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Wednesday, August 5

Today's Paper

SPIA adds diversity course requirement and announces ‘comprehensive review’ of core curriculum

<h6>Robertson Hall, home of the School of Public and International Affairs.</h6>
<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Robertson Hall, home of the School of Public and International Affairs.
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

The Master in Public Affairs (MPA) program at the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) will adopt a mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum requirement this fall, according to an email sent to MPA students. 

Administrators wrote that faculty members see the DEI requirement as “an interim measure,” and the SPIA plans a comprehensive review of “every element” of the core curriculum. 

This move comes in response to a protracted campaign, orchestrated by the school’s graduate students, to implement the DEI requirement. It also follows the University’s June 27 decision to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, from the school. Several days before the school’s renaming, over 500 graduate students and alumni signed an open letter to University and SPIA administrators, which demanded curricular change, among other measures.

“We are grateful to the students who advocated to keep this issue as a priority, and we thank the faculty and staff who have considered these matters carefully and ensured proper implementation,” Acting Dean of the SPIA Mark Watson, SPIA Dean Cecilia Rouse (on leave), and SPIA Vice Dean Miguel Centeno wrote to MPA students.

According to this email, the new requirement mandates that MPA students take at a minimum one half-term course from a pre-approved list of classes that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The course list for the fall will be made available later this summer.

Wendy Gomez GS, a rising second-year MPA student and student government curriculum representative, told The Daily Princetonian that the decision surprised her.

“I’m happy to see the policy school making progress with their promise that they would seriously consider substantive changes other than the name change,” Gomez said. “We know, and past students have known, that if the school is really committed to training policy leaders they need to teach us the context of systemic racism and policies that address the roots of racism. This is one step in that direction."

Second-year MPA student and co-chair of the University’s Policy Student Government Nathan Babb GS, however, characterized the University’s response as “delayed.” 

Earlier this year, Babb helped present a report to administrators, which explained that over 75 percent of the student population supported the curricular addition. Among students of color, low-income students, and LGBTQ+ students, support was even higher.

Graduate students hold signs reading “Vote Yes on DEI” in February.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Charlop-Powers

Still, Babb considered the move a “welcome step.”

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Several students viewed the move as an encouraging sign, but emphasized that work is yet to be done. According to the letter signed by Watson, Rouse, and Centeno, SPIA faculty members concur.

“The faculty sees this DEI requirement as an interim measure, believing that a better approach is to determine how to incorporate DEI into the broader core,” they wrote. “However, we understand that while a full review takes at least a year, the need for this class is imminent.”

“That said, we have begun the work of reviewing the entire core and plan a comprehensive review of every element (economics, politics, psychology, and statistics), including how we teach issues related to DEI and other important topics not currently covered,” the administrators added.

The petitioning students’ anti-racist demands for the school also include paying reparations to descendants of slaves owned by past University presidents and trustees, defunding public safety in favor of other campus services, establishing a Center for Anti-Racist policy, and deliberately hiring more Black faculty. 

In response to the DEI decision, student activists from the Princeton Policy School Demands Group reiterated their full list of demands.

Centeno, Watson, and Rouse are working to meet with the graduate petitioners this week, according to Deputy University Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss.

“We share your desire to have a curriculum that addresses our divided societies, racism, and injustice and provides you with tools to promote equitable and inclusive policies in a fraught and complex world,“ Watson, Rouse, and Centeno wrote to students on Monday.

A group of undergraduates released similar demands a day before the graduate student letter, calling for the school to enact curricular change, hire more Black faculty, and formally divest from private prisons, among other measures.

Hotchkiss told the ‘Prince’ that Centeno and Watson met with the undergraduate petitioners last week.

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