Tulane mandates new students take “Race and Inclusion” course

Tulane University now requires all incoming students to enroll in a “Race and Inclusion” course, a new addition to the curriculum that has been condemned by some students for its lack of acknowledgment of viewpoint diversity. 

In a recent press release, Tulane announced that all new enrollees will be mandated to enroll in a course that focuses at least 60 percent of its content on “race and inclusion” to help students understand the  “increasingly diverse society” they live in. 

Courses such as “Dear White People,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Introduction to Fiction: Race and Inclusion,” and “Difference and Inequality” all fit the “Race and Inclusion” course requirement, according to the school’s course search and Campus Reform’s phone calls with professors. 

[RELATED: Conservative student denied leadership role for political views]

Professor Michael Cunningham, who advocated for the new requirement but won’t be teaching any of the classes, told Campus Reform that the new requirement was partially prompted by students’ disappointment with the lack of diversity engagement on campus. 

“One of the reasons that students reported a desire to attend Tulane was because of the perceived diversity,” wrote Cunningham by email on Wednesday. “Many students reported that their perceptions were not met when they got to campus.” 

The new requirement will also prepare Tulane students to work as part of a diverse workforce, he added. 

“By the year 2044, the U.S. population will be comprised of [a] majority of people from racial, ethnic, and linguistic diverse backgrounds…  Thus, the ‘normal’ experience of growing up in the U.S. is inclusive of the experiences from racial and ethnic minority populations.

One of the classes that fulfill the requirement this semester is “Introduction to Fiction: Race and Inclusion.” Joel Dinerstein, the professor who will teach the course,  told Campus Reform that he compares it to a “bootcamp course on race.” 

The goal is for “students to read non-white authors critiquing American society (and race) in order to open them up to new perspectives outside of American mythologies of equality and freedom,” Dinerstein said.

The class, which is an addition to the previously required 16 classes that students must take,  has drawn mixed reactions from the student body. 

Peyton Lofton, president of the Turning Point USA chapter at Tulane, argued that there are better ways to help minorities on campus. 

“If Tulane truly wants to address the racial homogeneity of the student body, they need to focus on the biggest barrier preventing students from disadvantaged groups from attending Tulane: cost,” he told Campus Reform on Wednesday. 

“Tulane’s cost of attendance is $72,236 per year, and that cost increases by an average of 2-3% annually,” Lofton said, citing the school’s Undergraduate Admissions website. 

Marcus Maldonado, president of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Tulane, said he supports the “Diversity and Inclusion” requirement, but worries that it might “promote progressive views on the differences between certain racial or gender communities rather than promote open discussion about these differences.”

“Diversity of opinion and thought ought to be promoted in any class focused on inclusion,” Maldonado added. 

Rachel Altman, vice president of Young Americans for Liberty at Tulane, said she wishes the classes would focus on religious and political diversity too. 

[RELATED: SJP warns Tulane not to collaborate with Israeli universities]

“I’ve noticed problems at Tulane with people making blanket statements about people with different political views and refusing to engage in open discussions,” she said. 

But while some students criticized the new requirement, others who spoke with Campus Reform were delighted. 

“Requiring all students to study cultures differing for their own is crucial to inspiring a little more critical thinking, a little more open-mindedness, and a little more compassion across Tulane,” said Isabell Lian, secretary of the Asian American Student Union. 

“While it won’t make an immediate impact, I at least hope that each of my peers will take one thing away from the course they choose and use it to contribute to a kinder, more equal world,” Lian added. 

Rey Arcenas, treasurer of the Asian American Student Union, acknowledged “moaning and groaning” about the class. 

“I’m sure that there are plenty of students and professors who may have a qualm with the new requirement. No one wants to take classes they’re not necessarily interested in especially as a requirement but I think that it’s plenty necessary especially if we want to make the new students of color more welcome here at Tulane,” Arcenas said. 

In response to concerns raised by some students about the narrow scope of the “Race and Inclusion” requirement, Campus Reform asked Tulane if they’d consider incorporating political and viewpoint diversity into future classes for the requirement. The school did not immediately respond but this article will be updated if and when the school does. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen