Diversity course requirement discussion continues

The requirement could go into effect fall 2011 if approved.
Chancellor Brady Deaton and Anne Deaton sign the unity sign Friday in the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. A potential diversity course requirement would not affect incoming freshmen any earlier than fall 2011.

Crimes at the Black Culture Center renewed conversation about a general education diversity course requirement for MU students.

The diversity requirement was first discussed five years ago after results for the MU Campus Climate Study became available. Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton set up a task force in fall 2009 to review the results of the study and to discuss the possibility of a diversity requirement.

Communication has improved after the crime involving the BCC occurred, Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin said.

"There are a lot people talking to each other now that did not talk to each other before," Rubin said. "Faculty Council has had this task force in place for almost a year and this is the first time most people have even asked about it."

The requirement would be a good way to teach students what it means to live in the U.S. during the 21st century, said Noor Azizan-Gardner, director for programming and professional development with the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative.

"The requirement will help students to be able to understand each other better, interact better and provide an inclusive climate for everyone," Azizan-Gardner said. "Most importantly (the requirement) will be able to create a learning community together."

BCC Director Nathan Stephens said the diversity requirement would enhance academic knowledge on campus and climate improvement would simply be a byproduct.

"Because we live in a diverse society, more students need to be aware of diversity in relation to academic disciplines," Stephens said.

A core requirement of the general education program is to teach students about the diverse human condition. The requirement would be related to this core goal, Rubin said.

"(The classes) would be taught in a way that would look at differences and teach students how evaluate differences and respect differences," Rubin said. "We want to teach students how to respect differences among people. (Students) are going to find differences throughout their entire life."

The diversity course would not be a general survey course of diversity but instead have the ability to link with a student's major. A student in the College of Business would possibly be able to satisfy the diversity requirement with a cultural or social marketing class.

"It is hard to imagine how a single course could possibly cover diversity," Rubin said. "(The course) just could not cover all the possible cultures, religions and social diversities with any kind of depth. What we are trying to identify are courses that already exist on campus that could be tweaked or already work really well as diversity intensive courses."

A budget for the requirement would possibly be set up to pay for faculty training, the addition of courses or to review courses already present, but no decisions have been made, Rubin said.

The requirement would go into effect no earlier than fall 2011.

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