Anti-racism curriculum proposal in development

A new committee in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) hopes to finish developing a proposal for a required anti-racism course and optional anti-racism certificate and implement the changes by the end of 2021. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

New anti-racism course requirements as well as the addition of an anti-racism certificate are in the works for the USF College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) undergraduate catalog after months of deliberation over the summer by its faculty on how they could educate students on racism following the death of George Floyd.

An anti-racism course requirement and anti-racism certificate program were proposed Sept. 9 by the CAS Anti-Racism Working Group, a group of 11 department chairs within CAS’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences. A new committee of 14 faculty, instructors and professors from CAS across all three campuses will finish developing it and make an official curriculum proposal to other faculty bodies at CAS.

Although the committee is yet to be named, it held its first meeting Nov. 23 to begin working on the finer details of what an anti-racism course requirement and anti-racism certificate at CAS would look like. It is unlikely, however, that the curriculum change will be implemented before fall 2021, according to facilitator of CAS’s Anti-Racism Working Group and Director of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies Scott Solomon.

“That would probably be the earliest that we could anticipate something like this,” said Solomon. 

The Anti-Racism Curriculum Proposal, including a three-part plan to prepare USF students to “fight racism in all its forms,” was developed by CAS’s Anti-Racism Working Group over the summer and was shown to President Steven Currall and Provost Ralph Wilcox in September.

The proposal recommends that the 15-credit-hour certificate require Racism in American Society (AMS 3700) as a core course in addition to requiring four electives approved by an adviser or certificate director. 

In terms of the anti-racism course requirement, the working group suggested that the required course be a revised version of AMS 3700. While the existing course description will remain the same, the course would be added to the Enhanced General Education curriculum at the Intellectual and Practical Skills level, according to the Anti-Racism Curriculum Proposal. 

Which students will be subject to this requirement was suggested by the working group to include Bachelor of Arts degrees at the college.

“Initially we had hoped to perhaps require that of all USF students, but that would be a pretty long process to get to that point,” said Solomon. “So, as an initial move, we’re thinking about requiring it for CAS [Bachelor of Arts] students.

“If that goes well, then perhaps as time goes on and the university is able to deal with these other challenges we’re facing around consolidation, and the pandemic and the budget cuts … maybe we can return to that as a goal for the entire student body.”

Two of three parts of the group’s proposal includes the anti-racism course requirement and the certificate. The other part of the proposal includes a “cluster hire,” which would include hiring 10 faculty members, including professors and assistant professors, to teach curriculum on Blackness and anti-Black racism.

While the proposal states that all three parts of the plan are naturally intertwined, a cluster hire will most likely be put on pause until the university’s financial constraints are alleviated. 

“Obviously, in this budget environment, that’s a pretty big ask, and I suspect that it will take some time for the administration to evaluate that request,” said Solomon. 

The 12-page Anti-Racism Curriculum Proposal details the purpose behind each part of the plan to teach anti-racism practices as well as outlines preliminary frameworks that could be taken up by the committee as it moves forward. 

“We have some suggestions in the proposal, but all of these things are now going to be worked out by the committee,” said Solomon. 

The members of the working group decided to pass the baton to the new committee to have faculty that are more familiar with anti-racism study lead the way in refining the details and appropriately structuring the course requirement and certificate. It will be chaired by Omotayo Jolaosho, a sociocultural anthropologist and assistant professor at CAS’s School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies in Africana Studies.

“We were all committed to doing something in this area, but not all of us have expertise in this particular area,” said Solomon. “Dr. Jolaosho definitely has expertise in this area, and [they are] working with faculty across CAS and across the three campuses to develop [this] committee that really kind of tries to implement this.”

A time frame won’t be concrete for a period as the committee continues to meet and determine how to best move forward, according to Jolaosho. While the committee’s goal is to accomplish this as soon as possible, Jolaosho said that it’s a “careful balance” between making sure not to rush while attentively approaching the project.

“Right now, we’re researching best practices [and] models,” said Jolaosho. “We really want to take the time to do this right, to do this in a way that’s easeful for the students that are going to be given the opportunity to take such a course.”

Jolaosho said the committee is keen on hearing student input as it continues to move forward in developing plans for proposing the required course and curriculum in the future. 

“We’re doing this in service of students, in service of student demand … for the university to actually address these concerns,” said Jolaosho. “So there will be student input that will be factored into how the committee is proceeding.”

Students won’t be able to serve as members of the committee, but Jolaosho expects an opportunity for student representatives from interested organizations to share their thoughts during future meetings.

“This is going to take work and collaboration across all levels of USF as a university and we need to approach each other with care and listening, and with deliberation and compassion,” said Jolaosho. “It is out of that spirit of investment and dedication that I’m approaching this work.”