In what could be perceived as a selective overcorrection, the University of Chicago’s English department announced that it will be very selective in which doctoral candidates to admit in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
A department statement read, “the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies.” It went on to state, “We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages and time periods.”
The statement read like an apology for American history and for all white Americans. It claimed that the English discipline “has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction and anti-Blackness.” It added that the academic study of English is “responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why.”
Also included in the department’s statement was the mention of standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter against “police violence.” No statistical data was provided to demonstrate the validity of this argument.
Inside Higher Ed reported that other universities are being selective about graduate admissions due to reduced budgets thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It is ironic that the department will only admit doctoral candidates interested in Black Studies because it is forcing applicants to choose the program in order to be considered for admission. Typically, colleges and universities give applicants several academic options or free rein, but not in this case.