Associated Student Government Sen. Rachel Lopez might see nearly a year of her efforts – and nearly eight years of ASG’s – come to fruition in April, when Weinberg faculty will vote on a proposed interdisciplinary studies distribution system that would allow students to choose which distribution area certain classes fulfill.
Proposed by the Weinberg general studies committee March 7, the plan would mean that an interdisciplinary course could fit into more than one category, but the same course couldn’t count for more than one credit. Currently the department chooses which category a class falls into, but the new plan would allow students to choose the category for which the interdisciplinary course would count.
The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences divides its distribution requirements into six categories: natural sciences, formal studies, social sciences, history, values and literature. Every Weinberg student must take two 100- or 200-level classes in each area to graduate.
The interdisciplinary distribution system would replace Weinberg’s Western Civilization distribution area, which currently lets Weinberg students choose to count five classics and European thought and culture classes in one of three distribution areas.
Lopez, a Weinberg sophomore, co-wrote a bill passed Feb. 9 last year that called for the Western Civilization area to be expanded to include non-Western cultures, such as Asian, African and Latino cultures, and gay, lesbian and gender studies.
Lopez said she spoke with Weinberg Dean Eric Sundquist and Associate Dean Robert Coen last year after the ASG Senate passed the bill, and initially they were not receptive to the idea. But she said when she returned from Summer Session she contacted Coen, who said he was interested in pursuing her idea.
Lopez said she contacted Weinberg Assistant Dean Mary Finn about once every two weeks throughout Fall and Winter Quarters to offer input on the interdisciplinary studies idea. Although the final interdisciplinary studies plan expands upon Lopez’s bill, she said it accomplishes her goals.
“The final plan expanded on (the bill) to the point that it fits both our needs,” Lopez said. “It’s all about students benefiting the most.”
Finn, who is also an English lecturer, said in a Feb. 28 meeting that the new interdisciplinary studies area would make that part of the distribution requirements less Eurocentric.
“We worked on this proposal to change Western (civilization) to something not designating a particular geographic area, so that the concern of a privileging of Western culture would be taken care of,” Finn said.
Lopez said the plan would create a more diverse curriculum for students, which would promote more harmony between people of different races on campus.
“It will increase racial awareness on campus, and there are a lot of racial problems on campus,” she said. “Awareness breeds understanding, which eases racial tensions.”
The ASG bill, which was co-written by Weinberg sophomore Tiffany Berry and Weinberg junior Levi Guter, was the latest in a series of ASG bills dating back to 1993 that called for a more diverse curriculum.
In 1993 the ASG Senate passed a bill calling for Weinberg administrators to require students to take two classes focusing on multiculturalism. The bill was passed in the wake of a string of racist and anti-gay incidents, including the assault of a Gay and Lesbian Alliance member outside of Shanley Pavilion, a fraternity rush poster featuring Aunt Jemima and graffiti on the walls of Norris University Center reading “Die Queers, there will be blood.”
ASG Executive Board members proposed the multicultural distribution requirement to NU’s Board of Trustees, but the requirement was never adopted.
A 1994 report from Weinberg’s curricular policies committee gives myriad reasons for not adding the multicultural requirement. Many faculty members said students already had too many requirements and some believed that requiring students to take classes in multiculturalism would be counterproductive to its goal.