Diversity course requirement changed with student course load in mind

The changes made in the proposal would allow students to select from pre-existing courses at MU that have been approved to educate on the subject of diversity.

The hotly debated diversity course initiative lead by the Faculty Council Diversity Enhancement Committee has been altered, as detailed in a Nov. 20 update posted on the MU Transparency website.

The adjustments in the proposal would involve requiring incoming freshmen or transfer students to select a pre-existing three-credit-hour course on the subject of diversity from a list of approved classes in order to fulfill the already mandatory 27-credit-hour general education requirement.

“The courses that could be included in the gen ed cultural competency requirement include courses from all colleges including, for example, ESCP 2000 (Experiencing Cultural Diversity in the United States) from the College of Education and JOURN 2000 Cross-Cultural Journalism from the School of Journalism,” the update reads. “There are many courses in the humanities and behavior/social sciences within the College of Arts and Science as well as in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.”

Each course would be added to a list of applicable classes on the merits of its cultural competency.

According to the update, a new standing committee will be created, composed of faculty on campus who will collaborate on a rubric that will serve to define the requirements necessary for a course to be able to be chosen by students.

This new change in the proposal shows a radical difference from the previous update from the Diversity Enhancement Committee, which was released on Oct. 14.

In the October update, the committee advocated that students would take a three-credit-hour course titled Educational, School and Counseling Psychology 2000: Experiencing Cultural Diversity in the United States.

Angela Speck, chairwoman of the committee and astronomy professor, said that in the 15 months she has lead the committee, she has overseen many changes made to the proposal as a result of ongoing dialogue between committee members and students on campus.

“It's evolved a lot over time,” Speck said. “We started with a proposal that was very different to start with that had one single goal as a requirement. Now, it's looking at what courses we already have that can fulfill this requirement, because we actually do have a lot of courses that could fulfill this, and it means that we could implement it with very little cost and very little change to how things already work, except that students will have to pick one of the courses.”

Speck said the change should benefit students by lessening the course load that would have been required in the previous change to the proposal.

“Something to emphasize is that this does not add extra requirements in terms of credit hours,” she said. “I was worried that this would put more burden on students, but really it's not meant to do that. Within the 27 hours of gen eds that you can choose from, like nine of science, you will pick one of those to fulfill the diversity requirement.”

The most recent change made to the proposal is the third update made to the initiative. In 2005, the Legion of Black Collegians issued a list of demands regarding the racial climate at MU, drawing attention to the lack of diversity representation.

In 2006, the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative was created to address the concerns of students, with Roger Worthington appointed as chief diversity officer.

However, the course proposal didn’t gain momentum until Worthington and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain gathered with students in 2007 to discuss the goals surrounding the proposal and how to implement the course.

The course proposal stagnated in 2010, but was finally approved by Faculty Council in 2011.

Although the discourse surrounding the initiative has been long-running, Speck said many people were unaware that the conversation existed until recent campus events involving Concerned Student 1950 brought it to light.

“The recent things that have happened on campus have made it more public,” Speck said. “It’s always been public, it's always something we’ve been trying to get out. But even though we’ve been as open as we can about what’s going on and involving people, some have not heard about it because people sometimes just delete emails that come from the chancellor or what other.”

Speck said the publicity garnered more public input and involvement.

“What happened was that this really raised this issue to the point where people were like ‘oh, this is already going on, I want to be involved,’” Speck said. “It helped us get word out because we were already doing this.”

Speck said this course is necessary because a lot of students are from homogeneous backgrounds and lack knowledge on how to communicate with students who are different from them.

“I think that having courses that introduce them to these issues of who is marginalized, why are they marginalized and how does this fit into the bigger picture of how society works is going to help everybody,” Speck said. “You can’t be a leader if you don’t know who you are leading. You can a manager if you don’t know the problems of who you are managing. I think it is helping our students become the next leaders.”

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