Race Seminar has students writing op-eds

Charles M. and Marion J. Kierscht Professor of Law, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, began her Critical Race Theory Seminar, a course that examines race and race relations, with a new twist. This spring, Professor Onwuachi-Willig is leading 11 students through the process of writing opinion/editorials (op-eds) for publication. The following op-eds have been published:

Beatriz Gonzalez, ’13, Christian Science Monitor (Feb. 22, 2013) and the Iowa City Press-Citizen (Feb. 23, 2013)
Berneta Haynes, ’13, Inside Higher Ed (March 12, 2013) and the Iowa City Press-Citizen (March 15, 2013)
Sam Aden, ’14, The Gazette (March 17, 2013)

Inspired in part by her research on training the next generation of civil rights or public interest lawyers, she says the primary reason she started this exercise was to allow students to improve their writing skills. Op-eds are a form of argumentative writing, and she feels students are forced to identify and frame their argument early on in an article, which she saw as a frequent issue in student papers in the past, when they are limited to 650-750 words.

In the Seminar, the students are pushed to discuss issues surrounding race and race relations, discussions that are typically uncomfortable for most people. “I wanted to help my students become more comfortable with talking about race and making arguments about controversial matters that concern race,” says Onwuachi-Willig. “I also wanted them to find their voice, and have the opportunity to get published.”

By making the arguments in an op-ed, the students are forced to use other key tools of writing, such as deliberately thinking about their audience, using plain language in their writing, and offering support for their argument in a concise way.