A resolution in support of a diversity credit requirement for graduation passed the ASUW Student Senate last night. A 72-20 vote approved the resolution after more than an hour and a half of discussion. The resolution will now be sent to the faculty senate.
If implemented, the requirement would mandate students take two courses of two to five credits that focus 60 percent of content on goals outlined by the resolution.
The goals include analyzing at least one socially constructed identity, teaching how these identities intersect with life, and teaching students to think about inequality and activism. Also listed as goals are exploring customs and traditions as they relate to power and oppression, exploring the historical precursors of power relations and investigating how contemporary society contributes to inequality.
Shange Purnell, the sponsor of the resolution, said the requirement is important for preparing students for the world, and the UW is behind by not already having this requirement.
Jonathan Winn, ASUW director of diversity efforts, emphasized the importance of UW being a role model to other universities.
“Our peer institutions have diversity requirements, so what does that say about us, that we are not up to par with universities such as WSU and other institutions that have this requirement,” Winn said. “The University of Washington is a flagship campus. That means people look at us. If we cannot work with other people and we do not have that skill set, then we are behind.”
An amendment was made to the resolution to change the clause that previously said these credits would also count toward VLPA and I&S requirements to say “other areas of knowledge.”
Although the majority of the senators approved the resolution, many expressed concerns.
ASUW senator James Hubert said although he believes the UW should encourage diversity awareness, this requirement is not the way to do it.
“On the face of it I was in favor of this resolution; however, on further thought, I thought back to my high school experience and I remembered how it seemed to me a lot of the really valuable education about diversity came not from classes but from the interaction with students from other races and other lifestyles,” Hubert said. “So with that perspective I cannot say I am in favor of this amendment. We should be encouraging people to go out and interact with others who are diverse rather than having them taught by a professor with a Ph.D.”
Purnell said it was a good goal to have students interact with diverse communities and the sponsors hope to foster that with the diversity requirement.
“This would be the first step in that process and we need to have that first step to have any progress at all,” Purnell said.
The request for two separate courses in diversity, as opposed to only one, was also a point of debate. Senators expressed concern that requiring two courses would make it more difficult for students to fulfill the requirement.
ASUW senator Titus Butcher, a transfer student and senior in engineering, said he felt it was unreasonable to expect students to add another two courses to their already packed schedules.
“It is completely ridiculous to say that two classes that are specifically outlined on top of all the other prerequisites for engineering is possible to do in four years,” Butcher said. “For the University of Washington and for the state, one of the main goals is to get the students out in four years.”
Purnell, however, defended the original clause and said research showed taking two separate courses has a greater effect on a student than a single course would.
“One course would not be enough to get the goals that we want. We need the two different experiences,” Purnell said. “The first time, it’s your initial step into a diversity course and then the second time it comes at you again.”
Students also expressed concern about adding foreign language courses and study abroad to the requirement outline; however, it was decided that this was already included.
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