Some professors at Seattle University have come out in support of a student protest about curriculum. The students have called for more diverse material, and fewer books by “dead white men.” The campus sit-in is now in week three.
About 20 students sprawl out around desks and cubicles where staff typically sit. It’s an occupation of Matteo Ricci College – a small humanities school at Seattle University. First year student Jasmine Waland shows me around.
Jones: “You’ve covered up this painting of…"
Waland: "An old white man. Yeah, that’s Matteo Ricci.”
A photo of black author Zora Neale Hurston is now taped up over the Jesuit priest.
Students say the curriculum here needs an overhaul and more focus on current authors of color and diverse backgrounds.
Waland: “I personally am a future teacher so in that position I’d like to be knowledgeable on these topics.”
Waland reads a few titles from the library they’ve set up here.
Waland: “The autobiography of Malcolm X. And we have Pablo Neruda.”
Professor Serena Cosgrove walks through the occupation to get to her office. She teaches at Matteo Ricci.
She shares the students’ concerns. And this week, Cosgrove and three fellow professors - Emily Lieb, Benjamin Howe and Audrey Hudgins - spoke out to school administrators.
Cosgrove: “We don’t have a student problem, we have a leadership problem. And that is something the university needs to address before we can move forward.”
Cosgrove and her colleagues have called for a transparent review of the leadership and curriculum.
The students want Matteo Ricci’s dean to step down. Seattle University's President, Stephen Sundborg, says that’s an unacceptable demand.
But the university has outlined steps to review the curriculum and also the culture there, since some students and staff have alleged incidents of racism, sexism and bias.
Cosgrove says she’s proud to see the students take a stand at this college and at others around the country.
Cosgrove: “As educators, we need to respond to what our students are asking of us. And really rethink how we do what we do.”