Professors discuss issue of race in classrooms

Alfredo Madrid

In the midst of the political transformation the country might face, as a result of the upcoming presidential election, race has never seemed to be more relevant to American life than now.’ How this influences our higher educational institutions is a great concern to the community.’

A panel of professors met to discuss ‘Race in the Classroom in an Age of ‘Racelessness” Monday afternoon at the Whitsett Room in Sierra Hall.’ The discussion centered on the role the issue plays on the academic lives of both the educator and the educated and where the future of the topic could take both parties.’

The discussion was moderated by Susan Auerbach, professor of educational leadership and policy studies.

Professors from a variety of disciplines including political science, gender studies, journalism, psychology and geography were on hand. Many of those present were eager to better understand their students’ needs by analyzing the issue of race.’ The panel shared a common interest to learn and understand the importance of the topic and its overall effect on students from all majors.

‘There is no one answer on how to productively talk about this issue,’ said Auerbach.
Some of the matters mentioned regarded interracial dating, race in the workplace, and racial profiling.’ The discussion focused primarily on race in the classroom and alleviating the problem through workshops and class activities.

Several professors shared their concern about how to address situations where they feel like they have to be the mediator and have resourceful knowledge of the topic.’ Several admitted to being ignorant about how to talk about race and racism and the resentful thoughts that could result.

‘Some aspects of race are uncomfortable.’ We have to be comfortable with discomfort,’ Auerbach said.’

Auerbach had those present engage in an activity centered on writing an incident, either in the professor’s personal life, or in the intellectual atmosphere, on an index card where race became a dominant theme.’ Some of the professors then shared their experiences.

‘It is important that the discussion should be ongoing so that we as scholars can improve our approach to race and to our students,’ said Boris Ricks, a political science professor.
‘It is a learning process that has to be in the curriculum and amongst our faculty,’ said Ricks.

As the meeting progressed, most of the professors managed to speak about how they feel the topic affects their specific subject area.’ It was mutually agreed that tensions about race were more common in a political science or gender studies class than a math or science course.

Their concern spotlights the urgency to educate more people about the topic and to address it in a more effective manner.

Cheryl Spector, professor of Academic First Year Experiences, shared her insight.
‘We have to learn about race as one aspect of diversity,’ Spector said.

Auerbach paraphrased a famous quote by American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey by saying that ‘every generation has to recreate democracy for itself.’

As applied to race in the classroom both students and teachers need to preserve the desire to keep growing and learning.