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Instructor: Dr. Melanie K. Barnes
     Office Hours: 1:30-3:00 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and
                             by appointment


This course has been developed by a grant from the Lilly Corporation for the purpose of
improving racial and ethnic diversity and campus climate on our campus.  Specifically, the curricular objectives of this course are to:

1) Create an awareness of the ways in which communication shapes, and is shaped 
by our culture, ethnicity, and race.

2) Develop an appreciation of various patterns of communicating; in particular, we  will focus on  different subcultures in modern-day United States: African American, Asian American, European American, Latina/o American, and Native American subcultures.

3) Promote an understanding of how language empowers and oppresses members of different groups.

4) Create an awareness of how various social institutions and personal  relationships affect perceptions of race.

5) Examine the role of media in shaping perceptions of race and culture.

Thus, we will examine the social construction and maintenance of racial and cultural identities
through the process of communication. Primarily, we will focus on those processes as conducted through various "channels" of mainstream American culture. 

In order to accomplish this task, it is necessary to also explore historical, political, economic and social conditions which simultaneously shape and are shaped by communication. We will consider not only how communication affects and informs racial and cultural identities, but we will also actively engage in communication concerning these issues. At times, we will focus on communication differences; at others, we will examine similarities.

Much of the material presented in this course will challenge and provoke serious discussion on
issues that are core to our individual values. Individuals are expected to understand divergent
perspectives even though they may not agree with them. Hopefully, the course will enable people to articulate their own ideas within a clear framework. At all times, we should strive to treat one another, and especially opposing views, with respect. 

Finally, this course has been designated as an "S" course. Therefore, the speaking component of this course is extremely intense and you will be expected to be an avid discussant, presenter, facilitator, and listener nearly every day of the semester. In order to participate in this process, you must be prepared and have read any assignments prior to the class discussion. Note that the "S" Competency component of this course is determined separately from your overall grade in this course. 

Course Guidelines

Regular, punctual attendance is required. You are unable to participate, learn from your classmates, and also share your insights with the rest of the class if you are not present. More than three absences will result in your grade being lowered. You are responsible for obtaining any handouts or materials in the event of your absence and should either make arrangements with a classmate ahead of time to get your materials or you should pick them up in my office. Please note that I will not continue to bring materials to class after they have distributed. 

All assignments must be completed for a passing grade in this course, regardless of whether you are taking this course pass/fail. Unless otherwise noted on the syllabus, all assignments are due at the beginning of the class period. Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of one full letter grade (10%) per day. Be certain to plan ahead for computer and/or printer problems, as these are unacceptable excuses for late work. In other words, do not wait until 30 minutes before class to print an assignment.

Course Requirements

Weekly journals                           25%
Autobiography                             25%
Final Exam                                   20%
Participation                                30%
       (Debates are 10%; Discussions are 10%;    Online and Class Participation is 10%)

S Competency

"S" courses are intended to provide emphasis on speaking and listening as a way to enhance
course content. To receive your "S" competency, you must satisfactorily complete all oral
assignments, even if ungraded, and be active class participants.  

Contributions should include showing understanding, adding fresh insight, making connections, asking good questions, demonstrating application, and the ability to organize, analyze, and argue thoughtfully. 


Response Journals

This class has an unusually large amount of reading about, what I believe are, challenging, thought-provoking issues. While this is a discussion-based course, it is not always possible for everyone to express their thoughts and ideas about what we have read and discussed. Additionally, some of the issues with which we will grapple are difficult, emotional, and perplexing . I expect that there will be many class days when you leave the room feeling more confused than when you entered. That is the reason I am going to require you to keep journals.

Three times during the semester, you will hand in a TYPED set of journal entries regarding both the readings and class discussions. Occasionally, we will view parts of films or television shows, or perhaps we will participate in some group activities. You should also consider these as you write your journal entries. I suggest that you write an average of 2-3 (double-spaced) pages per week. (This will become easier as the semester moves along.)

Journal entries should go far beyond, "I really liked this article" or "I disagreed with what he or she said in class." Instead, you should elaborate, dig, explore, carve out, and try to make sense of the materials we are considering. Draw upon your own experience. How do these issues fit in with your life experience? Under what circumstances would you change your mind? If you disagree with something you’ve read or heard in class, explain why you disagree and what alternatives you suggest. If you agree, explain how these things fit together and make sense for you. You will not be evaluated on whether I agree or disagree with your position, but on how thoughtfully you articulate it.

