Graduation requirement shifts by name, not nature

By Tressa Versteeg

When students of the class of 2011 graduate, they will have been the first class to fulfill a new set of graduation requirements that faculty members approved in 2005. The graduation requirements include courses in internationalism, U.S. multiculturalism and quantitative thinking and writing. Requirements for sophomores, juniors and seniors will still only include domestic diversity and international diversity courses, along with general distribution requirements.Some on campus are now questioning whether the shift to a U.S. multiculturalism requirement has actually led to any differencefrom the domestic diversity requirement, aside from the title.

According to Kendrick Brown, psychology professor and chair of the Educational Policy and Governance committee, many faculty members were concerned that the domestic diversity requirement’s span was too broad.

EPAG began working on creating the new multiculturalism requirement in an effort to be more focused and specific. Brown said courses under the new requirement are “devoted to the study of social groups [based on race, religion, class, gender, sexuality, language, national origin] in the U.S., including analysis of forces that create, contest, or maintain power, identity, or difference.”

“The U.S. multiculturalism requirement more clearly articulates what the college hoped students will get out of examining diversity issues within the United States,” Brown said.

Some of the courses that meet the domestic diversity requirements are not focused enough on diversity issues, Brown said.

To fulfill the U.S. multiculturalism requirement, professors must submit course proposals to the U.S. Multiculturalism General Education (GES) subcommittee of EPAG. The members of GES-one member of EPAG, two faculty members at large and one Provost-appointed staff member-review the applications and decide which ones meet the goals of the requirement. The deadline for the 2008 spring semester is in January.

Currently, there is no “retroactive policy,” Brown said, so any courses that miss EPAG’s deadline will not be able to fulfill the requirement for students.

This new method contrasts with the previous process used to approve domestic diversity courses, in which faculty simply submitted their course descriptions to a less discriminating registrar’s office.

“Very rarely was anything challenged,” Brown said.

Due to this more rigorous approval process, there will be fewer classes available for students to select in order to meet the requirement. However, according to Brown, the courses will more effectively address issues of diversity in the United States. The courses approved for the multiculturalism requirement will also count toward the domestic diversity requirement, because there are still three classes of students who must fulfill the domestic diversity prerequisite to graduate. However, classes that meet the domestic diversity classes do not necessarily fulfill multiculturalism requirement.

This fall there are 17 classes that fulfilled multiculturalism and 11 that fulfilled domestic diversity. For spring 2008, there are eight for multiculturalism, and 10 for domestic diversity.

“One main concern that we have is making sure we have an adequate number of courses to satisfy the demand,” Brown said. Brown said even though the need for more U.S. multiculturalism courses will increase in future years, he is confident in the ability of the faculty to respond to this demand.

Another result of this new process is that the course has to be taught by the professor who sent in the application in order for it to fulfill the requirement. Previously, the courses under domestic diversity met the requirement regardless of the teaching professor.

As a professor who has designed courses for this new requirement, Brown said he has not found the process more difficult. He said that faculty will need to be more conscious of the new requirement’s purpose.

Despite Brown’s optimism, there remains doubt, MCSG representative Nathan Bell ’08 said of the new requirements’ ability to improve the domestic diversity requirement. Bell said his main concern is with the quantity and quality of classes offered to fulfill both the multiculturalism and domestic diversity requirements.

“In the past, the classes that fulfilled the [domestic diversity] requirement have been pitifully few on a per semester basis and have long drawn the ire of students.my biggest worry is that as the enthusiasm of the college dies out, so will the number of courses that fulfill this requirement,” Bell said.

Bell is unconvinced that the changes made in the graduation requirements will remain beneficial, because the courses offered now will decrease in the future as the “temporary enthusiasm” of the new requirement wears off. He said he believes the livelihood of the requirement depends on it becoming a structural change, not just an idea.

“Currently, I am not confident that the change is permanent,” Bell said.