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Proposed Black Studies Class Requirement At Pitt Aims To Start 'Self-Reflection'

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
The University of Pittsburgh is considering a new course requirment for undergraduate students in Black studies.


On today's program: The University of Pittsburgh might require undergrads to take a new course in Black studies; Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry tries to ride out the pandemic; and more people consider at-home elder care in their later years. 

Pitt grad believes a mandatory black studies class could lead to understanding of racial injustices
(00:00 — 8:25)

The University of Pittsburgh is planning to open up classrooms again this Fall - and one 2020 alumna wants the school to require all undergraduates to take a class in black studies as a graduation requirement.  


“Addressing racism does not fall upon the shoulders of black people alone,” according to Sydney Massenberg, who launched a petition on that’s drawn more than 6,000 signatures and penned a letter to school administrators urging them to add the class. “White people have to take steps toward actively being against racism, and the first step is learning about this history and recognizing one’s inherent privilege as a result of it.”


Massenberg told The Confluence that she was inspired to petitiion the university's administration by many of her former classmates’ lack of knowledge about Black history. 


Dr. Yolanda Covington-Ward, chair of the Department of Africana Studies, says that the proposed requirement could help non-black students to think outside of their own experiences and have better conversations about race.

“It’s about starting this process of self-reflection, but also this willingness to see people as human like yourself,” she says.

Natural gas industry still struggles, but could see signs of improvement
(8:31 — 12:12)

Natural gas production across Appalachia has declined by the largest amount of any basin in the United States.  That’s according to new data just released by analytics firm Enverus.  Drillers in Pennsylvania are cutting capital expenses this year as demand for natural gas remains low – though Enverus calls the outlook for natural gas prices in 2021 “optimistic.”

Paul Gough, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Business Times, joins us for a look at an industry that was in financial trouble long before the pandemic.

Is the future of elder care at home?
(12:18 — 17:46)

In Pennsylvania, the coronavirus has hit hardest in nursing homes, where most of the commonwealth’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred

There’s been a slow shift away from nursing homes for years, says Keystone Crossroads’Nina Feldman andLaura Benshoff, and now the pandemic ismaking it easier and more attractive to get care at home.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Doug Shugarts is a 23-year veteran of broadcast news. Doug began his career at WBUR in Boston, where he worked on the nationally-syndicated programs “The Connection” and “Here and Now.” He won awards for best use of sound, coverage of the 2003 war in Iraq, and helped launch the station’s local news program, “Radio Boston.” In 2014 Doug moved across town to GBH and helped reboot morning news programming and launch other broadcast and web projects. Doug studied Composition at Berklee College of Music and Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of California. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Southside, Doug enjoys feasting on arepas and yucca fries at Cilantro and Ajo and meeting his canine neighbors at Big Dog Coffee.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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