In a recent editorial where the Swarthmore College Phoenix tells the school to “prioritize Black [and] Indigenous Studies,” the editors also state they want critical race theory implemented as a graduation requirement.
Such a mandate, the editors argue, would assist Black and Indigenous students by “not unduly burden[ing]” them with the responsibility of providing that education (to their peers) themselves.
The editorial calls out Swarthmore officials for failing to uphold “the Quaker value of equality” due to their not directing sufficient resources to “ethnic studies” programs. It also wonders why there remain no Indigenous Studies Department and Indigenous faculty at the school, despite Native students numbering less than one percent of the student body.
Indigenous studies and faculty are but two of almost three-year-old demands of the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association. Other demands include active recruitment of Native students from reservations and schools, “encouraging classes on Indigenous peoples in all departments,” and removing the American flag from the college’s original building, Parrish Hall.
In addition, because Indigenous identity “is built” in Native communities, the SISA also wants funding for students to fly “to and from home.”
Today, despite dedicated student efforts to establish a full Black Studies department, the program only offers a minor and an interdisciplinary special major. Because students must design their own special majors and have them approved through several channels, unlike with formalized majors, the onus of creating a curriculum still falls on students. Additionally, since the major is fully interdisciplinary, there are no full-time, tenured Black studies professors.
The college has continued to offer platitudes to its students over actions. The college’s portrayal of itself as a liberal beacon is a façade when resources aren’t invested into the programs that support Black and Indigenous students, which should start by establishing Black studies and Indigenous studies as independent departments. In addition, in order to ensure that the education of the entire Swarthmore community regarding Black and Indigenous issues does not unduly burden members of these communities or is confined within Black and Indigenous departments, the college should also implement critical race theory as a graduation requirement.
Such a call comes at the very time President Trump has called out critical race theory as “toxic propaganda” and an “ideological poison” which serves to “dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together.”
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