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CMC Considers Adding a Racial-Ethnic Understanding GE

CMC is considering adding a new general education (GE) requirement related to “racial-ethnic understanding.” It would prepare students for their post-graduation lives and help them understand racism and the contributions of Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous individuals in the U.S and abroad. Students would take courses discussing any of these four racial and ethnic groups.

CMC would offer the GE as an overlay course by almost any academic department, meaning it could fulfill two GE requirements. CMC also plans to hire more professors, especially Black professors, for this GE. Current professors may choose to teach a course in the subject, allowing lower and upper-level classes to count. At least 30 courses are estimated to eventually fulfill the requirement.

The GE could become a requirement by fall 2022, which would make the graduating class of 2026 the first class required to take it. However, changes to the current proposal are likely, which may slow the process.

We want to prepare students to understand several different issues, like racism and especially anti-Black racism, but also all forms of racism, and the social construction of race.”

To address student questions, professors and staff members held a student forum on Tuesday, February 9.

“There’s no number that has been set [on the number of new professors], but everybody is eager,” professor Gastón Espinosa, the Arthur V. Stoughton Professor of Religious Studies, said. “A lot of departments are putting in requests for hires that can teach about African-American religion and history. We are hoping that some of those will be granted.”

Some students shared their concerns about racial insensitivity in the classroom by their peers and professors and asked about the possibility of training faculty members to teach these classes properly.

“There would be a lot of programming and training available, so that would be something that we would actively encourage. We wouldn’t necessarily want to prescribe or force a person to take a program or seminar. What if they’re in biology or mathematics? In some fields, [training] would be more helpful if they’re going to teach a GE in this area,” said professor Espinosa.

Instead of mandatory training, Nyree Gray, Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Civil Rights Officer, explained a new project for professors interested in being a “version of anti-racism fellow for CMC.” The application is due at the end of February, and these professors would support their colleagues who are developing these new courses.

“The hope is to build capacity within faculty themselves. Faculty would have a colleague as a resource that can help one-on-one with preparing for this academic experience—not just from a content base, but also an experience base from the student,” Gray said.

The majority of faculty members present at their meeting would be needed to pass the proposal. During this meeting, amendments are allowed. If approved, the proposal would be presented to the board of trustees.

Professor Espinosa described this initiative as a “top priority for both faculty and the administration” as well as “a grassroots faculty response” to the President’s Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America.

“We want to address some of the underlying issues of racism in America after the terrible tragedy of George Floyd’s death back in the spring. We also want to prepare students to understand several different issues, like racism and especially anti-Black racism, but also all forms of racism, and the social construction of race,” professor Espinosa said.

If faculty members do not approve this new GE, other alternatives might be available, such as adding it to the Freshman Humanities Seminar (FHS) requirement. The professors at the forum remain “hopeful” that their colleagues will approve this proposal.

“Each Claremont College has slightly different requirements. I think that, at CMC, people have always thought that these types of issues could be met through different departments and courses,” professor Espinosa said as the reason for not proposing this GE sooner.

“But, we really think it should be more structural and something that every student has to take,” said professor Espinosa. “We want to do this as a community with the approval of professors and students. Everyone’s opinion matters. We’re trying to be as inclusive as we can.”


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