Change the UF required course to ANT3451: Race and Racism

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I write to the University of Florida, urging you to use this time to make larger steps towards a better future for both UF and for the world. As one of the top public schools in the nation, we not only have the opportunity to teach and transform the future generations of America's leaders, but we also have the opportunity to act as a role model and example for other universities across the United States, with hopes that they will follow suit.

Our own demographic breakdown shows that white students make up a 56.62% majority of the student body at UF. Black or African American students make up only 6.97% of the student body. How is the University of Florida supposed to offer a quality education and adequately prepare students for their future when our demographics are not representative of the society we live in? How are students supposed to learn about other backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives when we are surrounded by a white majority? 

President Fuchs said it himself: "I ask everyone at UF, and throughout the Gator Nation, to consider their actions, sphere of influence, and how they can personally be part of positive change. Take time to listen to those affected and to engage in self-reflection and education around these issues." 

We are a strong university. We have a large sphere of influence. We have the resources to help every student at the University of Florida be part of positive change. We have the courses and professors to teach students about these issues, and engage them in self-reflection.

What I am asking of UF is this: I believe that the required freshman course should be changed to ANT3451: Race and Racism. Currently, the required course is IDS1161: What is the Good Life. Of all the courses I had the honor of taking during my time here, this was one of the least influential. I barely even remember it. Comparatively, I can vividly remember so many of the discussions, exercises, and topics that we spoke about in my Race and Racism course. It offered a safe space for individuals of every race and background to speak up about issues and ask difficult questions. We were able to hold safe arguments, listen to the individual plights of our peers, and learn how to keep an open mind to the life experiences of those around us. I was able to ask my minority peers what I can do to help as an ally. I was able to feel comfortable enough to express the guilt I feel as a white person who benefits enormously from white privilege. It was a safe space for white students, Black or African American students, Hispanic or Latino students, Asian students, Native American students, Pacific Islander students, and all of the students in between to share dialogue about the systemic racism that plagues our country.  

I understand that there are always issues with courses. There will be some students who fail to participate or who do not contribute to the discussion in a positive light. There could be fights or anger or ignorance. But, even still, those are representative of the world around us. There will always be opposing opinions, violence, and, most of all, ignorance. However, implementing ANT3451: Race and Racism as the required freshman course is one step that you can take to combat ignorance. To combat racism. To combat police brutality and lynching and white supremacy. You are leading a student body that will make the next generations. You are leading a student body that is heading into the workforce. You are leading a student body that is able to vote, has a large sphere of influence, and resides at a university where we have abundant resources.

I urge you to make change. We cannot speak out about an issue and then sit back and hope our words will instigate change; only actions can do that. So, I urge you, and even beg of you, to change the required freshman course, but, even beyond that, to use your platform, your sphere of influence, and your abundantly resourceful university to make change.