By Albert Lin
Dartmouth University is offering a Spring semester course inspired by the events following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The unarmed Black teenager was killed by Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson in August, and a grand jury later declined to indict Wilson on any charges, sparking nationwide protests.
The course, titled “10 Weeks, 10 Professors #BlackLivesMatter,” will discuss race, structural inequality and violence in both a historical and modern context. The interdisciplinary course is sponsored by the school’s Geography and African-American History departments, but will feature contributions from members of the Anthropology, History, Women’s and Gender Studies, Mathematics and English. In all, about 15 professors from more than 10 departments will teach sessions.
The course came about after a faculty workshop during the weekend leading into Martin Luther King Jr. Day encouraged professors to incorporate the events of Ferguson into their lessons. “We just thought that it might be interesting and innovative and exciting to have a course that’s dedicated to this, whereas lots of other people are incorporating it into other courses,” Professor of Geography Abigail Neely told The Dartmouth, the school newspaper.
The course will discuss systemic discrimination, such as redlining, housing discrimination and the prison-industrial complex, and how they impact violence against Blacks. Chelsey Kivland, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthroplogy, will teach a session on how the media dehumanizes people from underrepresented groups.
Professor of English Aimee Bahng said that one of the primary goals is to create a discussion on race in America that goes beyond the classroom. “We hope students will be able to understand that Ferguson is not just an event in 2014, but something that’s tethered in time to a long history and still-emerging ideas about race in the U.S. and how policing works in an age of social media and distributed surveillance,” Bahng said.
Students are excited about the course, with some reservations.
“I do wonder who will take the class—whether it’ll be kind of preaching to the choir or if they’ll get different points of view,” senior Adria Brown told USA Today. “But I still think—no matter what—that it’s worth having the class to really interrogate this topic.”
Senior Kevin Gillespie, president of the school’s NAACP chapter, said, “As a Black man, it’s incredibly hard to have this reality. It’s something that all of us wake up with every day, so I’m really happy that this course is happening. This is exactly what this college needs.”