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University implements race relations and policing course requirement

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Posted at 11:28 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 14:28:24-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The legacy of George Floyd continues to be shaped as universities develop courses on race, Black lives, and policing.

“In order for us to be more effective in preparing students for the future, we have to prepare them for these very difficult conversations that most institutions are too afraid to engage," said Luke Wood, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and campus diversity and chief diversity officer at San Diego State University (SDSU).

Just 10 days after Floyd’s death, faculty leaders unanimously approved a resolution to improve law enforcement training and create new courses on race and policing.

“What happened after the murder of George Floyd, a lot of institutions, they released really nice statements, right? Saying, 'we stand with our Black community,'" said Wood. "But they didn't do anything other than just release a statement.”

Effective this fall, race relations coursework will be required for criminal justice students.

“We have, kind of, a philosophy: we don't just release statements unless there's actions to go along with it," said Wood.

While courses are still being developed, students can fulfill the requirement by taking an existing course offered through the Africana Studies Department.

“The campus wanted to have a response, and this was an opportunity for the campus to respond," said Wood.

Wood says at least 30 institutions from around the country have reached out asking for guidance on similar reforms.

“One of the reasons that we wanted to do the requirement wasn't just for San Diego State, but was to signal to other institutions across the country that this is something you should do," said Wood.

The resolution also directs SDSU to offer a free or low-cost course to law enforcement officers across the nation on race relations and policing.

“It can’t just be on the front end. It has to be continuous, especially because the issues that we're looking at, they continue to evolve. Communities continue to be affected in different ways," Wood explained.

He hopes other departments within the university, like health care and education, will eventually offer similar courses.

Wood says the new coursework is only one piece of a larger action plan; the university's Ten Point Plan aims to better support Black students, faculty, and staff.

"For us, it’s about wide-sweeping changes to address systemic issues," said Wood. "It's happening. It's going into effect, and it's not going to be something three years down the road. It’s something that is happening right now.”