UI senate OKs adding courses on non-Western, minority cultures to required list

UI senate OKs adding courses on non-Western, minority cultures to required list

URBANA — Starting in fall 2018, every University of Illinois student will be required to take a course in U.S. minority culture in order to graduate.

After a lengthy debate Monday about race and diversity in education, the campus senate approved a change to the General Education requirements — core courses that all students must take in science, the humanities, social sciences, writing, quantitative reasoning and cultural studies.

Currently students have to take one course designated as "Western culture" and one that is either a "non-Western culture" or a "U.S. minority culture" course. Under the new requirement, they will have to take all three. Most of the 20 or so speakers who lined up to testify about the change Monday favored the proposal.

They argued that police shootings of young black men and the resulting unrest across the country — and events on campus over the past year — underscored the need to educate students about racial minority perspectives and prepare them for an increasingly multiracial society.

At the UI, they cited recent anti-immigrant chalk messages on the Quad, swastikas scrawled in Lincoln hall, a noose thrown on the table by a UI groundskeeper and postings about a "White Student Union" on Facebook.

"It's about time people are held accountable, to have informed conversations," said Shay Akil McLean, graduate student in sociology.

Some supporters argued that the requirement should be broader so students get a more "holistic" view of diversity, focusing not just on racial minorities but disabilities, sexual preference and religion. They cited anti-Muslim sentiment, among other problems.

UI junior Alex Villanueva said proponents argued that "we can use race to teach about diversity. Why not just use diversity to teach about race?"

Supporters said broader issues of diversity would be incorporated in the classes.

Craig Zilles, associate professor of computer science, said he had similar concerns initially but believes the courses should focus on racial issues, given the deep racial divisions in the country.

Brendan Harley, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, called the issue a "distraction," just like the argument over "all lives matter" vs. "black lives matter."

Under the proposal, courses approved for the U.S.-minority-culture category must "substantially address the experiences, conditions, and perspectives of U.S. racial minority populations," and courses focusing on "other socially significant identities (for example, sexuality, gender, religion, and disability) or broadly on diversity are appropriate for this requirement as long as the experiences of U.S. racial minorities are significant to these courses."

Professor Ronald Bailey, head of the Department of African-American Studies and chairman of the Committee on Race and Ethnicity, which developed the proposal, said the university should ensure all of those perspectives are incorporated into the curriculum.

"I hope we see this as a first step," he said. "I hope we don't see this as an either-or thing. This is not a zero-sum game."

Bailey and others also cited research from other campuses with similar requirements, showing that they tend to broaden student attitudes about race, make them more open to diverse viewpoints and enhance democratic participation and civic engagement.

The measure has been endorsed by all the major colleges and numerous departments on campus, though some deans suggested conditions to ensure students can graduate on time.

Some faculty and students who opposed the change argued that it could be costly, that it would force students in rigorous programs to delay graduation to fit the course into their schedules, and that it would be better to persuade students to take the course rather than require it.

Steven Michael, professor of business administration, noted that one report said it would require 73 new teaching assistants, calculating the cost at about $2 million.

But Chuck Tucker, vice provost for undergraduate education, estimated the cost at no more than $500,000. The majority of General Education courses are certified in more than one category, meaning students can fulfill two or more requirements by taking one course, he said.

Engineering students all have 18 hours set aside for humanities, the arts, cultural studies, and social and behavioral sciences, said Tucker, a former engineering dean. If they take just one dual-certified course, they wouldn't even have to use their electives, he said.

"This does not seem to be a large obstacle," he said.

Harley Johnson, professor of mechanical science and engineering, said every engineering student should have room to take the new requirement.

"Of course there are costs. But we believe the benefits far outweigh the costs," he said.

Kathryn Oberdeck, associate professor of history, said departments can also incorporate issues of diversity into their core classes — perhaps a course addressing the effects of engineering initiatives on different communities, or racial diversity in business.

"I don't see this as a problem. It's another opportunity,' she said.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
illini82 wrote on May 03, 2016 at 7:05 am

So is the mission of the university EDUCATION OR INDOCTRINATION?

Is it the development of the necessary skillsets needed to be a productive, independent and self sufficient member of society or is it the adherance to a specific ideology and politicial world view?

ForReal wrote on May 03, 2016 at 8:05 am

Well said.

cgirl wrote on May 03, 2016 at 10:05 am

Considering I had to call out a co-worker on a bigoted statement yesterday, I think this is a good thing. Now if we could only require remedial classes for old, spoiled white guys...

Sancho Panza wrote on May 03, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Bigoted as in ageist, classist, racist, and sexist?

Based on my experience in the humanities at Illinois, this isn't a change since almost all required humanities classes are already taught from the aggrieved perpective. The only exception that I encountered was ancient western civilization.

cgirl wrote on May 04, 2016 at 9:05 am

Specifically racist, and language that hasn't been acceptable since...maybe the 40s? 50s? I don't care if it was "normal"when he was a kid, it's not acceptable and not professional.

Lostinspace wrote on May 03, 2016 at 9:05 am

Which department will propose a course on the Chief?

cgirl wrote on May 03, 2016 at 10:05 am

Which chief?

The university I attended had classes in Lakota. It was one of the most eye opening experiences I've had; especially the cultural differences between the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples (which are often classified together as Sioux)

Citizen1 wrote on May 03, 2016 at 11:05 am

Interesting yes.  Cost effective for the students, University, taxpayers no.  Nothing more than job security for those teaching unpopular classes of dubious value.

