Faculty Approves New Comparative Race & Ethnicity Major

Interdisciplinary program may graduate its first cohort as soon as 2020.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | March 5, 2018

The Reed faculty voted unanimously to approve an interdisciplinary major in comparative race and ethnicity studies (CRES) at its meeting on Monday night.

“This is an exciting and overdue addition to the Reed curriculum,” says Prof. Nigel Nicholson, dean of the faculty. “A new position will provide new offerings and create a stronger structure for organizing existing offerings, so that we can better nurture the work on race and ethnicity that many Reed students are keen to pursue.”

As part of the new program, Reed will offer a junior seminar to equip students with the conceptual and methodological tools to pursue the subject. Students majoring in CRES will be required to complete six units across three fields; a foundational course; the junior seminar; and four additional units in their home departments. They will also need to meet standard Reed requirements, such as passing a junior qualifying exam and writing a senior thesis.

Planning for the new CRES program began in 2011, responding to longstanding interest on the part of students. In recent years, scores of seniors have written theses on topics such as language and identity in the poetry of Langston Hughes, discourse and disruption in the novels of Sherman Alexie, African immigration and assimilation in Portland, the economics of Native American reservations, the experience of Muslim Turks in Germany, the politics of affirmative action, and the debate over “veiling.”

The program gathered momentum in 2017 after the Student Committee on Academic Planning and Policy submitted a report to the faculty identifying CRES as its top priority. The Faculty Committee on Academic Planning and Policy endorsed the proposal in September 2017, declaring the field to be a “fundamental area of inquiry in contemporary academics.” Student protesters also joined the debate, lending their voices and adding a sense of urgency to the discussion.

The faculty anticipates that the first set of majors may graduate as early as Spring 2020.

Tags: Academics, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Institutional, Professors