The Princeton faculty approved curriculum changes in the departments of politics, religion, and classics in April. Politics added a track in race and identity, while religion and classics increased flexibility for concentrators, including eliminating the requirement for classics majors to take Greek or Latin.
Professor Frances Lee, associate chair of the politics department, said the idea for the new undergraduate track in race and identity was part of the larger initiative on campus launched by President Eisgruber ’83 to address systemic racism at Princeton. A committee put together by the chair was asked to look broadly at the department to recommend responses. The new track was created out of courses the department already offered. The goal is to offer this track as a defined pathway for students who are interested in the topic, as well as to set them up for future academic work in this area, Lee said.
“The politics of race underlies so much of U.S. political history,” she said, adding that there is “a wide array of intellectual questions as well as subjects that you need to understand if you want to understand politics at its core.”
Students who choose this track will need to fulfill three main requirements: take the introductory core course “Race and Politics in the United States”; complete three other courses from the 14 focused on race and identity; and incorporate the theme as part of the senior thesis. The track is open to all undergraduate students in the department.
In religion, courses for concentrators are now available in two main “streams.” The first, called traditions, “encompasses different religious traditions, approaches, geographical areas, and time periods,” and the second, called themes, allows students to concentrate on thematic areas, according to a department memo. The department has wanted to do this for some time, said Seth Perry, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor of religion.
“We also wanted to do a better job in articulating what the major does in terms of transportable learning outcomes for our students as they go off into graduate schools or in their careers,” Perry said. For example, students can pursue Islam and religions of Asia, or they can pair religion with media, art, philosophy, or politics.
In classics, two major changes were made. The “classics” track, which required an intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration, was eliminated, as was the requirement for students to take Greek or Latin. Students still are encouraged to take either language if it is relevant to their interests in the department. The breadth of offerings remains the same, said Josh Billings, director of undergraduate studies and professor of classics. The changes ultimately give students more opportunities to major in classics.
The discussions about these changes predate Eisgruber’s call to address systemic racism at the University, Billings said, but were given new urgency by this and the events around race that occurred last summer. “We think that having new perspectives in the field will make the field better,” he said. “Having people who come in who might not have studied classics in high school and might not have had a previous exposure to Greek and Latin, we think that having those students in the department will make it a more vibrant intellectual community.”