Brown University offered a new class to minority students only, a decision that prompted a backlash.
In May, the Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island, began offering a teacher training class on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), but students were only permitted to enroll if they identified as black, indigenous, or Latino.
An anonymous Brown student attempted to enroll in the class but was denied because they do not identify as BIPOC. The student pushed back and raised the alarm, filing a complaint with the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR).
“Brown is offering a RACE-BASED teacher training program that is ONLY open to certain demographics (black, latino, indigenous),” the student wrote in their May 13 complaint.
“This is a return to educational segregation based on skin color,” the student wrote.
The student said that the teachers of this particular class would also be BIPOC.
The certificate program also offers financial aid to the BIPOC students but does not offer such assistance to white and Asian students who may not be able to afford the program either, the student claimed.
“This results in certain demographics being favored over others and is discriminatory,” the student wrote.
“As a student of the program, I find myself being unable to continue my training with this institution as I refuse to support educational segregation based solely on skin color as it violates my core principles, values, and the Buddhist teachings that which this program is based on,” the student wrote.
Earlier this month, FAIR sent a letter to Brown urging the university to open the class to all students.
“We urge the university to open the program to any deserving student without regard to their immutable traits,” FAIR attorney Leigh Ann O’Neill wrote. “We also believe that such a gesture would demonstrate Brown’s commitment to non-discrimination and equal access.”
Brown responded on June 21, acknowledging FAIR’s letter and saying the university intends to respond as soon as possible.
Since the complaint, Brown has scrapped the decision only to allow students of color to take the class. The school will permit any student to enroll in the course, which picks up again in August.
“Upon further review of our early promotional materials for the program, we realigned them to reflect the program’s inclusive nature, while still meeting the goal of addressing the needs, life experiences, and priorities of marginalized communities,” Dr. Eric Loucks, director of Brown University’s Mindfulness Center where the class is held, told the New York Post.
Loucks initially defended the decision to allow only BIPOC people to enroll in the class.
“The intent is to reach future teachers who have a special interest in or history of personal engagement with the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latino/Latina/Latinx peoples and others who have been underrepresented in the mindfulness field,” Loucks said.
Brown is not the only Ivy League school to offer a minorities-only class in recent years.
Last year, Cornell University offered a rock-climbing class for “people who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, or other people of color.” The course prompted backlash online, with critics accusing the school of racism.