With syllabus week nearing its end, students are relieved to be met once again with multiple homogeneous syllabi. “I got concerned that I might have to listen to someone that doesn’t look like me,” a white male sophomore told The Hilltopper. “It puts me at ease to know that every class is filled with a slew of dead white men,” said another. Students in philosophy, theology, and English courses alike were comforted to know that their syllabi would remain representative of a single elite portion of the population.
A diverse syllabus can be harmful to systems of oppression that ensure the continuation of a white heteronormative patriarchal society, explained a white male professor from an undisclosed department. Male and female professors seem to agree with the assessment across disciplines – there simply isn’t room for anyone else.
The homogeneous syllabi are effective in reinforcing the systems of oppression with which many professors are comfortable. Said one student, “I thought that maybe there was even just one black or gay or Asian or Native American or Hispanic or female or transgender author in the past few centuries that had written something worth studying, but if my professor couldn’t find one, then I guess there isn’t! It’s honestly a relief to be reassured of my superiority.”
Other students seemed to agree, saying they didn’t sign up to read such trivial authors as Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Maya Angelou, Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison, or Pulitzer prize winner Alice Walker.
Select professors reported feeling pressure to update their syllabi due to the “changing times” and an increasingly liberal atmosphere in academia. Initially worried, professors have found innovative ways to satisfy these expectations without threatening the status of white men. “You simply put diverse scholars at the very end of the syllabus,” reported multiple professors. This way, they explained, you can still spend the majority of the class preserving the voices of dead white men. Backloading the syllabus allows professors to blame the exclusion of diverse voices on time. For example, one class simply “ran out of time for Dorothy Day.”
Among the other suggestions for skirting the demands for diversity? Some recommended using snow days as an excuse to skip classes that feature non-white authors, bemoaning ‘political correctness’ for the full 50-minute class time, and taking advantage of their tenured status to simply ignore any demands for inclusion.
Some professors blame the lack of inclusion on the demands of the core curriculum, which mandates they cover certain topics depending on the core learning outcome. With such rigorous expectations, it is nearly impossible to include voices beyond Aquinas and Bentham, explained theology and philosophy professors, respectively.
Other professors were simply confused by the request for more diverse perspectives. Said one, “I’m teaching a core course, not an elective. Why would I need to include someone who isn’t a straight white male? It’s literature, not African-American literature. I’m all for them being in a syllabus, but why can’t we just keep them separate but equal?”