Harvard students push for curriculum 'audit,' mandatory ‘anti-racism’ courses

Harvard Kennedy School students sent an open letter to administrators demanding racial equity reforms.

Among the demands were a new semester-long class on “global racism, colonialism, and public policy,” a mandatory anti-racism workshop, and a comprehensive audit of all curricula with an “anti-colonial lens.”

Harvard Kennedy School students sent an open letter to administrators demanding racial equity actions, including a mandatory anti-racism course for Masters degree students and a full "audit" of the curriculum using an "anti-racist, anti-colonial lens."

Roughly 200 members of the Kennedy School’s 1,200 students signed the letter from the HKS Equity Coalition, which is working to “mobilize our peers, pressure the administration to create transformative change, and hold each other accountable in community.”

“When placing Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) within the context of our white supremacist society, the racial inequity and injustice at this institution is not surprising,” opened the letter. “However, it is also no excuse for the school’s complacency.”

The students demanded that the Kennedy School implement a semester-long course on “global racism, colonialism, and public policy,” which would be mandatory for all Master’s degree students. 

The letter expressed concern that “without a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the institutions of domination that have historically excluded groups from social, political, and economic participation, HKS graduates are poised to deepen social hierarchies and inequities in their work.”

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In addition to establishing a new class, students would like their administrators to audit curricula “using an anti-racist, anti-colonial lens.” 

Citing Boston University professor and leading critical race theory scholar Ibram X. Kendi, the students would like Harvard to pay student representatives from the Equity Coalition and other student groups to help with the review.

In addition to the new course and the curriculum audit, students requested a mandatory biannual “anti-racism” workshop for all Kennedy School students, faculty, and affiliates. This workshop would teach participants to “confront their own individual connections to power and privilege” and examine “internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism.”

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The Equity Coalition asked the university to hire four new BIPOC scholars each year, who will “study the intersectionality of race, gender identity, class, caste, and power.” Students would likewise be paid participants in the hiring process.

Among other demands were the shifts of “the financial aid structure from merit-based to need-based” and a “significant” funding commitment for “racial equity work.”

Campus Reform reached out to Harvard University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft