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Pitt Introduces New Black Studies Course For First-Year Students

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Students at the University of Pittsburgh will take a one-credit Black studies course starting this fall.


On today's program: The University of Pittsburgh implemented a mandatory Black studies course to help students learn anti-racism; despite orders from the police chief, videos from some Pittsburgh protests have shown officers working without masks; and apprenticeships and technical schools welcome students back amid the pandemic.

New Pitt course to cover Black history, culture, and anti-Black racism in the U.S.
(00:00 — 7:01)

The University of Pittsburgh implemented a mandatory Black studies course following petitions and action plans from students. “Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance” will be offered to first-year students as an asynchronous, one-credit course starting this fall.

Advocates hope the class will help students better understand Black history, culture, and the long struggle with anti-Black racism in the United States, and encourage them to engage with anti-racism.

“People are definitely treated differently because of their skin color,” saysDr. Yolanda Covington-Ward, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt. “There are particular assumptions that are made about people’s income, about criminality, about education levels that are based on a set of stereotypes.” 

Covington-Ward says students must work actively to address daily racism. 

“It’s not enough to just say that you’re not racist to be anti-racist is to proactively look to address these issues,” she says. “Oftentimes decisions about who has access to opportunity, or how different communities are going to be impacted are not made by people in those communities. So you have to be able to address and directly engage with being anti-racist yourself in everyday life in order to affect change.”

Pittsburgh police attempt to ward off COVID-19, but some officers still aren’t wearing masks at protests
(7:04 — 12:50)

The Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety, which includes the Bureaus of Fire, Police, and EMS, issued health and safety guidelines for employees to follow during the pandemic, like other workplaces. The requirements include wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.

“I don’t think it’s really much different than what most people are experiencing, I think that the difference is when you have a police officer responding to a call, you know, social distancing, obviously, isn’t always possible,” saysChris Togneri, public information officer for theDepartment of Public Safety.

But although Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert ordered police to wear masks, videos from some Pittsburgh protests have shown officers working without masks.

“The requirement is for all officers to be wearing masks,” Togneri says. Reports of officers not wearing masks are “always addressed,” and reminders to follow COVID-19 safety procedures are sent department-wide and to individual officers who do not wear masks.

Back to trade school
(12:51 — 18:03) 

Virtual school in the midst of the pandemic is a reality for families across the country. While a lot of instruction can be adapted to a Zoom classroom, technical schools and apprenticeships teach future pipefitters, carpenters, electricians and many other professions—all often in person.

Despite initial worries that students’ progression in their apprenticeship programs might slow because of learning restrictions, Kenneth J. Broadbent, business manager forSteamfitters Local 449, says students are on track. Classes resumed with COVID-19 precautions in place, such as masks, social distancing and virtual learning when possible.

“The majority of our members are back to work, so the industry as far as construction—union construction—we’re back to real close to normal, but following the COVID-19 guidelines the CDC has set up,” says Broadbent.

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.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
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 jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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