In Support of the Anti-Black Racism Course Gen Ed Requirement

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion supports the Senate proposal to require every undergraduate student at UConn to pass the one-credit course titled “U.S. Anti-Black Racism” as part of the baccalaureate degree requirements. We believe that this course is a necessary next step in strengthening an inclusive and equitable campus climate that supports the success of our increasingly diverse student population.

UConn has made tremendous strides in increasing diversity over the last decade. In 2014, President Susan Herbst convened the Diversity Task Force, which, in addition to affirming diversity as one of UConn’s core values, recommended that the University improve the compositional diversity of its student body. UConn has since consistently welcomed increasingly diverse incoming classes. This year, for example, over 25% of incoming students come from racial or ethnic groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education. Moreover, 27.5% are first-generation-to college; 30% come from low-income backgrounds; and 47% identify as people of color. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the research about student body diversity is clear: increasing diversity improves academic experiences for all students, both in the classroom and beyond, and better prepares students to lead lives as exemplary citizens and members of a pluralistic society.

While we celebrate increases to compositional diversity, we also recognize that increased diversity, alone, is insufficient to enhance the educational experience for all students; rather, it is only a first step in the process. According to the APA, the educational benefits of diversity are enhanced when universities prioritize curriculum that attends to systemic structures and obstacles to academic achievement. Specifically, the APA argues that engaging issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom helps students engage across differences while also broadening their range of scholarly interests and endeavors. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), adds to this, arguing that the full educational benefits of diversity can only be realized when universities commit to addressing systemic structures of racism and to challenging individual and organizational assumptions about both race and racism.

Making the anti-Black racism course part of every undergraduate student’s degree requirement will demonstrate UConn’s continued commitment to diversity while also improving the quality of education for all students. We feel that this course is an important starting point for addressing barriers to success on our campus and in our society, especially given the spate of anti-Black racism that was made apparent by the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and that persists in current efforts to ban Critical Race Theory. Based on our research of the top 30 public universities in the US—90% of whom are taking similar steps—we also believe that approving this proposal will provide a gateway for other courses about other groups whose historical exclusion and identity-based oppression is obvious in nationwide increases to anti-Asian racism, anti-Brown racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, and gender and sexuality-based harassment and violence.

Making the anti-Black racism course a requirement for every Husky undergraduate is not the final step, but it is the necessary next step in improving the living and learning experiences at UConn, and in enhancing the value of a UConn education.