Should a university accept a proposal for a new program in, say, Jihadi Studies whose sponsor stated that its purpose would be to study the roots and current manifestations of Islamic fundamentalism? What about a Master’s Degree program in Zionist Studies proposed by an academic who has used Protocols of Zion in class, not as an example of a point of view or historical artifact but as a text? Or a program in Human Sexuality to be headed by a man who writes sympathetically of those who believe homosexuality is either deviant or sinful?
Those examples, so far as I know, are hypothetical, but this morning Inside Higher Ed reports, citing Times Higher Education, on one that is real. University College London has rejected a new masters’s program in black studies proposed by “Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman (who writes his last name with a line through it to symbolize the way the name was selected for him and his family by slave masters in Jamaica).”
Coleman‘s approach, he said, “was to teach ‘critical white studies’ and that ‘white hegemony was… to be put under the microscope.'”
Actually, perhaps the most interesting thing in the IHE report is its first sentence: “A faculty member who is considered one of five black philosophers at universities in Britain is alleging that University College London rejected a proposal for a new master’s degree in black studies because it would have promoted research and education that was highly critical of white people.” Is
Coleman in fact “one of five black philosophers” at British universities, or is he only “considered” so by some?
Has race become so problematical, so amorphous and indeterminate and “socially constructed,” that it is no longer useful in identifying individuals? Has counting by race now become so controversial that British philosophers — or editors at Inside Higher Ed — are reluctant to do so overtly? If so, when will that reluctance trickle into admissions and diversity/equity/inclusion offices, which are still busy distributing benefits and burdens based on race without a second (or often a first) thought about how it is “considered”?