Given that these journals are worth 25% of your grade, you should take this assignment very seriously and your journals should reflect this. I recommend that you write on at least a weekly basis. If you procrastinate, it will be much harder to recall your thoughts and feelings about our course. Additionally, if you think of your journals as a means of recording your semester-long journey along this Race and Culture course, then you will see the value of regularly recording your thoughts so you can later reflect about where you started and where you’ve landed.

Journals will be due on the following dates: Sept. 25, Oct. 23, and Nov. 17. As per class policy, all journals are due at the beginning of class on these days and will be penalized for lateness at the rate of 10% per day.


Using Schneider’s book, Race: An anthology in the first person, as a model, you will write an autobiography concerning an actual life experience with race. In addition to discussing your experience with your racial identity, or events that have shaped your perception of race, I also want you to focus on the role that communication has played in how your perceptions of race developed. Note that this is not a research paper per se. Instead it is a paper that is to come out of your own experience. In that regard, it will require that you do research, in the form of self reflection and careful analysis of the communication events that have influenced you and perhaps those around you.

While your final autobiography is not due until after Thanksgiving break, you should plan ahead. To aid in this process, we will work on the paper in stages. First, you will provide a general outline (not to exceed 3 pages) of what you will be discussing on Friday, November 3. By this time, you should at least have in mind the general idea/experience about which you will be writing. If you do not submit an outline by the due date, your paper grade will be penalized 5%.

Second, on Monday, November 27, you will workshop rough drafts of your paper with members of your group. On this date, it is expected that you will bring four copies of your paper to class, and during this period, the other members of your group will read and respond to your paper. Don’t simply use this as a proofreading session. Instead, if this workshopping is taken seriously it is an excellent chance for you to get constructive feedback from your peers, your audience, about your paper. As a reader, listen to the writer’s voice and give the kind of feedback that you believe will be beneficial and encouraging. As with the outline, failure to participate in the workshop will lower your grade on this assignment by 5%.

Remember, this autobiography takes the place of a traditional research paper. It should be taken at least as seriously as a research paper; it is revealing who you are and how you came to be. This paper will probably be more a reflection of you than any other paper you will write this semester, and in many respects, will be more challenging that summarizing an existing body of research.

I hesitate to give page requirements, but I estimate that this paper will be in the range of 8 to 12 pages. Papers should be proofread and error free upon final submission. Two copies of your final paper are due by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, December 4. If you wish, you may post your paper on the class website.

During the final week of classes, students will orally present their autobiographies to the class. Papers are not to be read, but are to be summarized and delivered in an extemporaneous style.


Because this is an "S" course, there is a high speaking component. There are two formal group speaking assignments, and one formal individual speaking assignment (Autobiography presentation). The two group speaking assignments will be:

(1) Leading a class discussion on a specific topic

(2) Participating in a parliamentary style debate on a specific topic of value or policy.

Online Discussion

Additionally,  every week, I will post a question or comment from the readings for that week. You should check the class discussion board every Monday for that week’s issue and by Wednesday, you should make some response. Initially, the responses will only be seen by me. However, by the third week of class, I will open the discussion boards to all class members and you will be encouraged to interact with one another online. This discussion, as well as that which actually occurs in the classroom, will be evaluated and will be worth 10% of your final grade.

Student-Led Discussions

During the second week of the course, students will be placed into 4 or 5 person groups. These groups will be randomly assigned a number from one (1) to four (4). According to the syllabus, each group will lead one class discussion and engage in one debate. The specific topics are listed below.

Discussion Topics:

9-20    Is Standard American English inherently racist?
10-11  How liberal is a liberal arts education?
10-25  Can minorities be racist?
11-6    Can we do anything about media portrayals of race?

You are advised to meet with me the week before you present to consider how you will lead the classroom discussion.  Remember that discussions are to be interactive.  It it not sufficient for your group to simply prepare an outline of the readings for the class.

Debate Topics

9-27   BIRT bilingual education has been abused.
10-20 BIRT affirmative action programs have outlived their usefulness.
11-1   BIRT the First Amendment should protect hate speech on university campuses.
11-15 BIRT greater restrictions on immigration are needed.

Final Exam

There will be one exam at the end of the course, and it will be a take-home final. The exam will be given to you in class on Friday, December 8th and is due to me no later than our final examination time of Thursday, December 14, at 9:00 a.m. Your final exam is to be typed. Further details of the exam will be given later in the semester.

DePauw University
Last Updated 8/302000