RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a fiery letter to VCU administration, one professor called the decision to indefinitely postpone a campus-wide racism course requirement ‘discriminatory’ and ‘flawed.’
The letter, penned and signed by more than 200 professors and stakeholders, comes after VCU announced that students will no longer be required to take two racial literacy courses starting in the 2023 school year. The university cited space and staffing concerns in a letter to campus on July 26.
“A new racial literacy requirement as a component of general education will not begin this year,” wrote Andrew T. Arroyo, interim senior vice provost for academic affairs. “VCU currently offers two courses that meet the criteria of the new requirement. Those courses alone cannot offer the class seats needed to meet the annual demand of more than 4,000 first-year students.”
The racial literacy initiative was launched by VCU students in 2020 during social unrest in the City of Richmond. After a lengthy approval process, the class requirement was approved and backed by faculty.
However, the announcement to remove the requirement sparked outrage among a group of professors, including Everett Carpenter, who called this an administrative overreach.
“The faculty and administration approved the courses and suddenly we found out two weeks out, that ‘nope, we’re not going to do that,’ said Carpenter. “They’ve had three years to plan for this initiative. I think this is more of a crisis that has been created to justify the problem and their solution…than a real crisis.”
He added that the decision is creating confusion for students and could be seen as discriminatory.
“They plan their schedules and sometimes even their entire tenure and now, suddenly, this is thrown in disarray because this requirement that they were planning for, is not there anymore,” he said. “Given the fact that VCU is now a Minority Serving Institution with Richmond’s past, it’s important that our students understand that past. Many of the courses were all in African American studies or taught by underrepresented groups, so they’re the ones primarily impacted by this.”
Minority Serving Institutions are U.S colleges and universities that enroll a high percentage of minority students and often face greater financial challenges compared to their peer institutions.
A VCU spokesperson said that the decision to postpone the requirement was ‘student-centered,’ adding that the courses are still offered, just not required. Currently, about 700 students are enrolled.
Still, these professors are demanding action.
“Whether you support the teaching of racial literacy in college classrooms or not, we call upon our colleagues in Virginia’s higher education system and nationally to hold VCU’s top-level administration accountable to upholding higher education’s commitment to shared governance and faculty-led oversight of curriculum at all levels,” the letter wrote.
Classes are set to begin Aug. 22.