Student-lead Course in Ethnic Studies Takes Off

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Introduction to Ethnic Studies is being taught for the first  time this semester. The catch? It’s entirely student-organized and run.

A handful of student facilitators run the Sociology/Anthropology department course, which meets once a week. Each student directs discussion for a meeting and decides what readings to assign, with the help of the faculty advisor, Nina Johnson.

Shelly Wen ‘14 and Anna Stitt ‘13, who lead the effort to bring the course to campus, are working as logistical coordinators with the department. Wen said the course is “open to people who are just interested to come and participate as much and as little as they would like.”

Since the class is taken alongside the demands of a normal semester course load, student facilitators try to be understanding when it comes to the reading assigned. But because many who attend the class have previous knowledge and interest in the topic, dialogue in the classroom draws on a wide range of opinions and perspectives picked up even outside the  Swat bubble.

A recent class discussion revolved around whiteness and white privilege, and the first half of the semester focuses on establishing frameworks of ethnic studies. The second half will directly apply these frameworks to connect identity, representation, underrepresented ethnic or racial groups, and issues of inequity.

 “A big part of this is overwhelmingly the student interest,” Wen said. “Everyone who comes is very motivated to participate because this is something that each person is interested in.” In fact, many students taking this class are not opting to accept the .5 credit that is being offered.

The students in the class are looking forward to  giving the course more structure. They would like to see Introduction to Ethnic Studies become  fully credited next semester.

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