MU general faculty rejects diversity course proposal

Friday, May 13, 2011 | 7:33 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A proposal for a required diversity intensive course at MU hit a bump in its road to approval.

This week, MU general faculty turned down the proposal for the requirement by a slim margin of 232 to 210 votes. Twenty-three faculty members abstained, and votes were submitted by mail.

The proposal would have added one three credit-hour course as a diversity requirement to the general education curriculum. The course would have had two main objectives:

  • Understanding differing social groups.
  • Exploring social inequities broadly defined to include class, race, age, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, veterans, rural and urban communities, economic and/or resource disparities, indigenous cultures, etc.

The faculty council approved the proposal in March, but it had to gain approval from the general faculty to proceed. 

Faculty Council Chair Leona Rubin said she knew some of the faculty had concerns about the issue, either because they wanted more specific details on approving diversity-intensive courses or because they already had diversity courses built into their curricula.

"I do think it was a rejection of the proposal, not the creation of a diversity course," Rubin said. "We just have to do a better job with the proposal and get some of the details in there — actually describe how the approval process will work."

MU chemistry professor John Adams agreed. Adams is the former chair of the university's General Education Task Force, which made the original recommendation to the council.

"I would hope that no one necessarily takes it as opposition to the notion of some sort of diversity or multicultural requirement simply because people were opposed to the mechanism for implementing that," Adams said.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton made a statement Friday saying he suspected teachers did not have enough specific information to approve the proposal. Despite the rejection, Deaton said in the prepared statement that a diversity course requirement is critical to giving students the opportunity to "observe and critically analyze the diverse human experience within a climate of respect."

"I was disappointed to learn that the faculty narrowly defeated the addition of a diversity intensive course requirement," Deaton said in the statement. "However, I remain certain our faculty are as committed as I to supporting diversity on our campus."

John Petrocik, professor and chair of MU's political science department, said he was surprised the measure failed, despite some of his colleagues' thoughts that it was a very open-ended commitment.

"I did think it would pass, despite the concerns that were expressed," Petrocik said.

Rubin says the council now needs to "go back to the drawing board" to make revisions to the requirement.

Although not all of the council members will be able to attend meetings in June and July, Rubin said she expects the process to keep moving during the summer. She said she hopes to have a new proposal approved by faculty by the end of the fall 2011 semester.

"I think it's a matter of crafting all of the details and trying to identify the real holdup for the faculty, and see if we can fix it in a way that doesn't compromise the educational opportunities," Rubin said.

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Ellis Smith May 14, 2011 | 7:09 a.m.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

[Old Phelps County Missouri saying.]

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