by Hope Guzzle
Today it is impossible to ignore the social mobilization and desire for change that has overtaken America in the past few weeks. From activists demanding that we defund and disband the police to GOP politicians actually acknowledging that police brutality is an issue, there seems to be a change in how Americans are discussing systematic oppression of BIPOC communities. However one place where this change is not happening is at Fordham University. Yes, we did get a vague statement from Father McShane and a Black Lives Matter banner outside of Murray-Weigel Hall, but that was it. No actual change was implemented: the university gates are still closed, local Bronx residents are vilified by public safety’s rhetoric, and we still have ties to the NYPD. As a Primarily White Institution, or PWI, we must examine how we can work with the Bronx community and not against them. Fordham must alter their curriculum to better teach social awareness to their often privileged and overwhelmingly white student body.
For many Fordham students it can feel like the Bronx exists merely between Belmont and the D train, which completely disregards the rich culture that surrounding neighborhoods offer. Instead of encouraging students to explore Fordham gives presentations that discourage walking alone in the Bronx and not exploring the borough that the school calls home. A quick look at the Public Safety website tells students to rely on the Ram Van and to exclusively travel in groups. Herein it is on Fordham to go beyond changing their rhetoric regarding the Bronx but to encourage students to understand and embrace the neighborhood Fordham calls home by requiring all students to partake in some form of community based learning. As of now the best example of this would be the Urban Plunge program which allows students to go into the neighborhoods surrounding both campuses and to see what living in New York is like. However the issue lies in the fact that this is a program that one must volunteer for, many people who chose to sign up for this program are already interested in helping the community, if Fordham wanted to inform students who were not already engaged they would institute an Urban Plunge-esque program into freshman and transfer orientations.
Fordham will frequently dispute the claims that they do not encourage students to see outside the Fordham bubble by pointing to the fact that they require FCRH and FCLC to take Globalism and American Pluralism credits in order to graduate. However what they fail to acknowledge is the sheer breadth of classes that meet these requirements, including Understanding Historical Change classes, classes that are regularly taught at too low a level to authentically encourage the discourse needed to create the meaningful dialogues that these classes claim to foster. If our university would like to make a good faith effort in their work to make a positive difference in both their students’ lives and the world, they cannot allow any class that merely mentions diversity to count for these credits. These classes should be more than another box for students to check off before they graduate, these should be classes specifically formulated to challenge the way that they think. This is not to say that many classes offered do not do this, many do, but it is important to make sure that every class offered to fulfill this credit is able to have a comprehensive discussion about diverse ideas that students may not find in other classes.
Another pitfall of Fordham’s argument in favor of Globalism and American Pluralism is that not all students are required to take these classes, Gabelli students are not required to take either of these credits. While I understand that Gabelli students do not have the same liberal arts core as other students, and it would make little sense if they did, they do still take some core classes including a fine arts class, two philosophy classes, and two theology classes. While these classes may have value, appreciating art and learning how to argue are definitely useful skills in life, and sure religion, they will never alter a person’s worldview as much as learning new perspectives will.
There are many changes that Fordham needs to implement, however very few will change the actual culture of the campus without also changing the minds of the student body first. The job of a college or university is to both give an education and to instill the values of the institution onto their students. So until Fordham changes their curriculum one question remains: does Fordham actually value the world outside of the gates or do they just want to help another wealthy, white student get a job at Goldman?