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LSU student athletes pose for a photo before marching in solidarity against racial injustice Saturday morning, September 12, 2020, around Tiger Stadium on campus in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU’s faculty is considering a resolution asking university officials to require future students, in order to graduate, to successfully complete a course focusing on African American contributions to Louisiana and America.

Faculty wishes are routinely ignored by administrators and supervisors at LSU, but this resolution has the support of the provost and system president. Plus, implementing "diversity and inclusion core requirement for all degrees by March 2021” is a check off in the university’s “Diversity & Inclusion Roadmap, 2020-2022.” The recently published roadmap sets out goals to make Louisiana’s flagship’s university, which has long history of racial intolerance, more welcoming to minorities and women.

Still in its formative stages, the new graduation requirement already has set off a storm of criticism from conservatives.

The resolution still hasn’t been scheduled for a vote, but the Faculty Senate likely take a vote in January, Faculty Senate President Mandi J. Lopez said Wednesday. Lopez is a professor of equine surgery.

LSU is hardly alone in higher education’s efforts to make diversity and inclusion training a part of the required curriculum – particularly after a summer during which international protests broke out over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to a reassessment of how Black people historically have been treated in the U.S.

An Association of American Colleges and Universities survey found nearly 60% had instituted a required course addressing the histories and/or concerns of students who aren’t White.

Some institutions, like the University of California at Los Angeles, require completion of a diversity course to graduate. Others, like the University of Mississippi, want incoming students to take a class. Virginia Tech requires diversity and inclusion training to enter its graduate school.

“We don't need to rewrite the history books. We simply need to add some truth to the history books,” said Associate Professor Sonja D. Wiley, the only Black female tenured teacher at the E.J. Ourso College of Business, told her colleagues when she presented the resolution during the November Faculty Senate meeting. She added that the contributions and history of African Americans aren’t fully taught in Louisiana schools.

“It's a pitiful state of education that I did not know about the accomplishments of Black people until I got to college,” said Social Work Professor Cassandra D. Chaney, a co-sponsor of the resolution. “But I know about all of the accomplishments of Europeans. …I want to make it clear that focusing on the experiences of Black people does not in any way minimize your experiences.”

The key course that would become required is called African and African American Studies 2000. AAAS2000, worth three credit hours, is described as “dimensions of African & African American thought and practice in contemporary and historical perspective.”

About 400 or so students take AAAS2000 each year. Obviously, if AAAS200 becomes a required course, like English and Math, the four or five sections per year would have to grow geometrically to ensure the 26,000 or so LSU undergraduates would have access. Additionally, the course would need a consistent syllabus so that several professors would be teaching pretty much the same thing and expecting the same level of work from the students.

Provost Stacia Haynie, who is in charge of LSU’s curriculum, told faculty members that she and the president’s office would work out how the courses would be implemented. “If the faculty approved this as a requirement than it would satisfy one of the social sciences,” she said.

A lot of criticism has arisen.

Rod Dreher, an LSU alum, wrote about AAAS2000 earlier this week in The American Conservative: “From the description here, it is not mere history; it is highly ideologized history (“intersecting oppression”). And if this passes the LSU Faculty Senate, taking this course in left-wing racialism would be a requirement of graduating from LSU.

“If this proposal passes the Faculty Senate, the university will have declared that it is more important for LSU graduates to have had instruction in “intersectional oppression” than Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, or any of the other greats.”

(LSU’s current curriculum doesn’t require studying those philosophers and writers.)

But The American Conservative article launched a wave of commentary, often using salty language, on websites like TigerDroppings.

JB wrote: “If the tenured faculty doesn't stand up and quash this, they will prove themselves to be the worthless fricks I assume they are.”

Penny Rene on Facebook commented: “Are people really this dumb? … Y'all acting like babies who can't even suck their own thumb yet!”

And not all the faculty members are on board.

Charles N. Delzell, associate head of the Mathematics Department, noted the resolution pointed out that most students aren’t instructed about the true history of slavery or contributions of African Americans. He pointed out that most high school students don’t take courses on ancient Greece or ancient Rome or ancient Judaism.

Delzell said the definition of institutionalized racism seems to have morphed into requiring courses on the history of certain races but not others. “Students in anti-racism courses and programs may be forced to confess that they are racist or to admit that modern day LSU and America are institutionally racist in order to pass,” he told his colleagues.

Professor Stephen Shipman, of the mathematics department, said he is a faculty member – and he believes there are many – afraid to speak against the resolution for fear being ostracized. “We have to be careful not to demonize one race,” Shipman said.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.