As popular Ethnicity, Race and Migration course “Race, Politics, and the Law” faces high demand, many students have questioned whether Yale’s difficulty accommodating students’ interests represents a broader lack of resources for race and gender studies.
The course — taught by Ethnicity, Race and Migration professor Daniel HoSang — has been taught twice before, drawing only 22 students in fall 2017 and 88 last spring. Enrollment in the course this year, however, peaked at 364 during shopping period and now sits at 213, according to course demand statistics as of Sunday night. Many students who were shopping the course were unable to enroll in sections, even after the last-minute effort to find more teaching fellows and section locations. The class, according to its syllabus, examines the ways race has developed and transformed in the United States since the 18th century through critical race theory, political discourse analysis, intersectionality and women-of-color feminism.
“The course speaks to topic and concerns that a broad range of students are finding more and more interesting and important to their own intellectual development — questions of immigration, reproductive justice, and indigenous sovereignty,” HoSang said. “The College needs more robust offerings in this area to meet this demand, and this class is one of the few classes students can turn to.”
HoSang attributed increased student interest to the “political climate,” among other factors.
Last year, 13 senior faculty members withdrew from the Ethnicity, Race and Migration program, citing lack of University support for the program. Following an outpouring of student and faculty activism, the University formally allocated five faculty positions to the unit, prompting the faculties’ return.
Still, students and faculty said that the University’s final concession was not enough. Many call for further allocation of resources to studies in racial and gender theory.
“Yale should acknowledge and embrace the growth of the ER&M major and of interest in ER&M more broadly […],” said Nash Keyes ’21, who was seventh on the waiting list for a section in “Race, Politics, and the Law” last week. “ER&M isn’t going anywhere except up & out, and Yale needs to allocate its resources accordingly to uplift the knowledge of the most marginalized people in our nation’s history.”
According to Justin Randolph GRD ’20 — one of 11 TFs for the course — last week, all of the sections were overbooked and in many cases close to double-booked. At one point, one of his two sections — which are each capped at 18 — had over 40 students trying to enroll.
The course originally had five TFs before increasing to nine and finally eleven, when two sections were added last week.
“There is never a shortage of qualified people in the graduate school willing to teach,” Randolph said. “It’s completed manufactured scarcity if administration says there aren’t enough people to teach the class.”
Randolph and HoSang both affirmed the wide interest from graduate students in teaching the course.
Other classes, like “Sickness and Health in African American History,” taught by Professor Carolyn Roberts, drew a similar, unexpected uptick in student interest, drawing the attention of 357 students. While the demand was relatively low last year — less than 100 students — the University managed to accommodate student interest.
Roberts declined to comment, citing inexperience in interacting with the administration on issues related to class size.
Professor HoSang encouraged other departments to take up the mantle in offering classes in areas of racial and gender theory.
“The discussion of ER&M highlighted student need and interest in courses such as these,” he said. “But there are many other departments in the College that should be offering courses in this area — social sciences, humanities.”
Keyes agreed that the topics addressed by the class are relevant to every Yale student.
“The topic of race, politics and the law is really pressing and present in our lives as college students in a campus and a country where race and political relations are constantly sites of contention, conflict, and oppression,” Keyes said. “Both for ER&M-inclined folks and STEM folks like me, this class is very needed and compelling because it gives us the knowledge and context to deal with the tensions present in our society and the tools to imagine a better future for ourselves and our society.”
HoSang did not feel “cynical” about the process but pointed out the amount of labor that falls on individual faculty to adjust to unexpected class sizes during shopping period.
He specifically noted the difficulties of finding funding and rooms to accommodate a larger class.
“It raises the question of the larger availability of classes that address issues of law and social inequality, since no single class can cover this need,” HoSang said. “I don’t feel frustrated or cynical by this process but it’s an early indication of the need to address this issue.”
Race, Politics and the Law meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Samuel Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org