Gonzaga offers course on ‘Why People Hate’

"Why People Hate" shows students the importance of human dignity

November 03, 2021
Tom Miller

SPOKANE, Wash. — A course on “Why People Hate” gives students an opportunity to explore academically the part of Gonzaga University’s Mission Statement that calls on students to foster a mature commitment to the dignity of the human person.

The team-taught seminar, a capstone to integrating GU’s core curriculum, was reintroduced in spring 2021 and the new version examined hatred through multidisciplinary content, experiential learning coordinated by student affairs, and a semester-long project, said Kristine Hoover, director of the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies and professor of leadership studies.

Questions students and faculty sought to discover answers to include: Why does hate occur? How is it expressed? How can it be prevented? What holistic and proactive efforts can curtail the growth of marginalization and fear affiliated with hate?

Sixty seniors signed up for the course, filling all three sections in the first week of registration, Hoover said.

“We actually had more students wanting to take the class than we had seats available,” she said. “It was very important to us, given the subject matter, to maintain a smaller class size.”

The course will be offered each spring, alternating between the seminar for seniors and a version for first-year students.

A similar course -- “Hate in Business” — has been taught several times in the School of Business Administration as an elective. And the School of Leadership Studies offers “Contemporary Strategies to Counter Hate,” a master’s degree course.

The seminar offered to seniors was a labor of love for the three faculty members who taught the three sections in 2021: Monica Bartlett, professor of psychology; Adriane Leithauser, business ethics lecturer; and Jessica Maucione, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies.

The course piloted a new structure that allows the faculty to teach the course “in-load,” meaning the faculty do not have to take on an extra class and would have more time to dedicate to their students.

It was an important move, Hoover said.

“This was a great step forward, because in previous offerings faculty taught the class as an overload,” Hoover said. “That was not sustainable given the faculty commitment to excellence in teaching and the time needed to support student learning about such a relevant and emotionally charged topic as hate.”

Having a trio of faculty was well-received.

“I honestly really loved having multiple professors,” said Alexandra Moeller, a senior from San Diego who completed the seminar and graduated magna cum laude with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology. “Having a wide range of theories and influences allowed us to get the whole picture on how and why hate is imbedded in society.”

Throughout the course, guests connected curricular content with co-curricular programming.

The Center for Cura Personalis, for instance, helped students explore the self-care needed when focusing on the difficult, emotionally charged topic of hatred. Students also worked with Foley Library to understand information literacy and bias in research.

Including the library provided an opportunity to research organizations and the people served by them – what faculty called “doing the work” to stretch students beyond their own experiences.

“Too many times, people who have been marginalized are asked to educate those who have not had to face similar challenges of bias and bigotry,” Hoover said. “And often, well-intentioned people who want to ‘do good’ do not know where to start their learning.

“This class helped to prepare the students, gave them resources to learn about others, and supported entering into relationships from a place of greater knowledge and respect.”

Students also played “American Dream,” an interactive game that experiments with gender, race, income, education and other factors to demonstrate how privileges impact a person’s opportunities in life.

Student Affairs’ Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE) office offered the game content and explained other resources available to GU students.

“This was really eye-opening to tangibly see how these aspects that individuals do not have control over affect their life opportunities,” Moeller said. 

Dean Lynch of the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force helped Hoover identify multiple organizations that would volunteer time to deepen students’ understanding of the community: Catholic Charities, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, Odyssey Youth Movement, Hispanic Business Professionals Association, I Did the Time, the Islamic Center of Spokane, Washington Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Carl Maxey Center.

Class groups then interacted with these entities.

Students, for example, worked with deaf and limited-hearing individuals, participating in Zoom meetings using sign language, which provided “rich learning” for the students, Hoover says.

Others listened as representatives of the other organizations described not only instances of bias and discrimination they have experienced, whether from homelessness, race and ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disabilities, but also their pride and strength as contributing members of a rich and diverse Spokane community.

As a result, students assisted in creating materials for the recently established Spokane Hate Report such as videos, flyers and web pages that either the task force or the community organizations could use. 

“Hate reporting happens through the FBI, but its reach is limited,” Hoover says. “The Spokane Hate Report gathers more data and helps attacked victims of hate incidents find more support and get the assistance they need and allows us to see the bigger picture of any patterns that may exist in our community so we can better target resources.”

Some of the student work was put into action right away, including the development of a QR code for accessing the report and business cards providing directions for how to report an incident.

Tackling hate takes practice and persistence, said Leithauser, the business ethics lecturer, who hopes the course will inspire students to stay involved long after their time at GU.

“It’s an example of how students interpret Gonzaga’s mission, express it through their areas of study and, importantly, how it will live in them and through them when they graduate,” she said.

The senior seminar, an upcoming version for first-year students, and the hate-related classes in the business and leadership studies schools are part of the work of the Gonzaga Institute of Hate Studies.

“These courses prepare students for lives of leadership for the common good,” Hoover said. “For one senior, the relationships developed through the course resulted in a job offer. Another said the skills developed in working with diverse others was not only a personal priority, but also helped her stand out in the job market.”

Other faculty who have been involved with the seminar are Vik Gumbhir and Marguerite Marin of sociology and criminal justice, Robert Donnelly of history, and Molly Pepper of business.

“We are grateful to build on the foundations of previous offerings that were supported by Raymond Reyes in his former role as chief diversity officer,” Hoover said.

Learn about the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies