Global Studies Departments and Programs (GSDP)

Global Studies Departments and Programs (GSDP)


* Academic departments and disciplines that tend to place disproportionate blame on the United States and Israel for the world’s political, social, and economic problems

The agenda at the 2004 Global Studies Association conference reveals a great deal about what is occurring in the field of “Global Studies” on college campuses across the United States. Participants at the conference heard a paper from Carl Davidson, co-chair of Chicagoans Against War & Injustice lamenting that “the U.S. Government, at least over the past 50 years, has been the chief terrorist and sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Massachusetts-based attorney Edward Greer added, “Those who closely follow the role of the United States in the larger world are aware [that] in recent times there have been quite a few episodes of torture inflicted by the U.S.”  Renate Bridenthal of the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York (CUNY) demanded “militant action” to restore open admissions and remedial education at [CUNY] senior colleges, the abolition of which purportedly reflected “the direct cost to education of the prison-industrial-military complex.” Most of the conference’s 14 other papers reflected similar ideological points of view.

The most fully developed Global Studies department in the United States, at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, openly imposes an ideological litmus test for new hires, who are expected to be familiar “with the theoretical debates surrounding area, global, development; ethnic, native, or post-colonial studies,” fields known for their leftist ideological biases.

A sense of what a typical “Global Studies” class entails comes in a “capstone” course at California State University-Monterey Bay, which established one of America’s first Global Studies departments, in 1995. The assigned reading list includes: Joel Andreas, Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism; Chuck Collins, Economic Apartheid in America; and Marian A. Ferber and Julie A. Nelson, Feminist Economics Today. The “intent of this course,” Professor Robina Bhatti states, “is that a better understanding of global political economy will lead to an improvement in the rationality and justice of our everyday life.” Students are graded on their fidelity to the political agenda of the professor and the bias of the assigned texts.

Most of the roughly two-dozen U.S. colleges and universities with Global Studies programs have imitated Monterey Bay’s approach. Global Studies departments generally exclude offerings in politics, diplomacy, the law, business and religion. Instead, they focus on courses oriented towards race, class, gender, and “cultural studies.” Global Studies classes rarely explore material dealing with events that occurred before the 20th century. Nor, despite claiming to train students in “intercultural communication,” do most Global Studies programs require language instruction.

The national academic organization that has most aggressively promoted the Global Studies approach is the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The AAC&U’s most controversial undertaking was the Arts of Democracy,” a 2003-2004 initiative that looked to “generate new knowledge about Global Studies” in one-sided courses such as those at the Rochester Institute of Technology, which focused on the “Western veil of ignorance” and the “apartheid” of globalization. Students were graded in part through journal entries “about [their] involvement in social-advocacy groups.” Notably, taxpayers paid for the program: the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education awarded AAC&U a grant totaling more than $600,000.

Provost Roberta S. Matthews instituted an “Arts of Democracy” course cluster at Brooklyn College with an eye to making it the core of a new Global Studies department. Such an undertaking, she maintained, would help make Brooklyn undergraduates “global citizens.” To clarify the concept, Matthews explained that “global”—as opposed to American—citizens are those sensitized to “concepts of race, class, and gender.”

Under this definition, Global Studies courses do not have to be “global” at all. They only need to convey what the AAC&U describes as a central tenet of the “New Academy“: recognition of “persistent inequalities and injustices in the United States.” Brooklyn’s Dean of Student Life, Milga Morales, noted that a Global Studies curriculum would address blatantly prejudicial questions related to the 9/11 attacks—attacks committed, she said, by “those referred to as ‘terrorists.’” Such questions included, “Was September 11 contrived?”; “What did the United States government know and when did it know it?”; and “Whose rights would be violated now?”

Global Studies curriculums promote exclusively negative attitudes toward one country besides the United States: Israel. In 2004, for example, St. Lawrence’s Global Studies major featured a special seminar on the late Palestinian activist Edward Said. The department also has a regular offering entitled, “Why Do ‘They’ Hate ‘Us’?” whose instruction situates the 9/11 attacks “in several thematic contexts,” focused on a critique “of U.S. involvement in the Middle East.”

This profile is adapted from the article “Global Studies, Universal Bias,” written by Robert David Johnson and published by on August 6, 2004.

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