The anthropology program at Quinnipiac University will offer a class on human feces in the 2021 spring semester.
Dr. Jaime Ullinger, associate professor and director of the anthropology program, will be teaching AN 272 — Shit Happens: A Natural History of Human Waste. The class will be focusing on the study of human waste both culturally and biologically.
Ullinger said this particular topic is important as it is something that people talk about in everyday life more than they realize. One thing she hopes her future students will take away from the class are the connections between human biology and human culture.
“Something like pooping which is very kind of biological in many ways,” Ullinger said. “But that (is) culturally mediated in so many different ways.”
Ullinger said there is much to learn by looking at the waste. She gave some examples of questions that students will be examining in the class.
“What kind of food goes in? What’s happening in your microbiome?” Ullinger said. “How is that the result of the way that you’ve altered your environment? How do you deal with getting rid of that poop?”
Another component of the class that Ullinger emphasized was the tour of New Haven’s water sanitation facility which processes most of the waste from Hamden. Students will get to see where the waste goes when the toilet is flushed. She said that most people know that they are generating waste but have no idea about where their waste goes.
“So, we’re actually going to kind of explore, if you flush a toilet at Quinnipiac,” Ullinger said. “Where does that go, and what happens to it?”
Asia Moundraty, a senior biology major, said that she would be open to take this class.
“I would be interested to understand the implications to sanitary procedures,” Moundraty said.
Moundraty said she would like to know if the procedures are effective enough and up to date. For her, this class would be a good way to find out if there are any flaws during the procedures that contribute to contamination and threaten human health.
Ullinger understood that there might be people who are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about feces which leads to a challenge that she has to face.
“I think it’s an interesting topic,” said Margret Ojo, a graduate business major. “I don’t really know how long we could study feces and stay interested.”
Ullinger clarified that students don’t have to share their own personal bathroom experiences with the whole class.
“I hope most students aren’t kind of uncomfortable with it because, again, you probably do talk about it more than you realize and think about it more than you realize,” Ullinger said.
Prior to coming up with this class, Ullinger spent time investigating this topic by reading books about the digestive system and studies on Paleofeces.
Dr. Hillary Haldane, associate professor of anthropology and director of general education, said that she fully supports this class coming into the university curriculum.
Haldane said it’s fundamental for students to learn about our food system. She thought that learning about where food comes from in a way that relates to the environment is important.
“If we’re going to understand the very thing that sustains us,” Haldane said. “We need to understand the outflow.”
This new anthropology class will be offered in the Spring semester of 2021. It will be a UC class, so it is open to every major.
Though Haldane won’t be teaching this course, she is looking forward to the first day of class.
“I will probably be sitting there wanting to sit in the very first semester of it,” Haldane said. “Because it’s going to be awesome.”