An anti-racism student group at Texas A&M University is working to combat the history and culture of racism at the school by proposing a mandatory racism course for students.
The Texas A&M Anti-Racism group began talks with university president Michael K. Young about the potential required racism awareness classes last spring, according to Texas Public Radio. The idea came after a group of visiting high school students were subjected to hate speech during a campus tour.
University officials have worked to remedy the issue, but students say mass emails from president Young addressing on-campus racism just don’t go far enough.
“What we’re trying to say is we don’t want anymore emails, we don’t want anymore fake apologies,” said Emilio Bernal, a student protester who participated in the “No More E-Mails March” on Oct. 6. “We want to see real change, we want to see more students and faculty of color here, we want to see a mandatory anti-racism class, and that’s just to begin with.”
Texas A&M’s Black student population stands at 4 percent as the school continues to struggle with addressing a number of racially charged incidents and the overall culture of on-campus racism. Students think the implementation of a mandatory racism course could help turn things around.
According to Amanda Gomez, a student and member of TAMU’s anti-racism organization, the proposed class would replace an already required cultural diversity component of the school’s curriculum. Drafted topics of discussion would include historical redlining, the criminalization of Black and Latino youth, the school-to-prison pipeline, and white supremacy.
“The class would discuss structural barriers people of color face that white people do not, especially in academia,” Gomez told university newspaper The Daily Texan last month.
“People of color for decades on this campus have faced violence, not a few minutes of discomfort, not a class-period of discomfort – actually violence, verbal assault, physical assault,” she added. “So I think two or three times a week, being in a class you might not want to be in isn’t so bad compared to that.”
The mandatory course proposal is still being evaluated, leading many students to accuse school administrators of dragging their feet in addressing on-campus racism.
University officials asserted it was of the utmost importance to hear, consider and meet student demands. However, they noted that implementing a single class that EVERY student would be required to take is a hard task to complete.
“When we’re trying to serve as many students as we have on this campus — 45,000 undergraduates — trying to have one course requirement has all kinds of challenges that logistically we could not navigate,” said Dr. Julie Harlin, co-chair of the Core Curriculum Committee.
According to Texas Public Radio, there is currently no one class that all Texas A&M students have to take. Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Daniel Pugh said it would be difficult to fit the new anti-racism class into the many degree programs offered by the university.
“It’s got to fit across all of the different colleges and it’s got to fit within the constructs of what the state says we have to do within a core curriculum,” Pugh said. “And you can’t just add on another three hours or six hours — it’s got to fit within that degree number that’s there.”
Students of TAMU’s Anti-Racism group remain critical of the university’s slow response to their demands. School officials have attributed funding and faculty availability issues to the delayed response time, but students aren’t buying it. They want to see on-campus change, and they want to see it now.
“We’re at one of the most affluent schools in America, and especially the state of Texas,” said TAMU Anti-Racism member Justin Hale. “We have more than enough money and this has been an issue that has taken course over decades, over decades, so time is really just up.”