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May 27, 2016

College Council Passes Resolution to Diversify Sosc

By Alex Ward   

At Tuesday’s College Council (CC) meeting, representatives passed a resolution calling on the University to diversify the Social Sciences (Sosc) general education curriculum.

The resolution, introduced by first-year Mary Blair, criticizes the lack of texts from “non-Western and non-male people and perspectives” in Sosc classes. According to the resolution, “The University’s failure to incorporate diverse points of view in its Social Science General Education sequences means that it is also failing to support diversity and inclusion in the classroom, a place where students should feel safe in expressing their intellectuality and identity.”

In response to the lack of diverse perspectives, the resolution calls on Dean Boyer and Provost Isaacs to increase the number of non-European thinkers represented in all Sosc core sequences, particularly members of marginalized groups such as women of color. Additionally, the resolution asks the University to create a critical race theory–focused Sosc sequence supervised by faculty members of color, and to provide competency training for all faculty.

Blair told CC representatives that after going through hundreds of Sosc class syllabi from past years, she had found that on average only two of 15 texts listed per syllabus were not written by white men and that only one syllabus had included a text by a woman of color. She also shared personal anecdotes about her own negative classroom experiences and those of another unnamed student.

Referencing the University’s online course catalog, Blair said that without greater diversity, the Sosc sequences could not live up to their stated goal of preparing students to confront rapid social shifts in the modern world. “To achieve its own aims, the social science education policies need to change,” she said.

The Core’s current lack of diversity had come up in a previous CC meeting on April 12 during a discussion with Dean Boyer about upcoming changes for the 2016–2017 academic year. Class of 2019 representative Qudsiyyah Shariyf asked Boyer about the Core’s current Eurocentric focus, prompting him to defend the curriculum and stress upcoming additions such as the new neuroscience major and community service programs.

During the resolution’s discussion period, much of the dialogue was supportive of the resolution, with a few reservations, particularly about the creation of a critical race theory–oriented Core sequence and about CC potentially taking a stance on relatively specific social sciences issues mentioned in the resolution.

Class of 2018 representative Calvin Cottrell told CC members that the issue had come up previously during meetings of the Committee on Academics in the College (CAC), made up of two CC members, including Cottrell, and seven other College students. Cottrell said that he had been in similar classroom situations to those Blair described because of inadequately trained faculty, and that the issue should be a priority for CC next year.

Cosmo Albrecht, another Class of 2018 representative, said he supported the resolution generally but wondered whether lack of understanding between students was more due to the demographic breakdown of the University as a predominantly white institution than to the curriculum. Albrecht also expressed fear that students interested in critical race theory would saturate the proposed new Sosc sequence, homogenizing the other sections.

The resolution eventually passed 12–1–1.

CC representatives also voted to approve a proposed transparency bylaw which had previously been tabled until after the Student Government (SG) elections earlier this month. The bylaw allows “note-taking, photography, and the use of video and audio recording” at all CC Assembly meetings except in cases involving “sensitive or potentially endangering information,” in which representatives may forbid photography and video recording by a two-thirds vote.

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