Faculty Vote for Comprehensive Curriculum Review and New Graduate DEI Requirement

Robertson Hall
Jul 08 2020
By Sarah M. Binder

Faculty at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs voted last week to implement a mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) course requirement for Master in Public Affairs (MPA) students. This new requirement is a temporary measure, as the School carries out an extensive review of the MPA core curriculum. These efforts — in conjunction with the School’s recent name change — aim to carefully examine how the School supports DEI, and ensure the core curricula reflect the School's mission statement and current scholarship.

The faculty decision to implement a mandatory DEI course for graduate students occurred shortly after the Princeton Board of Trustees voted to remove “Woodrow Wilson” from the School’s name, marking the first crucial step in clearly identifying, denouncing, and working to dismantle racism and other systemic injustices both at Princeton and within society.

“While removing the name Woodrow Wilson from our School was a vital change, our efforts to dismantle systemic racism must be introspective and ongoing. This reflection begins at the heart of what we do: teaching prospective policy leaders how to tackle complex challenges and deeply rooted divisions in society,” said Dean Cecilia Rouse (currently on leave). “More changes will come as we take a holistic approach to ensuring our School truly welcomes, supports, and prepares all students to combat systemic injustices.”

Beginning with the class arriving this fall, MPA students will be required to take at least one half-term course from an approved list, a requirement that can be met during their two years in the MPA program.

“I’ve had the privilege of working closely with many past and current graduate students on their ideas and feedback for reforming the School’s curriculum,” said Vice Dean Miguel Centeno, who also chairs the School’s Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “I feel deep gratitude for their tireless advocacy efforts and passion. We’ll continue seeking input on how all aspects of our curriculum can be revised to reflect the School’s core values and scholarship from diverse voices.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students launched petitions this summer, calling on the School to address DEI more constructively in its curriculum and programming. “I stand alongside our students in their desire to have a curriculum that comprehensively and honestly addresses our divided societies, systemic racism, and injustice in all forms,” said Acting Dean Mark Watson. “Our aim is to have students emerge from the School equipped with the tools required to create and implement policies that foster justice and wellbeing for all citizens.”

In addressing both the undergraduate and graduate core curricula, the School will engage faculty, administrators, students, and alumni. The efforts will be a part of Dean Rouse’s larger plan to meet President Eisgruber’s call to his cabinet to think creatively and broadly about how to address racism and injustice, both at Princeton and in the wider world.