By Andrew West | Illustration by Daniel de Koning
This project was inspired by the work of Professor Ratchford and each student that has passed through the Introduction to REMS course and pored through the archives for their final project to study the nature of race, gender, and equity at the college. Before the anti-racism report was even conceived of, Professor Ratchford, as well as REMS majors, minors, and other interested students, have been doing this anti-racism work through these projects. Now, we seek to share these important stories with the Colorado College community. If you took part in the Introduction to REMS course or have completed a project into the issue of equity in CC’s history, please email email@example.com for submissions or questions.
During my first year in Introduction to the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, I had the opportunity to trace the history of ethnic studies at Colorado College from its roots to the formation of the REMS major. I was curious to see how Colorado College’s program has developed over time and how it compares to ethnic studies programs at other colleges throughout the country. My studies focused on primary source documents from the Tutt Library archives, including class listings, department meeting notes, syllabi, and workshops, among others.
Amid the energy of the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests throughout the 1960s, a wave of American college students stood up for equal opportunities in education. Students at San Francisco State University participated in strikes and advocated for more faculty of color and a program of Ethnic Studies that would celebrate Asian, Black, Chicano and Native American culture and honor non-Western and non-traditional methodologies. This eventually led to the formation of an Ethnic Studies program and inspired other universities to implement similar programs. At CC, however, the development of Ethnic Studies has followed a slower trajectory, and classes pertaining to the studies of marginalized groups and race relations have unfortunately been few and far between.
For example, one class that was offered early on in the school’s history was “Race Relations,” which, according to the 1926 course catalog, looked at contact and conflict between “selected groups, such as Japanese, Mexicans and Negroes.” The “Race Relations” class was the only class that confronted issues of race between 1926 and 1945, and despite being listed in the course catalog perennially, it was offered infrequently. This class can be traced all the way until the late 1970s, as it changed to “Race and Minority Groups” in 1947, then to “Minorities and Majorities” in 1972. The course descriptions for the three variations of this class are very similar in wording, indicating that there was little change in the class over the 50 years that it was taught.
While few classes were offered, this is not to say that there was no demand. Groups like the Black Student Union advocated for change on campus and made requests to improve the quantity and quality of Black Studies courses, as well as increase diversity at the college. Not only did the organization call for change, it offered to play an active role in the recruitment of faculty of color and wished to be informed of any position openings that needed to be filled.
Despite this push from the BSU, as well as other students and professors, no unified program for ethnic studies was developed until the 1990s. In 1991, a proposal for an American Ethnic Studies program was written. This first described the necessity for its creation, then went on to outline a major and a minor, as well as the need for faculty and institutional support. The proposal included statements from various groups on campus. The call for better programs by students and faculty of color drew attention to the issue and was ultimately a large contributing factor in the acceptance of the proposal and the founding of American Ethnic Studies in 1992. Following the program’s acceptance, a seminar was conducted to educate the members of CC’s program on how to teach Ethnic Studies more effectively. The collaborative process yielded a syllabus for the introduction class as well as goals for the program.
From there, the name was changed first to American Cultural Studies, then again to Race and Ethnic Studies in 2009, but remained a thematic minor. Introduction to the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity was proposed in 2011 to examine differences between peoples of different races and ethnicity and expand the Race and Ethnic Studies program. In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 course catalogs, the program was given its own section as a department and had listings for courses that fit the program. Finally, in 2016-17, Race Ethnicity and Migration Studies officially became a major and minor at CC.
This project showed me the important role that students and faculty played in the development of an Ethnic Studies program at CC and indicates that calls for improvement must continue if the program is to develop. I’d like to give a big shoutout to Dr. Jamal Ratchford for his support throughout this project and would recommend any readers to take his classes and do a project like this for yourself!