DIVERSITY IN GENERAL EDUCATION
DIVERSITY IN THE WRIGHT STATE CURRICULUM
The Wright State University "Diversity Statement" (1997-99 Undergraduate Catalog, p. 321) asserts that "we encourage appropriate activities and events that foster learning about the diversity of our world." Consistent with that objective, attention to diversity is present in new student orientation, in general education, in majors throughout the university, and in a wide range of academic, social and artistic activities outside the curriculum.
Though widespread, curricular attention to diversity is inconsistent, largely unstructured, and sometimes little more than incidental references in a class devoted to other issues. Whereas one WSU student happens to select GE courses rich in diversity that are reinforced by diversity-oriented major courses, another graduates with very little exposure to diversity issues, especially as applied to the United States. Thus, even as we proclaim the importance of diversity at Wright State, we leave its presence in the curriculum largely to chance.
RECENT ATTEMPTS TO ADD DIVERSITY TO GE
The 1992-94 General Education Task Force recommended in Spring 1994 that a "diversity/multiculturalism course" be added to GE, noting however that "the faculty at WSU should have a clearer definition of what is meant by 'diversity' than they now possess and can articulate." The matter was subsequently taken up by the University Undergraduate Curriculum and Academic Policies Committee (UUCAPC) which recommended in May 1995 that a "Pluralism in American Society" course be combined with the RST and CST classes as "The Experience of Pluralism." Under this proposal, students would select courses from two of the three categories--Comparative Studies, Regional Studies, and American Pluralism. Academic Council approved this proposal in February 1996, but it was sent back to UUCAPC by the Faculty at their May 1996 meeting with the following charge:
(1) a reconsideration of adding a "Pluralism in American Society" course in GE without reduction of the CST/RST requirements and (2) a reconsideration of details on funding and class size of such a course.
UUCAPC explored a variety of models for meeting these conditions and then in March 1997 referred the matter to a special committee on "Pluralism in American Society," which was later renamed by the committee as the Committee on Diversity in the Curriculum, whose recommendations are contained herein.
1998 GE TASK FORCE INCLUSION OF DIVERSITY IN GE
The General Education Task Force's "Recommendations" for a new GE framework now being considered by the faculty calls for "substantial attention to American diversity or to international issues." The new structure acknowledges the importance of diversity to GE but limits its inclusion to "where feasible." With no definition of "diversity," no provision for curricular or faculty development, and no indication of how extensively diversity issues would be integrated into new and existing GE courses, the proposal stops short of securing a substantial and meaningful presence for diversity in GE. Nevertheless, the task force's recommendations provide a useful foundation on which to build.
The Committee on Diversity in the Curriculum endorses the fundamental approach to diversity offered in "Possible New Structure for GE" and recommends that this strategy be adopted (with modifications specified below) as part of either the newly proposed or the existing structure of General Education. We request that this proposal be submitted as an independent motion to the Faculty Senate, so that it may be implemented regardless of the outcome of the GE Task Force's recommendations.
1. Courses throughout the proposed (or existing) GE structure will include substantial attention to diversity, both internationally and in the United States. Collectively, these courses will guide students--
a. to explore the diversity of cultural and social groups in the United States through the lenses of ethnicity, race, nationality, class, gender, sexuality, age, disability, and others, and through the interactions among these categories;
b. to study the past and the world in which we live from a wide range of perspectives;
c. to recognize the contributions of diverse individuals and groups and to understand how they have changed our world; and
d. to explore the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of diversity for various groups in the U.S.
2. GE class sections that successfully accomplish a, b, c, and d above will be identified in the Class Schedule as "diversity" sections.
3. The University Undergraduate Curriculum and Academic Policy Committee (UUCAPC) will be charged with establishing a process for--
a. overseeing the GE diversity requirement,
b. interpreting the guidelines for "diversity" sections of GE classes,
c. designating "diversity" courses and course sections,
d. coordinating and promoting faculty development opportunities, and
e. assessing the effectiveness of the GE diversity requirement and its relationship with the rest of the curriculum.
4. Funds for continuing faculty development programs will be made available through the Center for Teaching and Learning.
5. The catalog statement of General Education goals will be revised to reflect attention to diversity in GE classes.
These recommendations impose no new requirement for students, so implementation can begin immediately. Efforts to enhance attention to diversity throughout the GE curriculum can begin at once, and they should be supported without delay by appropriate faculty development opportunities. "Diversity" classes can be phased in as they are developed, and annual assessment should be initiated within the first year.
Because of staffing, budget, and scheduling uncertainties, this proposal calls for designated "diversity" classes to be available, but not required. The Committee on Diversity in the Curriculum recommends that development of these courses be strongly encouraged with a goal of offering sufficient "diversity" classes so that all students can enroll in at least one while at WSU. Furthermore, the committee recommends that within three years the university faculty assess the feasibility of requiring all students to complete at least one "diversity" class in order to graduate. This diversity requirement could be satisfied by completing a designated "diversity" class in General Education, in the student's major, or as an elective.
This proposal represents a compromise between many competing forces. It fits within both the existing GE and the proposed new GE structures; it adds no new course or other requirements that students must meet to graduate; and its only direct costs are in faculty development needs that should be addressed regardless of the curricular proposal. It calls for a widespread inclusion of diversity across the GE curriculum that is directed by flexible guidelines. In addition, designated "diversity" sections highlight the importance of diversity, alert students to focused opportunities, and acknowledge faculty contributions in this area. Finally, the proposal calls for oversight and assessment mechanisms to establish and maintain standards for diversity's meaningful presence in GE.
Submitted by the Committee on Diversity in the Curriculum