The Black Student Union recently unveiled a new plan to prioritize funding of ethnic studies at the University of Minnesota. Among other tactics, BSU plans to enlarge ethnic studies departments by encouraging more students to enroll in those classes as opposed to directly targeting administrators to enlarge the programs.
The state of ethnic studies programs has been a source of contention at the University for months. University President Eric Kaler’s failure to increase funding for these departments was an impetus behind the Morrill Hall protests last spring.
CLA has said it intends to hire four more faculty members in either ethnic studies or gender, women and sexuality studies. However, many claim the University’s commitment to diversity still needs improvement.
BSU’s tactic of using student enrollment to influence faculty hiring and prioritize ethnic studies departments is commendable. If students are demanding more ethnic studies classes, the administration will listen. BSU is also pushing for an ethnic studies requirement for all students, which would unquestionably demonstrate the University’s commitment to the programs.
University students today carry more power than ever before. As the recent protests at the University of Missouri demonstrate, student demands can receive national attention. BSU’s decision to use class choices — essentially tuition dollars — to demand attention for ethnic studies departments is not as drastic as the Mizzou protests, but it has the potential to eventually become just as effective.
We applaud the BSU’s savvy tactics and support its efforts to increase student demand for ethnic studies departments.