Race and law: A look at UC Berkeley’s newest summer minor program

Joshua Jordan/Senior Staff

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Starting this summer, UC Berkeley undergraduate students will be able to receive a summer minor in race and law, jointly offered by the African American studies and ethnic studies departments.

According to professor Stephen Small, a co-chair of the curriculum committee in the African American studies department, the minor has been under consideration for a couple of years and has been officially in development for 18 months. He said the minor will provide “insights” into the way the criminal justice system shapes the lives of people of color today.

“The goal of the minor is to fill in gaps that are missing in the curriculum offered on campus for people of color,” Small said. “There’s a lot of student interest, and we hope to be able to meet the changing interests of students.”

The minor was initially proposed to Berkeley Summer Sessions by Shari Huhndorf, chair of the ethnic studies department, and Leigh Raiford, who was chair of the African American studies department at the time but is currently on sabbatical.

Currently, the minor requires two core courses and three elective courses. The two core courses are AAS 136L, or Criminal Justice and Surveillance in America, and ES 144AC, or Racism and the U.S. Law. ES 144AC was offered for the first time in summer 2016, while AAS 136 was renewed in fall 2017 after being discontinued in 1996.

Huhndorf said she and Raiford started the process, and Ula Taylor, the current chair of the African American studies department, helped Raiford flesh out the minor’s curriculum over the past year.

“(Raiford) and I have worked to find ways to create joint programs and events for our students, so we have that history together,” Huhndorf said. “It seems like there’s a lot of excitement about it among students and graduate students.”

Small said different elective courses will be offered each year, and student advisors will be available to prospective students to help them decide which courses are best for them. Potential course topics include the relationships between race and immigration, citizenship and environmental justice.

The program will be open to non-UC Berkeley students, including international students, who can receive a certificate in race and law. UC Berkeley students who do not wish to pursue the minor or certificate can enroll in these courses, as none of the courses listed will have prerequisites.

“Many students are drawn to our majors as a means to gain tools that will help them serve and strengthen their communities and make positive change in the world,” said the proposal drafted by Huhndorf and Raiford. “Because of the timeliness of these issues, we anticipate that the minor will generate significant interest.”

Contact Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected].