Diversity forum opens up discussion about proposed UW credit requirement

Director of Diversity Efforts Jonathan Winn answers questions about the diversity requirement resolution alongside other members of Students for Diversity Coalition. Photo by Joshua Bessex

The UW Students for Diversity Coalition (UWSDC) presented a resolution at a forum yesterday to reopen discussion of a universal diversity credit requirement at the UW. The resolution supported the incorporation of two to five diversity credits into UW graduation requirements, which proponents hope will be implemented during the 2014 school year.

Last April, students involved with the Black Student Union, First Nations, Filipino American Student Association, MEChA, and other student organizations proposed adding two courses in diversity to the UW graduation requirement. UWSDC has since created a resolution that outlines the goals of these classes. After presenting the resolution, the floor was opened for questions and concerns about the requirement.

In the resolution, UWSDC proposed that these requirements be met either through two two-to-five-credit classes at the UW or during an alternative learning experience, such as study abroad and service learning. The requirement would also count toward Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts or Individuals & Societies credits.

“Many people come in with the assumption that this is a race and ethnicity class, and it’s not,” said Roxana Garcia, director of the La Raza Student Commission. “It covers all diversity.”

The resolution created six stipulations for courses that would meet the diversity requirement. A satisfactory class must analyze at least one “socially constructed identity” like race, religion, or gender; teach about interactions between perspectives and experiences; investigate how contemporary society and institutions are contributing to inequality; and explore oppression, customs, activism, traditions, and history of these identities.

Currently, 330 courses already meet the requirements outlined. The resolution proposes that students would also be able to appeal to advisers, faculty members, and administrators to petition for their alternative learning experiences and potential classes to satisfy the requirement.

Remi Torres, a senior currently enrolled in the UW diversity minor, said she was concerned about students being able to appeal their classes.

“My concern is the integrity of the requirement,” Torres said. “If we are allowing our advisers from separate departments to let their students give their justification for their course, and, if there is not a rubric or a basic guideline for what the diversity requirement is really trying to achieve, … there could be total abuse of what can count as a diversity requirement.”

Garcia said the UW is currently the only public university in Washington state that does not have this requirement.

Kiehl Sundt, a junior RHSA senator in the ASUW, said he didn’t understand why the resolution required two low-credit classes as opposed to a single higher credit class.

“Why is it that two separate two-credit courses taken in the same quarter with less class time than a single five-credit class cover more material in less class time?” Sundt asked.

Tracy Hansen-Lamont, a founding member and leader of the UWSDC, responded that he could see how this would be a concern for many students, but that he worried about the available seats in five-credit classes.

Other concerns brought up in the forum were about a deadline that states the diversity requirement wouldn’t be implemented until 2014. Students expressed concerns about whether the university community would lose enthusiasm in the years before the proposal was implemented.

Candy Gutierrez, a member of MEChA and UWSDC, said she believes the interest in a diversity requirement will still be present in 2014.

“We definitely have the dedication [to keep the enthusiasm],” Gutierrez said. “We understood that from the beginning that this is going to be a few years of commitment. A lot of us won’t even be here when it starts — so really this is a very selfless act with a lot of these organizers. The passion is there, the dedication is there, the commitment is there, and it’s only going to get stronger, and this movement is going to get bigger.”

Hansen-Lamont said he felt the forum went well, and the next step is a meeting with UWSDC leadership to continue the dialogue about the concerns brought up by students.

“We’re just going to keep this an ongoing discussion,” Hansen-Lamont said.

Reach reporter Jillian Stampher at news@dailyuw.com.

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