Pace Announces Anti Racism Education Program, Taking Action on Racial Injustice

Ibrahim Aksoy

Pace University has introduced the pilot proposal of the Anti Racism Education (ARE) program, a series of courses taught along with regular curriculums, with the start of the fall semester. The program will not be required for graduation until the arrival of the next class year. However some courses this semester may be chosen as pilots for the program.

The antiracist education proposal made its way to the Pace academics board after the uprisings of 2020 and the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn. The Black Student Union (BSU) came up with several demands to denounce racism and teach antiracism studies to Pace students.

“After the murder of George Floyd, the Black Student Union issued a list of demands, one of which requested curricular inclusion of anti-racism education,” Meghana V. Nayak, professor of political science and a coordinator of the ARE program, explained. “After consulting scholarship, studies, and our colleagues’ lifelong training and research on race and racism, we chose to define antiracist education as ‘the ongoing process of naming, analyzing, evaluating, and imagining ways to change systems of racism.”

The ARE project will be tested in the 2021-2022 academic year in selected courses. With the total approval of the program by the end of the academic year, Pace is expected to mandate Anti-Racism Education as a graduation requirement, starting with the class of 2026.

According to the proposal, there will not be separate courses for the ARE project. Instead, students will be able to complete the requirement in their scheduled courses, if approved for the program.

Classes are designed to focus on racism in several areas, depending on the given lecture’s syllabus. The ARE committee designed five learning outcomes and at least one of them must be chosen by the course’s professor: inequalities, knowledge-making, intersectionality, change-making, and Black, Indigenious, People of Color (BIPOC) contributions and perspectives.

“Professors will choose one or more of the following learning outcomes and request to add it to their syllabi, with accompanying readings and assignments,” Professor Nayak said. “Some professors may have one module or unit. Others may integrate a project throughout the semester. Other professors may focus on guest lectures so that students of all backgrounds see that there is a place for them in every field and career.”

With the program having recently been introduced, students should not expect much difference in their class schedules. Although the pilot courses will include surveys or questionnaires that may require participation, the overall classroom atmosphere is set to remain the same.

Stating that students in pilot classes should expect to learn more about anti-racism education, professor Nayak said: “It really won’t change anything for the students except to integrate more information and analysis that will enrich what they are already learning.”

George Floyd’s mural in Minneapolis, Minn. The uprisings of 2020 have led the country to go through social changes including antiracism education. (Ibrahim Aksoy)

The Anti-Racism Education program announcement came at a time when the nation is discussing critical race theory, an argument that discusses racial inequality and decades-long discrimination by the U.S. government. The theory has been studied and taught since the 1970s, but it came to the public’s attention after several school districts announced that critical race theory will be taught after the nationwide protests.

As more states are stepping up to teach anti-racism in schools starting from K-12, the critical race theory proposals have become a partisan issue. Although Pace, along with other universities in New York State, has announced that it would test anti-racism education programs, some key Republican states – Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma – have cited that such projects would not focus on racism itself; instead, they would ‘embed racism to American society.’

Since the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the nation has gone through political and social changes. In some big American cities, city councils have decided to defund police administrations, while school districts have proposed anti-racism education such as critical race theory and the New York Times’ 1619 Project. Schools play a certain role in educating youth against racism, and Pace has committed to take part in this civil movement.

Explaining that no university has done enough to prevent racism but now is the right time to take action, professor Nayak said: “As a woman of color, I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of various incidents over the years and in the past year as well. If anyone in our community is feeling marginalized or alienated, we all want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity they deserve to learn, work, and safely be who they are at Pace.”