The University of Chicago English department will only admit graduate students working “in and with Black Studies.”

If you are applying to graduate school in English and do not want to study anything other than Black Studies, you shouldn’t waste your time on an application to the University of Chicago. Here is an announcement on the department’s website:

The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.

For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.   

Read the rest here.

I am a bit surprised that the University of Chicago, a school known for its commitment to open inquiry, chose to go in this direction.

While I am committed to intellectual diversity, I don’t have strong feelings either way about this decision. To make an informed comment on this news story I would need to know more about the history and current make-up of the University of Chicago English department.

I will, however, say this: In our current moment it is important that research universities show their commitment to the African-American experience. If the University of Chicago believes that bringing in one class of students working in Black Studies as a way of addressing this moment, I don’t have a problem with it. I hope this decision contributes to the university’s ongoing commitment to intellectual diversity.