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U. Minnesota grad students demand more anti-racism initiatives in their departments

University of Minnesota graduate students in three departments are demanding a response “to the nation’s racial reckoning” — which means the creation of more anti-racist initiatives.

According to the Star Tribune, students in the UMN Communication Studies, Sociology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Departments want faculty to “update curriculum to address systemic racism and create a learning environment that is welcoming to all students, not just those who are white.”

In a letter, Communication Studies students claim that even though its faculty “have taught […] about radical transformation and justice in their classrooms,” they’ve failed to uphold these concepts personally. As proof, the students offer numerous anonymous testimonials such as:

— [T]he department hosted and advertised a mandatory Wednesday Noon Research talk by a teaching faculty member that defended police agression [sic] and deployed “blue lives matter” rhetoric in the presence of undergraduate Black queer prospective students.

— During a meeting with graduate instructors, a teaching faculty member who served as a course coordinator used the phrase “you guys” to address the group and then jokingly asked the group if that type of language was “still allowed.”

— I witnessed a fellow graduate student in hardship and distress following remarks made by a professor in a graduate class that suggested slavery was not about race. This student continued to receive pushback and unwanted attention from this faculty member when they challenged this assertion.

— I was also made aware that your department also lost a queer Xicanx assistant professor recently due to blatant racism by a senior professor who is now retiring or is in the process of retiring. Obviously, nothing was done from stopping either from escaping the toxicity of your department and the university.

Some of the remedies for this faculty insensitivity and racism include a “shift toward pedagogy, method, and philosophy that are inclusive of students of color,” “prioritiz[ing] hiring people of color for tenure-track positions and support research that challenges white frameworks and traditions,” and faculty educating themselves “in equitable practices” and “practic[ing] humility.”

Ecology, Evolution and Behavior students stated they want a department task force on “diversity, equity and inclusion,” and a diversity and inclusion officer for the College of Biological Sciences.

Students in the Sociology Department said they would “develop strategies to support students of color and review curricula to ensure it ‘challenges systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and state violence.’”

Read the Star Tribune article and full CS grad student letter.

MORE: Students occupy UMN president’s office to demand disarmament of cops

MORE: UMN regents will not rename campus buildings linked with racism

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 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.