2016 was a year that opened many white people’s eyes to the realities of racism in the United States.
Eastern Michigan University has decided to learn from that and make concrete steps to address the issue. Working with black student leaders, they are implementing and developing a process to integrate courses on black studies into every single major.
This is part of the Black Student Union’s Black Student 10-Point Plan, a list of demands presented to University administrators in 2015. Work has been underway since then. According to EMU’s press release, “Some areas of the plan have been completed, others show significant progress, while others remain under review.”
A first step in the initiative was to add a requirement that undergraduate students take one course in “U.S. Diversity” as part of the university’s General Education requirement. There are a number of classes that fit the requirement, including literature, history, and communications courses.
The university’s Black Student Union and the department responsible for hiring faculty are working to ensure that the percentage of African American faculty is equal to the percentage of African American students at EMU, a ratio of about 18 percent. A year into the initiative, black instructors make up about 13 percent of the faculty, which is pretty remarkable progress toward that goal. All academic department heads and academic search committee chairs are required to undergo training designed to prevent bias in search processes. This training will be expanded to chairs of non-academic search committees, too.
Black student leaders are working with faculty administrators to find ways to incorporate Black studies into every major. Both groups understand the challenges inherent in this goal—it could be hard to integrate Black studies into some natural science majors, for example—and doing so across all majors would require revisions to a number of courses.
Other parts of the initiative include mandatory cultural competency training for all faculty and staff (including the Department of Safety); a space where under-represented and underprivileged students can gather safely to learn about financial and academic aid; and more representation of African American women in the Women’s Studies program.
EMU Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Calvin Phillips said, “Work on the Black Student 10-Point Plan has been underway for nearly a year, and progress is being made.”
To get the complete details on the 10-Point Plan and progress toward the goals stated, visit EMU’s website.
What do you think of EMU’s plan? Would you like to see such a plan implemented at your college or university? Please share your thoughts in the comments.