Illinois college defends 'blacks-only' course offerings

An Illinois college has restricted certain sections of a mandatory introductory course to black students.

“While helping my son register for college at Moraine Valley Community College, we noticed that the required course College 101 has two sections limited to African-American students," one concerned parent told The Chicago Tribune. "He wants to know why there are not two sections limited to Asian-American students? How about Native American students?"

This segregation of students by race seems odd, especially considering the course’s emphasis on diversity.

“[College 101] provides an opportunity to assess your purpose for college, assess your study strategies, set college and career goals, examine your values and decision-making skills, and develop an appreciation for diversity,” the course catalog states.

But Jessica Crotty, Moraine’s assistant director of communications, made the case for segregation, saying the school periodically reserves certain course offerings for various demographics of students, including veterans.

“Sometimes we set aside sections for specific populations, including veterans and older students,” Crotty noted.

"The focus can be on specific issues they face," she explained. "For example, veterans face a specific set of challenges. Students feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they're with other students who are like them."

Conversely, Michael Olivas, acting president of University of Houston Downtown, told Inside Higher Ed that he feels such exclusionary program offerings are misguided, however pure the intentions behind them may be.

“I think it’s ill-advised, arguably subject to legal challenge, and you don’t want to wave the flag in front of the bull,” he argued, saying that even support services targeted at specific demographics should be available to all students to avoid creating potentially counterproductive perceptions.

UPDATE: Since this article was originally published, MVCC has announced that it will no longer single out "specific racial groups" in its course offerings, though it will continue to offer certain course offerings tailored to "special populations" of students. Read the full update here.

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