Cornell considers mandatory 'anti-racism' course

Cornell University is considering requiring students to take an "anti-racism" course.

A working group formed amid racial tensions in the U.S. offered recommendations.

A committee at Cornell University recommended designing a new “educational requirement on racism, bias, and equity” as part of its Anti-Racism Initiative, according to documents

“This for-credit education requirement will apply to all Cornell students in every [sic] field of study,” said a draft proposal issued by Working Group S, a committee comprising of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and administrative officials. “It will be the first critical and necessary step our students will take as they help to build an equitable community of belonging at Cornell, and beyond.” 

The proposed "antiracism" course would have two components, Part A and Part B, centered on the themes of “race, ethnicity, and indigeneity.” 

Both, said the committee, “aim to affect behavior.”

Part A will make students learn the “historical formation, current manifestations, and structural basis of racism, colonialism, bias, and injustice.” Part B will require students and faculty to “bring these issues into their departments and fields of study.” 

Working Group S recommended developing Part A in cooperation with faculty selected from Cornell’s identity-based academic departments including, Africana Studies, American and Indigenous Studies, Asian American Studies, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality, Studies, and Latino/a Studies. But Part B, it said, would be “key” for taking the step of using the identity-studies departments for “embedding antiracist content into the disciplines.” 

The committee hopes for “rapid implementation” of what is described as a “radical collaboration.”

Working Group S’ proposal responds to demands made by the Black Students United group in 2015, 2017, and 2020, with the latest demands coming in response to the death of George Floyd. 

In a letter sent to Cornell University President Martha Pollack, Black Students United demanded “Universal Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Education.” Brown’s current diversity education, they said, placed an “undue burden on individuals from marginalized groups.” Black Students United also demanded the firing of former chemistry professor Dave Collum and that his replacement be a “Black faculty member” because he tweeted in support of support of law enforcement during the summer 2020 riots. 

Collum resigned from his position as director of undergraduate studies for the chemistry department, the Cornell Sun student newspaper reported

The proposal recommended expediting the committee’s proposals through a phase of “experimental delivery” in the fall of 2021. 

Cornell University did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article: Dion Pierre