When classes in “Nonverbal Communication” and “Witches: Myth and Historical Reality” count as promoting diversity, some students question whether there is a loophole in avoiding the general education socio-cultural diversity requirement.
To graduate from UC Davis, students are required to take at least one course from a long list of classes in socio-cultural diversity.
“[The classes are designed to introduce students to] the significance of the many patterned differences that characterize human populations – particularly differences of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or social class,” according to the University Registrar’s general education guidelines.
While any of the hundreds of diversity-focused courses offered in Chicana/o, African American, Native American and women’s studies can count toward fulfilling the requirement, there are also dozens of courses in seemingly unrelated fields – textiles and clothing, nutrition, humanities and communication – that can be taken instead.
Monisha Newbon, a senior sociology major, is one of several students who has spoken out in demanding a more rigorous definition of the term socio-cultural diversity. On behalf of the Black Student Union, Newbon helped author and submit a list of recommendations to Chancellor Katehi, urging a more thorough look at UC Davis’ general education diversity requirement.
Among the suggestions submitted, Newbon urged that eight instead of four courses in diversity be required, and that courses be “more inclusive of all intersections of identity,” specifying that women’s and gender studies classes, ethnic and queer studies classes should be the only way to satisfy this requirement.
Newbon also argued that the list of socio-cultural diversity classes offered in the UC Davis catalog is too general.
“A food science, beer making class, or any other class that does not enhance, educate and bring awareness about diversity should not fulfill this requirement,” she said.
From the perspective of campus leadership, the need for multidisciplinary coursework in diversity is an important factor in promoting understanding between fields of study.
“At UC Davis, our number one goal is academic excellence, and without a deep understanding of diversity, that goal isn’t complete,” said Steven Baissa, director of the Cross Cultural Center.
“To know where you’re going in the future, you need to know what happened in the past. This requires that you have a curriculum that is rigorous enough, and challenges you to think critically about how you view yourself and others in any field.”
According to Baissa, the option of taking classes across disciplines allows students to consider viewpoints and perspectives out of their own comfort zone, and to be more tolerant of differences.
MICHELLE IMMEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.