EXCLUSIVE: Bates College considers requiring ALL students to take courses on ‘white supremacy,' ‘power and privilege,' 'colonialism'
A working group at Bates College has recommended that students, regardless of major, take multiple courses related to race and power structure ideologies.
One faculty member said that the proposal was made because "students may find themselves ill-equipped for an increasingly globalized society.”
A curricular working group of students and faculty at Bates College is recommending that all students should be required to take two courses that center around “race, white supremacy and colonialism, and intersecting experiences of power and privilege.”
To justify the recommendation, the working group asserts that an “essential part of liberal arts education” is to “critically discern, examine, and discuss the production and operation of difference, power, and equity.”
Professor of English and Africana and member of the working group Theri Pickens told Campus Reform that “each of the faculty on the committee discussed and described the impacts that not studying race, power, privilege, white supremacy and colonialism has on their students. We agreed that students may find themselves ill-equipped for an increasingly globalized society.”
Under the proposed recommendation obtained by Campus Reform, students would be mandated to take one introductory level course and one advanced-level course related to these subjects within the student’s field of study.
“The requirement ensures that all students will necessarily be exposed to discipline-specific training that aligns with their intellectual interests, while committing every academic unit at Bates to a shared process of curricular and campus transformation,” the recommendation states.
In order for courses to qualify under this new directive, they must “situate race, white supremacy, colonialism, power, and privilege centrally and attend to them throughout the course.”
Approved courses include “Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies,” “Privilege, Power, and Inequality,” “Feminist Philosophy,” and “Mathematics for Social Justice.”
Courses within the humanities department should focus on “methodologies of close reading that decenter white western European models” as noted by the recommendation.
“The hope, from the professorial perspective, is that these courses allow the faculty and the students to gain a fuller, more complex picture of how knowledge is created and used,” Pickens told Campus Reform.
On the other hand, associate professor of sociology and a member of the curricular working group Michael Rocque told Campus Reform that he believes “students will be open to having a requirement that deals with race, white supremacy, etc. and it is not entirely unique in the liberal arts world!
In order to “hold faculty accountable,” the working group proposes that “incentives” should be dealt to those who contribute to this curriculum change and “punishments” to those who do not.
“We may want to consider restricting funds such that only people looking to revamp courses with an eye toward these criteria receive funding,” the working group gives as an example.
Additionally, the group suggests that a new teaching award should be instated as the current award “has tended to solidify white supremacist hierarchy of social identities.”
“We should have discipline-specific consultation (outside of the Mellon/HHMI/Social Science initiatives) that allow us to pay the existing experts in the field to come help shape our thinking. This is a cultural accountability mechanism so that we make clear the cultural shift we now require,” the working group suggests.
“This satisfies a student need in ways that no other requirements do -- it will make our students of color feel safer, and it will make all of our students better equipped for the larger world,” the rationale states.
Rocque told Campus Reform that the recommendation will be “presented to the faculty and ironed out logistically."
"Then it would be brought to a vote, which can take a few months. So it may be a long way off before something happens," Rocque explained.
Working group student member Lebanos Mengistu told Campus Reform he believes the student body "already very receptive to this for the most part," adding, "The change is in the works and I strongly believe it will take place."
As reported by The Bates Student, an unprecedented number of faculty and staff are leaving the college for various reasons.
“The change we hope to accomplish is making the institution a more welcoming place, giving students the [opportunity to] discuss issue [sic] surrounding race, and to create a new generation of student leaders that have an understanding of people differences and be able to discuss and learn from one another,” Mengistu concluded to Campus Reform.