Robert Gavino, Fiza Mohammad and Zeena Rivera talk about their sit-in. “When am I going to start reading writers from China, from Africa, from South America?” Rivera said. Photo: Steve Ringman, Seattle Times
A college devoted to the humanities teaches too many “dead white dudes,” complain students at Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci College. Protesters want less Plato and more Ta-Nehisi Coates, reports Katherine Long in the Seattle Times.
In a meeting with Father Stephen Sundborg, president of the Jesuit university, a black student charged Kelly used the “n-word” and said she could “reclaim” the word, as the black comedian had.
“It is not her place to tell me not to be offended,” the student said. “This woman needs to be removed. I’m worried about the students that come after me.”
In a letter to the university community, Sundborg refused to fire Kelly. Otherwise, he groveled. “I cannot pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings as educators and administrators,” he wrote.
Kelly pledged to review curricula, “hire a consultant to assess the college’s culture and climate, and train faculty and staff in racial and cultural literacy,” reports Long.
As part of a sit-in, students have displayed books they want the Matteo Ricci curriculum to contain.
(The display) includes books on Buddhism, the civil-rights movement, feminist theory, social movements, poverty, mass incarceration, alternative views of American history. They say they want to read and discuss authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Malala Yousafzai, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexie.Instead, they say, many Matteo Ricci courses are focused on close readings of the classics.
Zeena Rivera is sick of Plato. “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes,” she said.
In addition to decentralizing whiteness, students want “a critical focus on the evolution of systems of oppression such as racism, capitalism, colonialism, etc., highlighting the art, histories, theologies, political philosophies, and socio-cultural transformation of Western and non-Western societies.”
Teacher Maria Martin, a “woman of color” from a low-income family and a Matteo Ricci graduate, learned a great deal studying Greek and Roman culture, she writes on The Stranger. Students who don’t want to read classical literature should choose a “different major,” she suggests.
Matteo Ricci offers a “humanities for education” major and many graduates plan to become teachers.