June 3, 2013

Diversity graduation requirement for UW undergraduates approved

Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

A long-time student-led effort to pass a diversity course requirement for all University of Washington undergraduates has come to fruition.

The legislation, supported by UW President Michael K. Young, was approved by the Faculty Senate on April 25. A Class “B” Bulletin outlining the requirement was then distributed to faculty at all three campuses for a vote. Only 23 of a required 213 objections needed to amend or overturn the legislation were received by the May 24 deadline, making it effective immediately.

Students gather in Red Square

UW students gathered in Red Square on April 25 to celebrate the Faculty Senate’s approval of the diversity graduation requirement.

“The UW has a long and distinguished history of exemplary diversity work,” said Sheila Edwards Lange, vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity. “The passage of the diversity requirement adds the final piece in our comprehensive array of student, faculty, staff and community programs at the UW.”

The diversity graduation requirement will include three credits of coursework that focus on the sociocultural, political and economic diversity of human experience at local, regional or global scales. As stated in the legislation, “The requirement is meant to help the student develop an understanding of the complexities of living in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies.”

These credits will simultaneously satisfy other “area of knowledge” requirements and will not add to students’ general education requirements.

UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce and Senior Vice Provost Jerry Baldasty will work on implementation plans with deans, as well as with a joint faculty-student task force chaired by Undergraduate Academic Affairs Dean and Vice Provost Ed Taylor and Center for Curriculum Transformation Director Betty Schmitz. Faculty of each school, college and campus will recommend and approve courses to meet the requirement, which likely will be implemented in 2014.

“In this fast-moving age of global interaction, it is vital that students learn about diverse cultures and complex societies,” Faculty Senate Chair Jim Gregory said. “This requirement brings our curriculum into the 21st century.”

The passage of the diversity requirement is the culmination of 25 years of work. UW students initiated three previous proposals that encountered resistance at various stages of the approval process.

The current proposal for the diversity requirement originated three years ago by the UW Students for Diversity Coalition. The coalition’s membership featured students from several campus organizations, including the Black Student Union, First Nations, Filipino American Student Association and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan. Their proposal was initially approved by the Associated Students of the UW in the fall of 2012.

“I would like to congratulate these students on their collaborative effort,” Edwards Lange said. “They recognized the importance of the study of diversity, and crafted a strong proposal that expanded upon previous efforts to pass such legislation. I also commend the faculty members who worked with the students, contributed ideas and helped educate the UW community about the benefits of this requirement.”

“The process was significant because students, faculty and administration were able to come together to develop something that will benefit future generations of Huskies,” said Helen Fillmore, UW senior and a member of the UW Students for Diversity Coalition. “The importance of learning about diversity in the classroom and having education in that way is something that is really important to all of us so that we’re able to work better together. I’m super thankful for all those who fought for the requirement in the past and for those who kept it going.”

This recent proposal was also discussed and worked on by the Faculty Council on Multicultural Affairs, Faculty Council on Women in Academia, Faculty Council on Academic Standards, Senate Executive Committee and Faculty Senate.

Last year, UW faculty also voted a code change to consider accomplishments related to enriching diversity in teaching, research and service in faculty appointments and promotions decisions.