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New 'Power, Inequity, and Justice' Requirement Approved by Bryn Mawr's Faculty

May 10, 2022

Bryn Mawr’s faculty have approved a new 'Power, Inequity, and Justice' requirement that will be in place when the Class of 2027 arrives on campus in August of 2023.

“Our curriculum needs to foreground more explicitly a basic ethical component of a 21st-century education: an understanding of the ways that power dynamics and hierarchies shape the production of knowledge and access to opportunity, as well as engagement with histories and futures of social transformation and justice,” wrote the members of the Curriculum Committee in their proposal to the faculty on the requirement.

The committee acknowledged the valuable teaching, research, and learning that is already happening at Bryn Mawr that engages the issues addressed by the requirement and expressed the hope that the new requirement would “recognize, support, and build on that ongoing work, while articulating priorities around which further support can be provided to faculty and students to creatively, productively, and collaboratively explore these issues.”

Concerns about academic freedom were also addressed by the committee, which stated that the “new requirement should emerge organically from faculty interests and expertise, and not be used to prescribe particular content, methods, or perspectives ….”

The new requirement will be similar to existing distributional requirements in structure. It will be a one-unit College-wide distributional requirement fulfilled by taking a single course that focuses on issues of power, inequity, and justice.

The Curriculum Committee undertook a year-long process in creating its proposal. This included discussing different possibilities for content-based approaches to education on issues of power, inequity, and justice; gathering and evaluating relevant courses and requirements in place or being developed at other institutions; consulting with a Working Group of faculty and students appointed by President Kim Cassidy in Fall 2021; consulting with faculty, students, and relevant campus organizations (undertaken by the committee in Spring 2021 and by the Working Group in Fall 2021); and eliciting from faculty syllabi and descriptions of courses that they would propose to be counted toward this new requirement.

“The thoughtful conversations we had with students, faculty, and various campus groups over the past year generated many different ideas and creative visions for ways to provide new curricular and extracurricular learning opportunities around issues of power, inequity, and justice, including some that go beyond what is feasible to implement as a graduation requirement,” says Associate Professor of Anthropology Amanda Weidman, who chaired the committee this year. “We’re hopeful that the requirement can be a base upon which further initiatives can be developed.”

The 2021-22 membership of Curriculum Committee was: Associate Professor of Anthropology Amanda Weidman, Chair; Associate Professor of History Anita Kurimay, Associate Professor of Philosophy Collin Rice, Associate Professor of German Qinna Shen; and Professor of History of Art Alicia Walker. Ex officio members: Associate Provost and Professor of Political Science Michael Allen, Kirsten O’Beirne, Registrar; Judy Balthazar, Dean of Studies; and Jennifer Walters, Dean of the Undergraduate College.