Pitt offers new mandatory anti-racism class for first year students


Kaycee Orwig | Assistant Visual Editor

After widespread Black Lives Matter protests across the country, first-year students will now be required to take a course on anti-racism.

By Mary Rose O'Donnell, Managing Editor

All Pitt first-year students will now be required to take a course on anti-racism, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced in an email last Monday.

The University is offering a one-credit, online course on systemic anti-racism and anti-Black racism called Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology and Resistance beginning this fall. The course will be available to all Pitt students, and students can begin to enroll this week, with first-year students automatically enrolled. The course will also be made available to faculty, staff and the broader Pitt community in the following weeks.

Provost Ann Cudd provided additional information about the new course in a Wednesday email. She said the course will be asynchronous, free of charge and graded on an S/NC basis. Faculty, staff and activists gave lectures that are featured in the course, which Cudd said “is designed to inform us all about Black history and culture, about the multiple forms of anti-Black racism and about how we can be anti-racist.”

The new required course arrives after a petition demanding Pitt require all students take a Black studies course gained more than 7,000 signatures this summer. The petition came in the wake of the late May killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which has caused massive protests nationwide.

Sydney Massenberg, a 2020 alumna and first-year New York University School of Law student, created the petition in June. It then gained the attention of the University, resulting in the creation of the new course. Massenberg said she thinks the course is a “great start and a great idea” and will be beneficial to students.

“Providing a solid baseline for students to be able to work from and which will likely spur many to do some independent learning will undoubtedly spur some important thought processes, and that’s an important first step,” Massenberg said.

While she is happy with the creation of the course, Massenberg said many of the courses Pitt already offers can be a place for more detailed conversations about race theory, anti-racism and anti-Black racism, and she encouraged students to explore these options as well.

“The three-credit courses are where I feel the most impactful conversations take place between students and professors during facilitated class discussions and where powerful thought and self-reflection are prompted by class assignments and extensive projects students are to complete,” Massenberg said. “This one-credit course is an amazing start, but I hope Pitt doesn’t stop there.”