The student group called TAMU Anti-Racism is calling for more racial awareness on campus in the form of new, mandatory curriculum.
TAMU Anti-Racism, a group of students who have staged several protests in response to what they perceive as racist acts and attitudes on campus, plans to continue to raise awareness about their cause. In addition to protests, TAMU Anti-Racism is calling for the university to mandate a racism awareness class as part of all students’ core curriculum.
“As Aggies of color, we pay too much tuition to put up with racism on our campus,” said Emilio Bernal, a sociology senior and member of TAMU Anti-Racism. “Racial justice is just as important as mathematics, English and science, and needs to be treated as such.”
The group, which is calling for the social justice course to be a standard three-credit-hour course, met with A&M President Michael Young in the spring to discuss the formation of the course. During the meeting, Young did not agree the course should be referred to as a “social justice” course, but said core principles of social justice TAMU Anti-Racism has asked for will be incorporated.
“It’s not just one and done,” Young said during the spring meeting. “It would entail more than just a history of racism. That doesn’t necessarily put [students] in the context of [their] current situation.”
Despite the meeting, Bernal said TAMU Anti-Racism still doesn’t feel confident about the university’s commitment. He said the organization feels as though Young is willing to do enough to appear to care, but will be unwilling to go through with the change.
“They don’t want to rock the boat,” Bernal said. “I wish they were as good at creating real and lasting change on our campus as they are at sending out emails superficially apologizing for our school’s racism and sexism, emails pretending that we’re all one big happy Aggie family, emails lying and attempting to pacify Aggies of color.”
In addition to meeting with Young, members of TAMU Anti-Racism also have been in recent contact with members of faculty who have expressed interest in teaching the course.
“We have the resources — qualified teachers who are willing to lead the course,” Bernal said.
The teachers Bernal refers to are communication professors Srivi Ramasubramanian, Leroy Dorsey said and Mays Business School research fellow Leonard Bierman. Members of TAMU Anti-Racism have been working alongside these professors to discuss logistics of the proposed course.
“Such classes will serve to make students more well-rounded and aware of real world issues,” Ramasubramanian said. “They fit in with the intended goals of ICD [International and Cultural Diversity] courses.”
Apart from teaching students about being tolerant, Bernal and other TAMU Anti-Racism members hope the class will achieve other goals in conjunction with the approval of the class.
“We have three main pillars we want to see accomplished,” Bernal said. “We want this mandatory class, more minority students and faculty on campus, and for there to be penalties for racist behavior on campus.”
Whether the class will be a semester-long course or a seminar-style lecture is still to be decided.
“The Core Curriculum Council is still considering different models for implementation of the ICD graduation requirement,” said Julie Harlin and Andrew Klein, co-chairs of the Core Curriculum Council, in an emailed statement. “We have been meeting with many different constituent groups to explore options.”
The A&M Core Curriculum Council, which determines what courses and curriculum are consistent among A&M’s many colleges, has been looking at similar courses at other universities — like the University of Missouri and the University of Oklahoma — for guidance.
“The CCC studied the core curriculum and graduation requirements at several peer institutions,” Harlin and Klein said in their statement. “Most have similar curricular requirements.”
Not everyone is in favor of the class becoming mandatory, like applied exercise physiology junior Josh Widger.
“I don’t think it’s necessary; it could actually be detrimental in some cases,” Widger said. “It would be a waste of time to make it a semester-long course. If anything, do a seminar during the New Student Conference over it, but even then it doesn’t feel totally necessary. Most people don’t harbor these attitudes, and we don’t need to tell people how to think.”
Widger also said he feels as though the environment on campus doesn’t match what TAMU Anti-Racism is saying.
“In my experience, Aggies are very welcoming and friendly to everyone, regardless of race, religion or background,” Widger said.
Bernal said the logistics of the course have already been determined, and it could be introduced as early as next semester if the university commits to the course.
“All we need is a permanent financial commitment from our university,” Bernal said.