By DONOVAN HARRELL
Pitt will continue to offer its free, one-credit anti-racism course this fall while it continues to explore ways to implement a proposed mandatory three-credit Black studies course.
During the April 19 Educational Policies committee meeting, Joe McCarthy, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, said a working group has undertaken a task that may have larger implications for other academic units across Pitt.
The group is looking at general education requirements across all of Pitt’s campuses and is trying to “pave the way for the University to have a mechanism by which to include things that are deemed critical to the education of all of our students irrespective of what unit they are attempting to graduate from,” McCarthy said.
“It's a little bit of a chicken and an egg problem, where we're desperately making the egg so that we can have the chicken,” McCarthy said.
In the meantime, McCarthy said, the one-credit course is an effective method to address anti-racism immediately.
“Because we have a stopgap of a really effective one-credit course, I felt like it was better to not try and reinvent the wheel twice — once to solve the acute problem, and then the other to solve the chronic problems,” McCarthy said. “It’s better to take a holistic view and solve all the problems at once.”
The one-credit class is required for first-year students and available to any others. Each week features an asynchronous online lecture, along with some required and recommended readings. It is graded as Satisfactory or Not Completed. Students are automatically enrolled in the free course. The class is not formally a degree requirement, although it will count toward credits for graduation in most instances.
Yolanda Covington-Ward, chair of the Department of Africana Studies and head of the committee that developed the one-credit course, said at the Senate Plenary that the course will continue to evolve. For example, one of the course modules that focused on artistic expressions in Black communities will now be led by Mark Clayton Southers, a Pittsburgh-based playwright.
The University has been exploring options for a mandatory Black studies course for first-year students since the eruption of social unrest in summer 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. This spurred nationwide clashes between protesters and law enforcement.
In response to the unrest, Pitt alumna Sydney Massenberg created a petition in June 2020 that called for the University to create a mandatory Black studies course for Pitt students.
A multi-disciplinary committee of Pitt experts on anti-Black racism quickly created a one-credit course in a month to tie the events of the summer into a larger conversation about racism in the U.S.
Additionally, members in the University Senate have backed the idea of a three-credit course.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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