The University of Leeds has been criticised for axing modules concerned with gender, race, and colonialism. Their decision has been described as ‘tone-deaf and disrespectful’ and was taken without consulting students.
Schools involved in this include the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), the School of Sociology and Social Policy (SSP) and the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. Students first heard of modules being dropped on July 1 st . It is expected other schools will act in accordance for the upcoming academic year.
Outraged by this move, POLIS students Freya Curtis, Eleanor Noyce and Victoria Pearce wrote an open letter to Deputy Vice Chancellor Tom Ward calling for the university to ‘review and reverse’ their decision.
The letter gathered nearly 100 signatures from fellow POLIS students and describes the amended module catalogue as ‘Eurocentric, westernised and whitewashed’.
Freya Curtis told the Gryphon that “modules such as ‘Reimagining Politics: Race, Gender and Popular Culture’ helped people make their decision to study in Leeds. “I was one of these people and I had been looking forward to this module throughout my university career.”
“Within political science, it is easy to forget the less ‘traditional’ areas such as this, in favour of theory or British politics, both which tend to favour and cover cisgender, heterosexual white men over any other group in society.”
The letter also criticises the university for failing to communicate with and support students in the aftermath of this decision, especially in light of a global health concern and one of the ‘biggest social and political movements’ of our lifetime.
Fellow organiser Eleanor Noyce told the Gryphon, after several meetings with the university and POLIS, Reimagining Politics had successfully been reinstated. In these meetings the university had justified their descion to cut modules across the board (not just in POLIS) as a means to account for the lack of students attending this year and potential staff sickness.
A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “We are committed to creating an environment that meets the needs and aspirations of students and staff from all backgrounds. This includes providing an inclusive, research-led curriculum while developing and retaining a talented workforce with increased diversity at all levels.”
“While modules may fluctuate each year, an ongoing review of course content across the University includes a focus on decolonizing the curriculum.” This refers to the University’s Race Equality Action Plan.
The plan, instigated in February this year, aims to create a long-lasting cultural change throughout the university by fostering a “culture of inclusion, respect and equality of opportunity for all”. This includes curriculum change. The open letter asks if “the removal of the modules … the sort of progression in curriculum change” that the university promised.
The letter criticises the university for failing to deliver on it’s plan and highlights the lack of diversity in and support for staff and student communities, as well as a lack of specialist staff for modules on gender, race, and colonialism.
Freya said to the Gryphon: “It exposes a fundamental flaw in the department that there are simply not enough experts in less traditional fields of political science.”
“This year has been unprecedented and will go down in history as such, I just wish that the by-products of this for the department and university were handled much better.”
Freya and fellow organisers would like to thank LUU for their support during this campaign, the POLIS course rep with whom they worked closely with and members of staff who listened and helped to the best of their ability.
You can read the open letter here.
Image credit: University of Leeds website.