New Major spotlights equity

College focuses on equity and oppression studies

Students partake in classroom discussion and activities in the Antiracism & Collective Liberation course last spring.

Mason Abajian | Staff Writer |

A new Equity Studies program launched for students last spring at St. Michael’s College. “It’s important to turn inward and be honest with ourselves to see our position in systems that hold inequity and oppressions,” said Professor Kathrine Kirby, a co-coordinator for Equity Studies. St. Michael’s is the second school in the United States to open an Equity Studies program, the first being the Olympic College in Washington State. More programs like this are expected to start popping up all over the place.

Kirby and a group of nine other professors proposed the idea for an Equity Studies major. She and the others knew there was an interest for this major since the fall of 2020, coming out of the summer when the Black Lives Matter movement was at an all time high. 

“I’ve never seen that many students wanting to talk about it in class, and wanting to really deeply and meaningfully examine themselves and their own role in society,” Kirby said. This major, which Kirby described as an “Interdisciplinary exploration of equity,” and is intended to be utilized as a potential double major. Equity Studies is structured so students don’t have to start out taking any specific class. There isn’t an Equity Studies 101 class. Students take classes within the field of study they find interesting. Equity studies is encouraged to be paired up with another major, that way you can learn about the inequities of society at the same time as learning another major.

Since the major is new, there are currently 11 students majoring in the program . This number is expected to grow due to the fact that it can be utilized as a double major easily, and because of recent news around the country where reflecting upon yourself and inequity within systems is important. 

“We think it could become a relatively popular major that students will want to pair with another major,” said Professor and co-coordinator of the major, Peter Vantine. Two weeks after the declaration of the major last spring eight students had already signed up. After that, a few more students declared over the summer. 

The classrooms tend to be less about right or wrong answers, and rather about students reflecting upon themselves and with each other. Lilly Byrne ’25  is an Education-Equity Studies double major. She declared her major at the end of last semester, and she is currently in two classes for Equity Studies. “They’re a lot more discussion based,” and “the professors don’t talk as much, they give us a topic and the class discusses it with each other.” Byrne said. Byrne is hoping to become a part of the teachers union to help support the school community, and is using equity studies to educate herself on systems and biases. 

There isn’t an Equity Studies minor yet, but it’s in the works. To be offered as a minor, a major must go through a process of trimming down the program from usually 10-11 courses down to five. So for now, the minor is still being determined at this time. If you’re interested in Equity Studies, contact Peter Vantine or Kathrine Kirby.