Student Thinks University of Michigan's Race Requirement Exists 'To Get White People To Be a Little Less Racist'

And yet we wonder why conservatives have soured on higher education.


Scott Kashkin

Some students would like the University of Michigan to revise its race and ethnicity requirement (R&E), which obligates students in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) to complete a course that includes these themes.

That's because the requirement has strayed from its true purpose, according to Allie Brown, a junior in the School of Public Policy.

"The purpose of the Race and Ethnicity requirement is to get white people to be a little less racist, for people to be a little bit more knowledgeable about the world they live in," Brown told The Michigan Daily. "That's really what it came about after the activism. Not just, 'Oh, learn about race and ethnicity in general.' That's not really the purpose behind it. A lot of the courses that are counted as R&E today don't require cultural competency, that's the problem. It's just like, 'Oh, we mention race and ethnicity, thus we should be counted as Race and Ethnicity.'"

Brown isn't just a random student; The Daily notes that she recently helped Angela Dillard, an associate dean of LSA, complete a study of the requirement, and is therefore positioned to advise its possible revision or expansion. And the main point of R&E, in Brown's view, is to educate one specific identity group.

I graduated from Michigan's LSA. The college only has a few requirements: a first-year writing course, an upper level writing course, a quantitative reasoning course (the bane of my existence), foreign language competency, and race and ethnicity. The best argument for the race and ethnicity requirement is this: Students should at some point study the history, traditions, or sociology of some identity group with which they aren't particularly familiar, as part of a broad-based liberal arts education. But it sounds like Brown wants race and ethnicity to be less like an educational requirement and more like an activism recruitment experience.

This reminds me of American University's effort to reimagine dorm life as an opportunity to teach "oppression studies" to a captive audience—with recruitment into an ideological movement being the true goal of the students advising such changes.

And yet we wonder why political conservatives have suddenly soured on higher education.