UI Senate OKs Adding Courses on Non-Western, Minority Cultures to Required List

Julie Wurth, News‑Gazette, May 3, 2016

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.

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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.”

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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.

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