Antiracism at Hugo House

Updated April 19, 2022.

We’re working toward transformation and racial equity.

Achieving transformative change is a long, often uncomfortable process that requires careful thought and dedicated attention. And, without action, we know that our statements mean nothing. 

Hugo House has been grappling publicly with its role in structural and systemic racism. We are listening, learning, and making mistakes. Our progress has been too slow, and we are guilty of gaps in our understanding and knowledge. We are working hard to improve. We are grateful for a thoughtful community that is holding us accountable with courage and commitment.

We are committed to working collaboratively and openly while fulfilling our responsibilities to everyone in our community—including staff, students, teachers and donors. Our goal is to move forward with humility, transparency, and inclusion.

Our Commitment

Updated and amended from May 2019 version by DEI committee. Adopted by the Hugo House Board of Directors, May 5, 2020.

Hugo House commits to work toward racial equity at all levels of our organization.

Our staff and board see this long-term commitment as essential to carrying out our mission and enabling all writers to add their voices to the human story. Hugo House recognizes the historical inequities in access to literary opportunities for people of color.

We need to increase awareness and learn from engagement with the broader community in order to develop goals and strategies to expand racial diversity and inclusion. We regard racial equity as a top priority, one that is essential to our progress and growth.

The Hugo House Board has formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, comprising community members and staff as well as board members. The committee is advising on the implementation of the strategic plan and how Hugo House will better serve communities of color and promote racial equity through programming; board, staff, and faculty composition; and community outreach.

The work of racial equity will be an ongoing process requiring many conversations and an investment of significant time and resources.

What We’re Doing

These action items were developed by Hugo House staff and board after receiving feedback from the community. Structural involve policies and procedures; programmatic action items focus on our program areas.

We are working to update this section of our website to provide more transparent information on structural and programmatic changes. Thank you for your patience.

  • Instituting equitable hiring practices
    • Listing salary ranges on job postings
    • Stating our equity values on job postings
    • Standardizing interview questions
    • Diversifying hiring committees
    • Valuing lived wisdom alongside professional experience
    • Standardized onboarding and offboarding processes
  • Offering more equitable benefits
    • Designating floating holidays
    • Offering Volunteer Time Off, so staff can be paid to volunteer at other nonprofit organizations (direct community impact)
    • Standardizing salary ranges and job titles across employment levels
    • Many benefits now start upon hire, rather than at 90 days
  • Restructuring the organization
    • Replacing low-level jobs that had no path for advancement with skilled positions that have a clear path for advancement
    • Building departments with clear management and support structures
    • Hiring for programmatic expertise at the program assistant level
  • 30 new BIPOC teachers successfully recruited in 2021
  • Upped tiered classes led by BIPOC to 31%, doubled yearlongs led by BIPOC from 2020
  • Held BIPOC-only classes and LGBTQ+ classes to create safe spaces
  • Increased transparency around becoming a teacher at Hugo House
  • Held special session for Hugo House Fellows and all-community forum live on Zoom (and recorded)
  • Posted detailed blog on how to teach at Hugo House
  • Revised submission portal to be clearer and easier to use
  • Left submission portal open all year to welcome submissions at any time
  • Hosted free Anti-Racist Workshop in Action forum for all community led by Felicia Rose Chavez
  • Hosted Anti-Racist Workshop in Action for Hugo House teachers led by Felicia Rose Chavez
  • Hosted Craft in the Real World 3-week discussion group for Hugo House teachers
  • Increased transparency of class selection process and more equitable hiring by adding two paid, rotating community members (teachers); written protocol and conflict-of-interest contracts; and ensuring at least 50% BIPOC representation on every committee
  • Increased scholarship budget from 2020 and revisited selection criteria
  • Added live transcripts to Zoom classes and clearer language to catalog and website outlining staff’s ability to assist with access needs for classes
  • In partnership with community members, developed a partnership program proposal for staff and board
  • Prepared for the addition of BIPOC publishing intensive for spring 2022
  • Provided ongoing support to teachers as they navigated student issues around equity, inclusion and upheld anti-racist classrooms
  • Began offering Spanish-language classes, some free to the community

Transparency is Key

In July 2020, the Writers of Color Alliance (WOCA) and allies sent Hugo House a letter expressing significant concerns and listing requested actions. In December 2020, we wrote about our reckoning with racial inequities at Hugo House.

Learning from our mistakes and from the insights and experiences shared by WOCA and other BIPOC members of our community, we are working to address their specific requested actions, and to share out our progress transparently. 

Timeline of events and progress on action items


We’re a Work-in-Progress

As writers, we know that every work gets better with feedback and input. We want to hear from you—our community—on how we can better serve you. And, we are always eager to hear ideas on how to be an antiracist organization. We invite you to share your thoughts by email or attend one of our community forums.

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