–by Alexandria Buller, a senior global studies major from Newton, Kansas.
Minority histories are often-ignored pieces of the American story. I would like to address African American history in particular due to ACU’s history of systematic exclusion of this group, with the hope that this can be the beginning of honoring the histories of all minorities on campus.
Since ACU began admitting African American students in 1962, the university has grown more diverse, and organizations on campus have demonstrated a commitment to facilitating further diversity. While this is certainly progress, one area presents a glaring disparity: academics. This year, ACU offered African American History for the first time ever. The class has been a success, with a larger-than-normal class size for history and half non-major students. It is clearly something students want and it brings revenue to the university (with an average of $500 per credit hour, the tuition paid for this class is more
than some professors make in a semester).
Though a triumph in itself, the class is being taught by Jeremy Elliott, an English professor, who said, “This was one of my minor fields. I feel like the academic equivalent of a first responder. We need a proper doctor here.”
This gap in education is embarrassing; one of ACU’s five strategic goals is diversity, but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency for expanding classwork to reflect this goal. It is imperative that ACU teaches African American history, not just to expand our understanding of the subject, but also because this history is fundamentally American history. Many students have little to no knowledge of the history of race in America. We have failed to equip students to think about these things, and it is impossible to address contemporary racial issues without a deeper understanding of our past.
I recently heard Reverend James Lawson, a leader during the Civil Rights Movement, speak. He stated, “Whether we like it or not, we cannot fully recapture the past. But we must recapture enough so we can be better humans today and avoid the same mistakes.” ACU has not done enough to recapture our own racial history and the larger American narrative. The university gives lip-service to expanding diversity, but we can’t seem to find the money to hire a qualified professor to teach African American history. We need to hire diverse faculty to teach this class and others like it, lest we implicate ourselves in a toxic moderation that goes nowhere.