Laurier Brantford offers only two courses on black history this year

Although Laurier Brantford is hosting a film series and a public lecture to celebrate Black History Month in February, the campus offered just two black history courses in the 2015-16 academic year.

The campus’s history program offers three courses about black history, according to program co-ordinator Geoff Spurr.

“We do teach specific courses on Africa and African Americans, just nothing is being offered…this year,” said Spurr. He said most history courses are offered on a two- to three-year rotation, except for many first-year courses.

Next year, the history program plans to offer two courses on black history: The African American Experience Since 1871 (HI 331) and War and Society in Africa (HI 306). “Well, that’s the plan, to offer it next year. It’s based on enrollment; sometimes you don’t get the enrollment. But I think that one will be quite popular,” said Spurr.

When asked, Lauren Burrows, education and inclusion co-ordinator at the Brantford campus’s diversity office, said she did not know how many courses the university offered on black history. But she said it was important for the school to offer them.

“I think there should be more courses about black history, race and gender because they all intersection,” said Burrows. “We are all race.”

Spurr acknowledged the university is aware of the small number of black history courses offered and would like to increase them. Spurr said there are a few challenges the program has encountered that prevent it from offering more black history courses.

“We don’t actually have any specialists in African or African American history here. We have six faculty members, but four of them are cross-listed or cross-appointed,” which means they teach in multiple programs, he said.

The lack of black history courses has been discussed inside the department, including when they had the opportunity to hire a new faculty member three years ago. The program weighed hiring a specialist in Asia, Africa and Latin American history. Ultimately, a specialist in Asian history was hired. The program hopes its next hire will address the need for a specialist in black history.

“We thought there was a huge gap in terms of Asia. We didn’t have anyone teaching Asian history and we had very few faculty with any kind of specialty in Asia. It was a tough decision and we kind of went that route. Hoping that if we got a future hire we would do it in Africa,” said Spurr.

A second challenge is the requirements placed on history students to graduate. They must take a certain number of courses in three categories: premodern, modern and global history. Certain black history courses do not fit into any requirements meaning history students will only receive an elective credit instead of receiving credit for a premodern, modern or global history course.

As part of Black History Month, the history program welcomed Dana E. Weiner to the Brantford campus on Feb. 12. Weiner is a specialist in African American history and will discuss researching the topic with students.

To celebrate Black History month, Laurier Brantford student organization SOUL is running a film series on black history. SOUL showed the 2014 satirical drama “Dear White People” on Feb. 8th, as the second of three movies it is showing during the month. After the film, the 32 people in attendance participated in a discussion moderated by student Justin Manning.

“I was pleased with the turnout for the event and the number of people who stayed and didn’t just take food and leave. I hope the people who stayed learned something tonight,” said Manning following the discussion.

The third and final film in SOUL’s month-long series is “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson, the first player to break baseball’s colour barrier. It will be shown on Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. in RCW 202.

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