A&S Faculty Approve Diversity Course Requirement
Students enrolled in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri will be required to take three credit hours from courses in the college’s undergraduate curriculum that are designated “DI” for diversity intensive. The proposed diversity course requirement was approved by 75 percent of the tenured and non-tenure track faculty who voted on the measure.
Students, faculty, and administrators have been calling for curriculum revision to include a diversity requirement for over two decades. In 1990, over 200 students met at Jesse Hall to hold a town hall meeting to discuss racism on campus and a proposal requiring all students to take one multicultural class. Although the proposal was debated for the next decade, no action was taken. Other proposals also fell short, but the events of fall 2015 forcefully demonstrated that the concerns students first raised in 1990 have not disappeared.
“It is important to note that this is not something that we whipped up in response to the events of last fall or the student protests,” says Elisa Glick, an associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies who chaired the Arts and Science Diversity Committee. “The proposal builds on decades of student activism and the work of previous diversity committees. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the work in particular of April Langley and Roger Worthington, whose campuswide diversity proposal we drew from in crafting our proposal.”
Glick says members of the committee felt strongly that in order for students to be able to engage with an increasingly diverse and global world, they need to have a more diverse educational experience. At the same time, she says the committee wanted to ensure the new requirement was flexible.
“We did not want to burden students with extra credits or extend their time on campus or increase their financial burden, so the reason it is called the Choice Model is because the proposal is student-centered,” Glick says. “It allows students to choose a diversity course that best suits their needs, whether it is in their major or outside of their major.”
The College of Arts and Science has a wide variety of departments that offer diversity-related courses, including anthropology, black studies, English, German and Russian studies, religious studies, sociology, and women’s and gender studies. A new standing committee will be created to approve courses that fulfill the diversity course requirement. Faculty members on the committee will represent a range of disciplines from the humanities, social sciences, behavioral sciences, and natural sciences.
“Our proposal builds on the existing strengths in the College of Arts and Science while also furthering our teaching mission,” Dean Michael O’Brien says. “By adopting the proposal for a diversity requirement, we are advancing the college’s existing commitment to the educational value of diversity.”
All of the DI courses will meet two fundamental criteria:
- DI courses will focus on understanding differing social groups (locally, nationally, and/or internationally).
- DI courses will explore at least one form of social inequality, broadly defined to include class, race, age, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, sexualities, veterans, rural and urban communities, economic and/or resource disparities, or indigenous cultures, among others.
Students will be encouraged to meet the A&S diversity requirement as soon as feasible, preferably in their first three semesters on campus.
Glick says in a world that is changing and becoming more diverse, part of the job of faculty is to help prepare students to enter more diverse workforces and more diverse communities.
“This requirement won’t take care of that in any sort of comprehensive way, but I think it’s one step towards that, and our hope is that it’s a starting point—an introduction for students, because diversity is not checking a box, diversity education is a process,” Glick says. “We see this requirement as a starting point for students to develop a more nuanced and diverse educational experience.”
Glick also notes that 52 percent of A&S faculty voted on the proposal, which is the highest voter turnout ever for a vote on campus. Glick and O’Brien say they both hope the diversity course requirement in A&S will serve as a model for the entire campus.