Where’s LSU’s required African American studies course two board members ask

LSU
LSU Clock Tower (Photo by Julie O'Donoghue / Louisiana Illuminator)

Two Black members of LSU’s Board of Supervisors asked at Friday’s meeting why the LSU Faculty Senate introduced a resolution to require an African American studies course for its students and then didn’t vote on it. “Some short while ago, I was excited and impressed that Louisiana State University was embracing an African American studies component as a part of its higher ed thinking,” Collis Temple said. “For that to move forward, we have to embrace this first step of just (having students take) a simple class and folding it into the curriculum.”

LSU Interim President Tom Galligan and Faculty Senate President Mandi Lopez said the senate continues to discuss some kind of class related to diversity and inclusion and Galligan said he expects a class will be required soon.

But board member James Williams said he wanted a focused approach on a class meant to address the history of racial discrimination, and he said he doesn’t want the issue tied up in bureaucracy. “I would hope that you all, given that you’ve all expressed your public support for it, that we untangle ourselves from the bureaucracy and we get it done,” he said. “That would be my personal hope.”

Lopez said most of the faculty was in support of adding an African American studies course, but sponsors of the resolution withdrew it before a vote.

Lopez did not say which faculty members offered the resolution or explain why they withdrew it.

“My email box exploded subsequently,” Lopez said. “Faculty were disheartened and disappointed as a whole, and they felt very strongly that this is an important initiative.” 

Lopez said members of a subcommittee of LSU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion “are now circling back and working with stakeholders, coming up with yet another resolution — and we are very excited to see that.”

“Adding a diversity and inclusion core requirement for all degrees by March 2021” is one of the general recommendations included in LSU’s Diversity & Inclusion Roadmap 2020-2022 that the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion introduced in the summer of 2020.

Galligan said he’s confident a general diversity and inclusion course will be added as a requirement for all degrees, “but what the faculty are discussing are the details of that diversity course and its contents.”

“We’re doing very well on this,” Galligan said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do, but that’s where we are, and I remain incredibly optimistic.”

“An ‘All Lives Matter’ approach is not appropriate to address an acute problem,” Williams said, because the aim is to address discrimination, including racial discrimination.

“If we need a class on Women’s studies and gender issues, if we need a class on African & African American studies, I would hate for that to die or get watered down until we get some general class about ‘being nice overall,’” he said. “Because that’s not what we’re trying to remedy.”