Academic department calls on Penn State to require 'structural racism' courses

  • The African American Studies Department at Penn State University is calling for mandated classes on intersectionality, oppression, and racism as part of the general education requirement.
  • In an open letter to President Eric J. Barron, the department alleged Penn State is an unwelcoming environment to non-whites.

An entire academic department at Pennsylvania State University is advocating for courses on “structural racism” to be added to the required course load. 

The Penn State African American Studies Department published an open letter to university President Eric Barron titled, “How We Can Make Black Lives at Penn State Matter.” They alleged that Penn State is an unwelcoming environment for non-white students. 

"This will ensure that all members of our community can work and learn in an environment where we do not fear for our lives."   

In addition to painting a picture of Penn State as an oppressive and unfair place, the African American Studies Department claimed that the country itself is a mechanism of racism, saying “the US continues to serve the interests of the powerful by enforcing the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and exploitative social and political order.” 

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In order to address these grievances, the African American Studies Department recommends disarming the police, mandating courses on racism and oppression as part of general education requirements, and stronger policies with regard to “microaggressions.”  

Coursework on the subjects of oppression and racism is supposedly necessary in order to “educate our students and community about the history of structural racism, racial violence, and the meaning of transformative justice.” The transformative justice movement is one that views prisons, police, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as violent institutions that must be abolished. 

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Included in its list of demands, the department called on the university to require students to take courses that focus on “racism.”

“Courses that focus on structural racism and challenges to it should be required of all students as part of our General Education Requirements,” reads the letter, along with multiple suggestions for which courses would fit the bill, including courses titled “Racism and Sexism” and “Black Freedom Struggles.”

On top of course requirements, the department also called for "the demilitarization of all police including on-campus police by asking that they be disarmed on campus." 

"This will ensure that all members of our community can work and learn in an environment where we do not fear for our lives," it added. 

“I am uncomfortable with the disarming of police on campus,” a Penn State student who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from peers and professors told Campus Reform.  “If something serious were to happen, they would become as defenseless as I am.” 

Campus Reform reached out to the African American Studies Department for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.



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Joseph Silverstein
Joseph Silverstein | New York Campus Correspondent

Joseph Silverstein is a New York Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. He is a Junior at Cornell University, where he's double majoring in Government and Economics. Joe is the current Editor in Chief of The Cornell Review and has previously hosted a radio talk show based in NYC, authored a bestselling book, and served as Student Organization President at Tottenville High School.

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