Smith Begins "Thinking Through Race
Published: Thursday, September 11, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
One of the most controversial events of the past school year was, without a doubt, the blackface incident that occurred at a school-sponsored party last November. In response to allegations of racism on campus, a course recommended for first-year students has been developed: "Thinking Through Race."This one-credit course is an upgrade from a previous American Studies course of the same title that has been offered twice before. "Thinking Through Race" will feature lectures from several professors, including Kevin Rozario, Rick Millington, Ginetta Candelario, Rob Dorit, Christina Greer, Andrea Hairston, Alice Hearst and Elizabeth Spelman.
According to Professor Rozario, who also taught the course last semester, the primary impetus for this course to be developed came from the Student Government Association. "They believed it would provide a certain kind of rigorous intellectual training around issues of race and privilege that would be worth all students having exposure to," said Rozario. Though the SGA had originally requested for the course to be offered as a required course for first-years, the administration ultimately decided to take more of a halfway measure. "It was transferred out of the American Studies department and into the college's jurisdiction as an interdepartmental course," said Rozario. It was also eventually marketed as a recommended course for first-years. SGA also recommended discussion sections for the course, which the college has established.
The course sets out to model disagreement on touching topics. "We have different faculty who are willing to criticize each other in order to set up a civil but rigorous discourse around issues of race," he said. "The purpose is to show the faculty disagreeing and what we want the students to get out of it is that there is no correct way of approaching any topic."
The second ideal of the course is to make it a model that students will pick on. Rozario, who has taught the course twice, said that he has been very impressed with students' willingness to throw themselves into these conversations in the past. "We want students to challenge their and our own preconceptions about issues of race," he said.
Rozario describes the faculty that will be participating in this course as "dynamic, engaging and well-informed individuals, who treat these issues with great academic seriousness." Each lecture is designed to be serious but also entertaining and inviting, aiming to make people comfortable enough to think about these topics. "This course is not about grievances," he said. "Race matters hugely as an academic subject."
Rozario said that these lectures are important for students to hear, adding that the main object of "Thinking Through Race" is not to evaluate, but to have people present in the room so we can all learn from each other.
"The one thing that I do want to say about this course is that it's not an extension of orientation," said Rozario. "'Thinking Through Race' is not designed to teach students how to think correctly about issues of race and ethnicity and it's not about policing people's ideas or values. This course is really about rigorous self-questioning and questioning preconceptions about race.