No matter how or where, humanity has always had an unquenchable thirst for progress. From setting out to explore new lands from the Americas to the Moon, we have always pursued to enhance our lives and knowledge beyond that which prior generations before us have stopped. But, as of now, we have hit a wall in how we can progress. All the earth’s land has been conquered in one way or another, and those who further progress are a select few in highly specified fields. While we may progress, the average person still wants to grow past their forefathers and discover new things. While innate in us, modern society has bred a progression to explore what it means to be human; regarding race, gender, and sexuality.
While this has taken root in many different ways, one way which it has spread through the spread of critical race theory. To quote The Heritage Foundation, Critical Race Theory “makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life, categorizing individuals into groups of oppressors and victims.” While originally just a political concept, it has expanded throughout all of society, including higher education. Looking to the past itself, many have said that this movement of self-indulgence and reflection echos the movement that Rome had before their grant fall which plunged all of Europe into a decades-long dark age.
Looking to another city upon seven hills, Providence is following suit with a similar path here at Brown University. Our small state’s claim to ivy league fame has been known for its groundbreaking research and intellect for a majority of its run until of late due to new initiatives. A major project that has been created and compounded upon since 2018 was their Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), this being a program that looks to bring “a focus on historically underrepresented groups and increasing the number of women in STEM” into all aspects and courses taught at the University. While not bad on the surface, some courses offered such as “Black Queer Life” and “What’s AntiBlackness Doing in a ‘Nice Field Like Education’” are currently being offered to students, showing the importance of sexuality and inclusion in the classroom. While not bad on its surface level, the backbone of these courses is compounded upon current oppression and cultivation of victimization in current students.
While the institution has made its biases apparent, it never worked to bring discrimination to the classroom, for inclusion and equality of all is what they are working towards. At least, that was until this story came to life. In an anonymous letter written to The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), a student explained that a training class for teachers regarding Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was only open to certain demographics (Black, Latino, Indigenous). In addition, the letter explained that “the teachers will also only be members of what they call the BIPOC community (with support from senior teachers who may be white).” As such, FAIR’s attorney Leigh Ann O’Neill sent a letter to Brown University, explaining the errors the University made. In this letter backed by several legal cases, she explains that
“It is generous and thoughtful of Brown to offer teacher training and scholarships based on economic need or other criteria unrelated to immutable traits. Under Title VI, however, it may not offer such a benefit only to certain students based on their skin color or ancestry. We urge the university to open the program to any deserving student without regard to their immutable traits. We also believe that such a gesture would demonstrate Brown’s commitment to non-discrimination and equal access.”
When the department was questioned by The Washington Post, the director of Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, Dr. Eric B. Loucks, opposed the initial backlash, saying “the intent is to reach future teachers who have a special interest in or history of personal engagement with the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latino/Latina/Latinx peoples and others who have been underrepresented in the mindfulness field.” While he did defend his position, the University ultimately changed its mind with this story coming to light, changing its policy to allow all students, not just minority students, to enroll in the class when it resumes in August.
Looking at this event, the situation which has been laid out is truly disappointing. The University itself worked to create equality within higher education, admitting African-American students to attend the university following the civil war. These people saw the wisdom and necessity to open attendance of education to all, and yet, it seems that some institutions have progressed to a place where race and skin color matter more than a person’s potential to impact their community and the world for the good.
Brown University. “Brown’s Early African-American Alumni.” Brown University Library, https://library.brown.edu/cds/pollard/earlyalumni.html. Accessed 30 June 2022.
Brown University. “Courses offered at Brown University.” Courses @ Brown – Providence, Brown University, https://cab.brown.edu/. Accessed 30 June 2022.
Brown University. “DIAP Phase II (2021) | Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan | Brown University.” Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University, https://diap.brown.edu/plans-reports/diap-phase-ii-2021. Accessed 30 June 2022.
Cherner, Jessica. “Brown University ‘mindfulness’ course
offered only to minority students.” New York Post, 23 June 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/06/23/brown-university-mindfulness-course-offered-only-to-minority-students/. Accessed 30 June 2022.
The Heritage Foundation. “Critical Race Theory.” The Heritage Foundation, https://www.heritage.org/crt. Accessed 30 June 2022.
O’Neil, Leigh Ann. “Incident – Brown University.” FAIR Transparency, The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, 13 May 2022, https://www.fairtransparency.org/incident-report?iid=627e738e1098100009500ec8. Accessed 30 June 2022.
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?