University of Connecticut To Require ‘U.S. Anti-Black Racism’ Course For Graduation

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The Faculty Senate at the University of Connecticut has established a new graduation requirement that all students pass a one-credit course titled “U.S. Anti-Black Racism.”

The Faculty Senate is an administrative board in charge of establishing general education rules and regulations at the university. The requirement, which was approved during a recorded online meeting on Monday, May 1, is set to take effect in the fall of 2024.

“We believe that such a course will make a positive step towards fulfilling the university’s stated commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and they will make UConn a leader among its peers and nationwide with regard to these efforts,” Shawn Salvant, a co-chairman of the faculty senate’s Anti-Black Racism Implementation Group, said during the meeting.

The implementation group was charged with devising a proposal to change the Faculty Senate’s bylaws to require a course on anti-black racism.

Salvant expressed confidence that the Faculty Senate would “consider the importance of this proposal as a structural change that takes a proactive stance to combat racist actions and attitudes on campus and beyond.”

Before the meeting, the UConn Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Department endorsed the proposal in a published statement, asserting that mandating an anti-black racism course would improve “the quality of education for all students.”

The course description of “U.S. Anti-Black Racism,” which was first offered in the fall of 2020, says that the course “introduces students to foundational history and concepts related to systemic and anti-Black racism” and “exposes students to foundational concepts related to Black consciousness, Black resistance, Black resilience, and intersectional solidarity.”

The course syllabus lists five learning objectives:


  1. Use existing research to describe the foundational history and concepts related to systemic anti-Black racism in the United States.
  2. Explain foundational scholarship focused on Black-Led movements and concepts such as Black civil rights, Black resistance, Black resilience, and intersectional solidarity.
  3. Question the consequences of anti-Black racism in areas such as Black health and wellness; Black agency and resilience; and/or anti-Blackness in higher education.
  4. Locate valuable resources throughout the University of Connecticut that work to disrupt anti-Black racism for the collective good. 
  5. Select critically engaged science, social science, and humanities courses offered by UConn that focus on anti-Blackness and appeal to your interests and plans of study.


At the meeting, Salvant said that learning about anti-black racism would lead to students learning more about other issues, calling anti-black racism a “gateway to looking at broader issues of systemic racism and other forms of discrimination.” He also called anti-black racism “a scourge that has struck campus.”

Although none of the members of the Faculty Senate explicitly criticized the course or the concept during the May 1 meeting, some questioned why this specific course should be required.

John Elliot, a UConn School of Business dean, wondered how the course fits with the already-established common core.

Despite calling the course a “great idea,” he said he “would like to see us find a way for it to fit in the envelope of what we do broadly,” noting that generally, the university requirements can be fulfilled in multiple ways.

In an email message responding to an inquiry for this story, Elliot again reiterated that he considers the course “excellent” but said he voted against the proposal because of the nature of the mandate.

“We do not have a single other example of a specific course that every student must take, and I did not and do not support such a requirement,” Elliot said.

Faculty Senate members also debated whether the course would prove too significant a burden for students to handle in addition to their other studies.

Salvant addressed this question, saying he had contacted the school deans to ensure the requirement would not prove too much.

“We’re trying to make sure the students have options for taking that don’t interfere with any of their other graduation requirements,” Salvant said, noting that the course was seven weeks, online, and accessible in fall, spring, and summer.

The Faculty Senate conducted a secret-ballot vote. The measure passed with 36 in favor, 25 against, and 4 abstentions.


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