A college in Richmond, Virginia, has its professors up in arms after the university dropped a racism course requirement from the school’s curriculum.
Professors are calling Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) decision to remove the requirement discriminatory in a letter sent to the university’s administration.
VCU dropped the requirement of two racial literacy courses for the 2023 school year, prompting more than 200 stakeholders and professors to sign the letter, according to WRIC News.
VCU claims that they no longer have the space and staffing to offer the two classes, a claim that was disputed by the university’s staff, who allege that the decision was made without consulting the professors who spent years developing the course following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The courses Introduction to Race and Racism in the United States and Reading Race will still be available but will no longer be a general requirement for students.
Andrew T. Arroyo, VCU’s interim senior vice provost for academic affairs, wrote a letter on July 26 detailing the decision.
“A new racial literacy requirement as a component of general education will not begin this year,” wrote Arroyo. “VCU currently offers two courses that meet the criteria of the new requirement. Those courses alone cannot offer the class seats needed to meet the annual demand of more than 4,000 first-year students.”
Professor Everett Carpenter said VCU’s decision to eliminate the requirement would be seen as discriminatory and an administrative overreach while noting that those teaching the courses would also be impacted. There are approximately 700 VCU students currently enrolled in the courses.
“The faculty and administration approved the courses, and suddenly we found out two weeks out, that ‘nope, we’re not going to do that,’ Carpenter wrote. “They’ve had three years to plan for this initiative. I think this is more of a crisis that has been created to justify the problem and their solution…than a real crisis.”
“They plan their schedules and sometimes even their entire tenure and now, suddenly, this is thrown in disarray because this requirement that they were planning for, is not there anymore,” he continued. “Given the fact that VCU is now a Minority Serving Institution with Richmond’s past, it’s important that our students understand that past. Many of the courses were all in African American studies or taught by underrepresented groups, so they’re the ones primarily impacted by this.”
Anthropology professor Amy Rector told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that VCU students needed to be exposed to the “realities of race and racism in the United States.”
African American studies professor Mignonne Guy also noted the importance of the racism requirement and said students needed to understand history and how it affects people today in order to move forward unified.
“Race is not biological,” Guy told the Times-Dispatch. “It’s not genetic. It’s a sociopolitical construct that has been used over time; sadly, that divides populations,” she said, adding that national politics to censor course content played a role in the decision. “To politicize education is really indicative of educational malpractice, in my opinion.”
The letter also called on the higher education system in the state to intervene to “hold VCU’s top-level administration accountable.”
Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos released a statement on July 31 reiterating VCU’s lack of space to implement the requirement.
“We cannot, in good faith, require of students something they have no opportunity to meet,” wrote Sotiropoulos.