Several UMass Schools Teaching Critical Race Theory This Year

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Four schools in the University of Massachusetts system are offering classes this year in Critical Race Theory.

Critical Race Theory, according to the Brookings Institution, “states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.”

At UMass Boston, a graduate-level class offered this semester is called “Critical Race Theory in Higher Education.” Here is how the school’s web site describes the class:


This course is designed to provide students with an opportunity to understand Critical Race Theory (CRT) and its application to the field of higher education. In doing so, students will explore how race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender, sexual, orientation, and citizenship to shape the experiences of individuals in higher education. Specifically, students in the course will (1) understand and critically analyze the primary tenets of Critical Race Theory and (2) apply the tenets of Critical Race Theory as a conceptual lens to think critically bout higher education research, policy, and practice.


Critical Race Theory also features at UMass Lowell, in an undergraduate class called “Contemporary Social Theory.. While the class isn’t exclusive about Critical Race Theory, that theory is a component of class. Here is what the course description says:


This course offers a critical examination of major contemporary sociological theories, including critical theory, neo-Marxism, critical race theory, feminist theory, and postmodernism.


The topic also makes its way into the undergraduate class catalogue at UMass Dartmouth. Critical Race Theory plays a role in the Intersectional Criminology class offered by the college. Here is how the school’s web site describes the class (with intentional use of the letter “x” in the words “women” and “folk”):


A critical examination of historical and contemporary criminology theory, with emphasis on the disproportionate criminalization of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other people of Color (BIPOC), particularly womxn and non-cisgender folx. This course draws from traditions including, but not limited to:  Black feminist thought, critical race theory, Black queer studies, and critical criminology.


Meanwhile, course descriptions of four classes offered this past fall at UMass Amherst featured Critical Race Theory. There does not appear to be any classes at the state university’s flagship campus highlighting Critical Race Theory during the current spring semester.

The four fall semester 2021 UMass Amherst courses are:  English 300; English 386; ArtHist 391 Identity Politics and Art: 1960s to Today; and ArtHist 691 Identity Politics and Art: 1960s to Today.

The English 300 class for college juniors at UMass Amherst offers the following description:


In this course, we begin with an introduction to critical race theory, and the semester unfolds in three parts, where we apply basic tenets to several forms of writing about race: 

comparative literary analyses of two novels

analyses and writing of personal essays and creative nonfiction 

rhetorical analyses of and responses to news and social media.


English 386 at UMass Amherst also examines Critical Race Theory. The course description says in part:


Scholarship from writing studies and critical race theory will prompt students to define writing as a social act and explore how writing impacts identity formation and social movements. With this conceptual framework, we will then analyze how texts enact race, including but not limited to discourses about race circulating in universities; course readings will be, for the most part, nonfiction texts that are written for academic as well as more public audiences.


The ArtHist class descriptions say that they examine the meaning of social identity and why it’s a contentious topic in contemporary art history. 

Here is what the description says for both classes:


We will study the history of the Black Arts Movement, Feminist Art movements, and key texts from queer studies, feminist, and critical race theory in order to examine their intersections and divergences. The relationship of art to political protest movements, the AIDS crisis, Black Lives Matter and other recent developments will be addressed along with art world controversies such as the Culture Wars (1989–91) and the Whitney Biennials of 1993 and more recent years. The course also incorporates one field trip to a current exhibition that relates to these topics.


Spokesmen for UMass Boston, UMass Lowell, UMass Dartmouth, and UMass Amherst could not be reached for comment on Monday or Tuesday this week.


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