May-June 2017 As part of the merger many evening course offerings are eliminated. No core Bible classes are initially scheduled in the evenings time slots. This is an issue that impacts the students along racial lines because a majority of African descent students exclusively utilize the evening courses to complete their degrees as these students often have family/work commitments that exclude them from daytime courses. In response to these changes many emails are written to the Deans and Student Executive leaders (2017/2018 President and Vice President of student body).
Here is an excerpt from one of these emails to give an idea of the concerns voiced by students:
I’ve been blessed this past year by experiences that in my opinion could not be duplicated at any other ELCA seminary. I want more of these experiences in the ULS for myself and my peers. I will briefly describe three of these experiences as examples of what the new curriculum should include in its aim. Experience #1: this was the first time in my life where I was the only white, male, lutheran student in a classroom (African American Worship Traditions with Dr. Croft). I grew up attending both Lutheran and public schools in the midwest. In all of my previous formal classroom settings I was always part of the majority class, race and religious tradition. My experience in a majority African American class with an African American professor is an experience I want all of my white peers to have so that they may be better equipped to serve the diverse communities to which we may be called. Experience #2: in an Old Testament course which was split evenly between students of African American and European American descent Dr. Robinson allowed our class to struggle through a conversation about race, advocacy, privilege, welcome, and safety in the light of Donald Trump’s recent election. Though the conversation had little to do with the lecture that night, it was the conversation that our diverse community needed that night, and it bonded us as peers in a way that is still bearing fruit. Experience #3: in a Pastoral Care course which was again split evenly between students of color and white students Dr. Swain allowed us to wrestle with the diverse implications of how we (as current and future pastors) deal with having to call “the man / child protective services” and how our racially divided communities have come to very different conclusions to this situation due to privilege and systematic institutional racism…
I see a real and dangerous potential that if this curriculum is not expanded before the 2017 fall semester then ULS will begin to institutionalize an unintentional classroom segregation that the former LTSP curriculum intentionally tried to dismantle. It is my opinion that in order to maintain and grow a diverse student body we need to maintain and grow a diverse class schedule that has fewer prerequisites and more opportunities to take both core courses and elective courses throughout the seminary experience… Furthermore, ULS has a unique opportunity to facilitate the building of bridges between denominations for generations of current and future church leaders. One way to do this with intention would be to include more courses throughout the year that bring diverse student interests into classrooms together. Will the faculty consider adding more Black Church concentration courses to the yearly schedule as was the case in the former LTSP curriculum? Will the faculty please consider adding courses that speak to other areas of our diverse student body like theological study from LGBTQ perspectives? Will the faculty consider adding courses that speak to the growing wave of violence and white supremacy that has deep roots in rural communities? These proposed courses, along side of our Bible, history, and preaching courses should be the hallmarks of a “better” curriculum, and I look forward to seeing them within our course catalog in the future. …Please share this message with whomever you feel might add to this ongoing conversation.
Rather than acknowledging the overarching issues of systemic racism being woven into the new curriculum, the response of Dean Largen and Dean Sebastian is to make patches to the upcoming fall schedule with no public commitment to permanently instituting these changes into the new curriculum. This approach does not account for the systemic nature of the racism students experience at ULS as the new institution begins to take shape. One of the proposed policies in the ULS Policy Survey seeks to address this ongoing systemic issue in the ULS community.
This announcement is part of the timeline of racism at United Lutheran Seminary