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Seattle University students protest ‘dead white dudes’ curriculum

“Dozens” of students at the Seattle University-affiliated Matteo Ricci College have been involved in a “sit-in” at the school administrative building, busy protesting the “classical curriculum that focuses on Western ideas and history.”

The protesters say they “expected Matteo Ricci to help them knit together Seattle University’s commitment to social justice with a rigorous academic program,” but that the college’s focus is “too rigid.”

“When am I going to start reading writers from China, from Africa, from South America?” asked [student Zeena] Rivera, who is Filipino. “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes.”

Seattle U. President Stephen Sundborg was perfectly sniveling in response, saying “I cannot pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings as educators and administrators.”

Because, as we all know, studying the classics causes “deep pain.”

The Seattle Times reports:

The sit-in began last Wednesday when dozens of students calling themselves the MRC Student Coalition took over the Casey Building lobby and first-floor administrative offices.

They set up a shrine in the center of the lobby with a pile of books they said they want the Matteo Ricci curriculum to contain. It includes books on Buddhism, the civil-rights movement, feminist theory, social movements, poverty, mass incarceration, alternative views of American history. They say they want to read and discuss authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Malala Yousafzai, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexie.

At Seattle University, “We are not asking for favors to be given to us,” [student Fiza] Mohammad said. “We came here for a liberatory education … We want to be represented, we deserve to be represented, all students deserve to hear a narrative that’s not just white.”

Mohammad said whenever she’s raised issues about the college’s teachings, she’s been told that she’s being emotional and aggressive.

The protesters also are demanding the resignation of Dean Jodi Kelly who, according to a (black) student, used the racial slur “ni**er” in a discussion last year.

However, “several accounts” dispute the student’s claim noting that Kelly did not use the word as a slur, but rather stated the name of civil rights activist Dick Gregory’s autobiography.

The activists say Kelly’s departure is the only thing that will get them to leave the building’s premises — or until June 10 rolls around, the end of the academic year. (Whichever comes first, I suppose.)

President Sundborg says Kelly’s exit isn’t going to happen. In addition, an alumnus of Matteo Ricci has started a Charge.org petition supporting Kelly.

Read the full Seattle Times article, and more at Inside Higher Ed.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.