Political Studies students request increased BIPOC representation in mandatory courses

Department working with instructors to make recommended changes

Eleanor MacDonald, interim head and associate professor in the department of political studies, said the message from students was “very constructive.”
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Political Studies students have contacted the department to call for increased representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) scholars and learning in mandatory courses.

Melika Kh, ArtSci ’21, shared a Call to Action to Facebook on June 4 providing a template for students to use when contacting the Department of Political Studies. The sample email pointed to mandatory courses that lack BIPOC representation, including POLS 110, POLS 250, POLS 384, and POLS 385.

“It’s necessary for our department to consider how we can implement BIPOC representation into its readings, discussions, and course content—especially when they are teaching students who want to go into law, policy, NGO-work, and sectors that require a deep understanding of the nuances in how race is embedded in the system,” Kh wrote in a statement to The Journal.

Kh said while some smaller, optional courses include adequate BIPOC learning, larger mandatory courses don’t have sufficient representation. 

“This [initiative] is about holding the system accountable and using our privilege to push for real change,” she added.

According to Eleanor MacDonald, interim head and associate professor in the department of political studies, the department has been in conversation with instructors and is working to make the changes recommended by students. 

“All of [the instructors] are keen to make changes, and many of them already had some underway,” MacDonald said in an interview with The Journal. “I’ve got responses for what people are already doing and what they plan to do.”

MacDonald responded to all the students who contacted the department within a day and shared the email with all Political Studies instructors. The department has also offered to meet with the instructors of mandatory courses to address the students’ concerns.

“The message was incredibly welcome. It’s very constructive. It’s always great to know what students are thinking about,” MacDonald said.

Many instructors of mandatory courses have already committed to specific actions, according to MacDonald.

Bill Nelson, an associate professor who teaches POLS 385: Introduction to Statistics, will work to develop new case studies illustrating the realities BIPOC communities face. 

Colin Farrelly, a professor for POLS 250: Political Theory, will assign an article on Black Lives Matter in the course readings and include the topic of civil disobedience in the course content.

“The nature of political studies is that your object of study is always changing and moving,” MacDonald said. “It’s always great to know that students want more.”

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