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Bates College eyes revamping calculus, other math courses to focus on ‘colonialism and privilege’

A working group of professors and students at Bates College has recommended the school require all majors to offer two courses on “race, colonialism, white supremacy, power, and privilege,” according to a copy of the plan obtained by The College Fix.

In doing so, according to the group’s recommendations, each department could alter existing classes to fit the racial education requirements.

Bates College is a private liberal arts college in Lewiston, Maine. It hosts about 2,000 undergraduate students, and the school estimates tuition and fees to be nearly $78,000 per year.

For instance, the group suggests courses like Math 105 (Calculus I) could “situate race, white supremacy, colonialism, power, and privilege centrally and attend to them throughout the course.”

If the plan is implemented, students would be required to take one introductory course and one advanced course centered on race. For example, STEM majors could satisfy the advanced requirement by taking “Math 233: Mathematics for Social Justice.”

The report recommends that in order to fulfill the racial education requirements, a math class must include “understanding how mathematical methods can expose racial and other injustices, and the role of mathematics as a gatekeeper and driver of injustice.”

In biology, a course must include “the context of a genetics course to understand the social construction of race, and the fact that there is nothing biological supporting these hierarchies and historical injustices.”

A statistics course must include “examining the history of statistics as a driver of the eugenics movement.”

The group suggests an advanced humanities requirement could be fulfilled by altering the subjects taught in English 113 (Theory of Narrative) or of English 241 (U.S. Fiction), which currently teaches “Hawthorne, Howells, James, Wharton, Jewett, and Chesnutt, to more recent writing from James Baldwin, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Donald Barthelme, Sherman Alexie, and David Foster Wallace.”

In order for these English classes to be counted toward the racial requirement, they must include “methodologies of close reading that decenter white western European models,” according to the group’s recommendation.

The working group is made up of five professors and five students.

“Bates College recognizes that in a diverse and globalized world, learning to critically discern, examine, and discuss the production and operation of difference, power, and equity is an essential part of a liberal arts education,” the plan reads.

“A requirement engaging students in the study of race, colonialism, white supremacy, power, and privilege will be fulfilled by courses offered by all interdisciplines and disciplines on campus, using a variety of pedagogical approaches and theoretical perspectives and will encourage students to confront and reflect on these themes and the dynamics which reproduce and dismantle them,” the group says.

A spokesperson for Bates College did not respond to a request for comment by The College Fix.

The study group is an outgrowth of a controversy that boiled over in November 2020, when Bates published an Instagram profile of the head of the campus College Republicans as a part of a bipartisan series to promote voting in school elections.

A group of students objected to seeing the photo and a list of the student’s conservative beliefs and flooded the post with angry comments, leading the school to disable comments and hide previous comments from view.

This sparked protests from the Bates College Student Government, who marched on campus with a white sheet saying “Bates Will Not Silence Us.” Among the students’ demands were deletion of the Instagram post featuring the Republican student and a new requirement that every student take a course in Critical Race Theory.

But the school opted for the curricular working group instead of implementing mandatory CRT.

“It was quickly established that the request for Critical Race Theory was unattainable (this is an area dealing specifically with critically examining the law as it intersects with issues of race), but that we should instead focus on developing and supporting curriculum that examines the roles of race, white supremacy, colonialism, power, and privilege in all disciplines, and that requires students to take these courses in order to graduate,” says the report.

The report further suggests withholding funds and promotions from professors who resist the move toward more race-based curriculum.

“We are thinking of incentives more than punishment in the ideas presented below (i.e. ‘carrots’ more than ‘sticks’) but we are fully aware that an ideal system has a little bit of both,” says the group, suggesting the school “align rewards systems, evaluative systems, and other resource allocation decisions” toward disciplines that move towards teaching “race, power, privilege, colonialism, and white supremacy.”

“We may want to consider restricting funds such that only people looking to revamp courses with an eye toward these criteria receive funding,” the report says, suggesting faculty evaluations also take into account a professor’s progress in reaching these goals.

According to the group, “revamping” teacher evaluations would “signal to students that we are concerned about this aspect of learning. It will also keep faculty accountable for discussing their steps toward this in tenure and promotion processes. This may also have the added benefit of helping to redesign teaching evaluations so that they are actually useful to faculty and students alike.”

The group also suggests the college make receipt of a campus teaching prize, the Kroepsch Award, contingent on moving toward a race-based curriculum.

“We should not only make the Kroepsch Award process transparent, but also look to invest in a new award that validates and rewards good pedagogy in the areas of race, white supremacy, colonialism, power, and privilege,” the report says.

MORE: Hundreds of students protest after school posted a photo of a College Republican

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.