SaintClarence27 wrote on May 05, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Yes, very little value can be obtained from learning about a perspective different than one's own. Without this, it's much easier to stay in one's own bubble and decry others' perspectives and experiences as being "of dubious value," right?

Reykjavik wrote on May 04, 2016 at 8:05 pm

This course enhances the minority studies departments by giving them instructional units (IU's) by fiat.  It is really sad to grow departments by welfare, which is what this gesture amounts to.  I guess we could hire one fewer engineering prof to make way for this.

More useful and addressing societal problems more directly, would be to require all students take computer science.

Mamba wrote on May 06, 2016 at 1:05 pm

....Like making a generalization about old, spolied white guys isn't bigoted?

cgirl wrote on May 06, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Well, they can remove themselves from that pool by paying attention to the privileges they have. So it's on the fence.

I apologize to the non spoiled old white men out there.

Midwest wrote on May 10, 2016 at 5:05 pm

You're joking, right? The fact that you're in the workforce and believe what you believe is a testament to your failed education despite you taking a class about Indian tribes.

I'm not sure which is worse, your co-worker supposedely saying a bigoted statement, which can be corrected, or you going all "check-your-privlige," a mentality that is more so fueld by self-rigtheousness, born out of pathetic social science theory.

You arrogantly and condescendingly outright target white men, calling them old and spoiled, accussing them of privilege simply for their objection to the expansion of the list of already required courses for graduation. You don't even know they're white. You don't even know if they are, indeed, privileged. You don't know any of those things but you assume because your theories and concepts that back up your mentality have targeted whites, in particular white males.

Now, you could've went the route and said a broad, well-thought-out liberal arts education would strengthen the knowledge of a given student - say a Native American class (similar to the one you took) focusing on the different tribes around the Midwest, being relevant to the state of Illinois - but you didn't. You went full-retard and pulled the "privilege" card.

Quality of education is not determined on how many classes one took, expanding on topics/issues that is ushered under the name of "diveristy" in the world of academia (my observation tells me that diversity of thought isn't welcomed, so I'm concluding that "diversity" really means diversity in a UN sort of way), but the quality of content and discussion.

Of course being the person that I am I would've loved to be offered the chance to take an America Indian course focusing on their migration pattern. But that's just me. The downside, and an irony, is that you're increasing the cost of tuition, books and study time for the sake of "not being bigoted." You employ "privilege" yet it escapes you that attending university is a privilege itself, let alone being able to pay for it without going into massive debt. Your kind digs the hole deeper without even knowing it.

Also, I'm not sure how the expansion of general ed. requirements will cure any bigotedness or insensitivity - I mean it's one class - unless the class is looked at a historically accurate viewpoint and, as another poster puts it, not from an aggrieved viewpoint. If your mentality is the product of such general education then something isn't right; you've become intolerant, arrogant, entitled and, dare I say bigoted, towards the perceived villians without a shred of proof that that particular demographic need to be called out for their injustices.

I say all this as a non-white, pro-Chief male. And no, I don't have "privilege" simply due to my sex. There is no proof that I have personally benefited from it.

Check your self-righteousness at the door. It's not needed and it sinks the boat that is (real) education. You put more labor in "Learning & Labor" than actual learning.


cgirl wrote on May 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

No, I'm not joking. I DO wish that the spoiled, old white men I deal with regularly could be required to take another class. It's not going to happen.

However, you are incorrect about me not knowing the people I'm talking about are old, white, male and spoiled. I know these people, I've known them for over a decade (some of them life long) and I know their history. And yes, I shouldn't have used "spoiled," but honestly it's the nicest word I know to communicate my point.

Maybe you have a better word than"privilege" to describe people who think that it's easy for anyone to get a two year degree, get a job 6 weeks later that pays full health insurance, stay in that job for 40 years, and retire. Or the person who thinks you can work a summer job to pay for a year of college. Or a person who doesn't know that before the Affordable Care Act women had to pay more than men for heath insurance, which didn't matter because health insurance "doesn't cost much"

And if you'd read closely, you could see I didn't say that anyone had to make amends for having privileges, just to be aware of it.

And there is proof that you had privilege as a male. In 2009, the health insurance quoted us $186 per month for male employees between 25 and 29 years old, the quote for females age 25 to 29 was $474 per month. Health insurance that is 2.5 times cheaper.

Calling me self righteous, and telling me to "check it at the door" is just as condescending and arrogant asanything I said in previous posts.

Midwest wrote on August 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Though a year later, I believe this deserves a response.

Classes: guilt shaming white males, especially young ones, hasn't turned out so well. Let's stick with facts that aren't twisted that will serve the supposedy oppressed and maligned.

I do have a better word for "priviledge": ignorance. They're not one in the same. Prince Henry is privileged. A woman who wants tax payer dollars to support her abortions, is, in my mind, privileged.

As for health insurance, there are reasons why women are quoted higher. Each employee has its standards. Please look into it. It's simply not "well you got a vagina and breasts! Bill, let's charge her more!"

"Calling me self righteous, and telling me to "check it at the door" is just as condescending and arrogant asanything I said in previous posts."

No, it's not. It's so accurate that it's like a Marine sniper at target practice after a 10K run hitting the bullseye.