As we used to say in college in the Sixties, “The students are revolutionizing.” In this case, here at the University of Chicago they are asking for—no, demanding—a department of critical race studies. Here’s the view of one student (shared by many) in this week’s Chicago Maroon (click on screenshot):
The University of Chicago is renowned for its support of intellectual curiosity, and yet, somehow, the school lacks a department devoted to critical race and ethnic studies (CRES)—a department that would further investigate race relations during such a pivotal moment in history. In the summer of 2020, a #MoreThanDiversity campaign—launched by faculty affiliates of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC)—demanded that UChicago’s provost, Ka Yee C. Lee, set aside funds for a department dedicated to CRES. In December, Ka Yee C. Lee allocated funding to #MoreThanDiversity so that they could propose a CRES department, but allocating funds for a proposal does not mean that it will be approved or implemented to the extent that it should be. Students of color cannot feel at ease when campus administration tiptoes around the need for a department that would prioritize critical questions regarding race and ethnicity, which has been expressed by students and faculty numerous times. Despite the fact that establishing a critical race and ethnic studies department is crucial to conveying their supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion, the administration has unsurprisingly delayed conversations surrounding its implementation, especially considering UChicago’s role in upholding white supremacy.
You might check out that last link about how we are, even now, upholding white supremacy. When a business-school professor invited Steve Bannon here a while back (he didn’t come), that was upholding white supremacy! We also upheld white supremacy when, in 1856, Stephen Douglas donated 10 acres of land to start the University. No matter that those acres are not part of the present University, nor that President Zimmer ordered the removal of two plaques honoring Douglas, saying this:
“Douglas does not deserve to be honored on our campus” because “Douglas profited from his wife’s ownership of a Mississippi plantation where Black people were enslaved.”
No, no, none of that counts. We’re apparently still upholding white supremacy, therefore we need a department of critical race and ethnic studies.
The article above adds this:
UChicago’s administration needs to reevaluate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially considering that their response to #MoreThanDiversity’s demands has merely been to fund a department proposal, refusing to fund the creation of the department itself or acknowledge its importance in dismantling racist systems. Critical race and ethnic studies serve to transform the conventional mode of thought surrounding race and give room for self-reflexive comprehension, so when the University creates obstacles for #MoreThanDiversity, they are also creating another obstacle for students to engage in transformative studies.
“Transformative studies.” You know what that means: it means ensuring that students who take this department’s courses will be turned into epigones of Critical Race theory. It means ensuring that, in the area of ethnic studies, only one point of view will be tolerated, taught, and accepted. You’d be a fool to believe otherwise.
Such a department would, of course, be an organ of propaganda. The University has rightly dragged its heels on this one, and refuses the other student demand to eliminate the campus police. But if such a department were founded here, it would mark the beginning of the end of our reputation for free and open inquiry—the features that still make the University of Chicago unique among American colleges.