidarity with our Russian colleagues and students who oppose the war crimes inflicted on Ukrainian citizens and visitors. At the time of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported that 83 percent of young adults between 18 and 24 in Ukraine were enrolled in higher education. Today, many universities and academic institutions have been either destroyed, shut down, or transformed into temporary housing and resource centers. Access and opportunities related to higher education in Ukraine remain threatened. The bombing of Karazin University, home to a rare collection of books central to Ukrainian history, serves as evidence of the direct threats made by Russia on behalf of Vladimir Putin to not only erode education but destroy the presence and preservation of Ukrainian culture.
As scholars and teachers of rhetoric, composition, and writing studies, we are keenly aware of the power of language through textual and other means both to disseminate harmful social and political ideologies as well as challenge such ideologies. As Russia wages war against Ukraine via military violence and pillage in Ukraine, the Russian government, through state-sponsored and state-censored media networks, wages a war of propaganda in Russia to justify its violent invasion of Ukraine and vilify Ukrainian people. We are deeply troubled by the dehumanizing rhetoric aimed at Ukrainian people, the usurpation of historical trauma in Vladimir Putin’s reframing of a military invasion as an attempt to “denazify” Ukraine, and propagandistic efforts to erase both the unique history and culture of Ukrainian people and the shared history and humanity among Ukrainian and Russian people. At the same time, we are also cognizant of the historicity of anti-Russia sentiment and propaganda in the United States. While we expressly condemn the violence and censorship perpetrated by the Russian government, we recognize and are cautious of the means by which condemnations by US-based media outlets, politicians, and individuals may themselves slip into or recycle historically situated tropes, and we resist the ethnocentric imperative to make sense of the war using only US frameworks. We can hold these truths simultaneously.
We denounce the targeted attacks on Ukrainian schools, universities, and libraries. These bombing and shelling assaults continue to devastate the educational progress, mental health, and social development of Ukrainian children and adolescents and ravage the well-being of educators across the region. We acknowledge and decry the Russian military assault on museums and cultural-historical preservation sites, an assault meant to eradicate Ukrainian history and culture. We stand in solidarity with the librarians, curators, archivists, researchers, and scholars who oppose this warfare and continue their vital work in the face of tactical terror. We stand with organizations, such as the American Historical Association, who refute the Russian president’s claims of historical precedence for military campaigns against Ukraine. Conscious of the intersectional oppression facing international students from Africa in Ukraine, we additionally detest the openly racist treatment of Black African students on the Ukrainian/Polish border evacuating the war-torn country in the same ways their white European classmates and colleagues were permitted to do. These racist actions forced Black Africans escaping Ukraine for their safety to seek alternatives to evacuation that most white Europeans did not face, such as walking for hours to find border authorities that would permit their evacuation only to be turned back several times or receiving rejection from accessing transportation by train out of the country. We stand in support of and seek requests for assistance from our members and their colleagues working in the region.
We affirm those working to support the safety and ensure the academic freedom of our fellow Ukrainian students and scholars as well as Russian students and scholars actively resisting the legitimacy of this war. We recognize the work of the International Institution of Education, which, in the wake of this ongoing violence, created the IIE Emergency Student Fund for Ukraine, ensuring the financial safety for Ukrainian students cut off from critical resources to students currently studying in the US. We encourage continued support of the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund offering assistance through funds and fellowships for threatened and displaced scholars in Ukraine and Russia. These efforts—along with countless others not listed here—underscore the necessity to ensure academic freedom and access to education in war-inflicted areas, including Ukraine. We view the tactics to silence scholarly voices and prohibit educational access as tools of warfare meant to annihilate cultural knowledge and histories. As such, we call upon our members who teach about the importance of cultural knowledge and its connections to rhetoric and literacy to commit to the following actions:
- demand/petition our institutions to provide financial, mental health, and food security support to Ukrainian students and faculty both in the country and displaced from their homes;
- hold book drives and online courses;
- teach media literacy on the war and propaganda;
- hire displaced and refugee Ukrainian and Russian faculty of composition studies and other fields;
- enact letter campaigns to our representatives; and
- sponsor events and lectures that support the anti-war work of Ukrainian and other scholars in the region.
We encourage those whose access to education has been disrupted by conflict and combat to continue educational progress by supporting organizations working to ensure educational access in Ukraine. The UN Refugee Agency is one organization that offers specific actions related to educational access in Ukraine.
While the actions outlined above largely address the threats to access to higher education in Ukraine, we would be remiss not to mention the multitude of coordinated attacks on the innocent. These threats are actions aimed to demoralize Ukraine’s future. We denounce strikes on medical and mental healthcare facilities throughout Ukraine. The missile strikes and other attacks on children’s hospitals, cancer centers, ambulances, healthcare workers, and patients have impeded the capabilities of these facilities and services to care for critically and fatally wounded individuals. We recognize that unjustified attacks on the children and other innocent Ukrainians are strategic tactics by the Russians to erode hope for a free Ukraine. We affirm the need for democracies and institutions committed to academic freedom to continue providing resources and refuge as the fight for Ukraine continues.
This statement was generously drafted by the following 2023 CCCC Executive Committee members:
Mara Lee Grayson