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UC Berkeley ‘large enrollment’ courses to utilize ‘anti-racist’ curricula, teaching methods

Ten courses at UC Berkeley with traditionally large enrollments are now using “more inclusive and anti-racist curriculums and teaching strategies.”

According to The Daily Californian, the modifications are due to the efforts of graduate students who wanted “increased inclusivity in the sciences” following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Professor Benjamin Blonder helped to develop an inclusivity “toolkit” in response to their demands.

Courses making use of the changes are all within the school’s departments of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology and Integrative Biology.

ESPM Department Chair Michael Mascarenhas said the changes “acknowledge that the curriculum is not neutral and is formulated by white academics.” He said ESPM has changed its curriculum to include “a more diverse set of scholars [and] address issues surrounding equity and inclusion.”

Mascarenhas added that the changes are part of a “larger movement” to create not only anti-racist pedagogy, but one that is “anti-patriarchal.”

Parts of the guide “Advancing Inclusion and Anti-Racism in the College Classroom” developed by Blonder (pictured) note that professors and lecturers need to “recognize instructor implicit bias and recognition of privilege and positionality,” “address (in)justice and intersectionality,” “explicitly examine politics and values around knowledge production in the discipline” and “critically examine white supremacy.”

They should also “acknowledge [the] land and sovereignty” of Indigenous communities.

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One of the suggestions for “Establish[ing] an inclusive learning environment for all students” is having students “make tent cards with their name and pronouns on the first day of class and display them throughout the first couple weeks and/or for guest lecturers.”

Teachers also can ask online students “to use the pronoun function in Zoom.”

Under the section “Acknowledge and address potential student trauma” it’s suggested faculty “use 5 minutes at the beginning of each class to check in with students and/or discuss contemporary societal issues” and/or “provide [the] option to collaboratively shift class policies and power structures as needed.”

From the Daily Californian article:

Campus graduate students Ali Bhatti and Ja’Nya Banks were tasked with improving the Biology 1B curriculum. After reviewing student feedback, they developed the idea of “lecture pods,” collaborative groups where students could discuss the lecture material with their peers, Bhatti noted.

According to Bhatti, their goal was to create an inclusive environment, especially for freshmen who might not be part of a campus community yet.

“UC Berkeley has always been seen as a trailblazer, especially in the field of science, but what sometimes gets lost is how the students of this institution feel,” Bhatti said. “We recognize that students come from different backgrounds and historically marginalized communities.”

Blonder said the inclusivity changes are “going to change instructor attitudes and practices into the longer-term future.”

MORE: California university’s ‘anti-racist’ library collection funded with COVID relief funds

IMAGES: yournameonstones/Shutterstock.com; Benjamin Blonder/Twitter screencap

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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.