Northwestern Diversity Council prepares proposal for first school-wide diversity requirement

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

The University Diversity Council is working on a proposal for Northwestern’s first university-wide diversity requirement.

The impending proposal will include student learning outcomes and guidelines for how courses can meet the requirement. Student learning outcomes consist of a statement presenting what skill or body of knowledge the students would gain as a result of taking a course. The academics and education working group, which meets monthly, consists of students, faculty and staff from all schools.

“We’re in the early stages, but the work has continued throughout the summer,” said UDC chair Dona Cordero.

So far, a UDC subcommittee has written a document defining the requirement’s learning outcomes. At the next meeting, the working group will review the document and assess how they apply to the current NU curriculum.

“If there are existing courses, let’s take a look at those and see how we can work with those,” said Cordero, also the assistant provost for diversity and inclusion. “And if there aren’t existing courses, then there may be a need to develop a course or courses that meet the expectation of the learning outcomes.”

The working group faces two main concerns: the amount of work the requirement would add on to students’ already hefty workloads and the notion that the subject of diversity is not academic.

“(Some people) think of it as something that’s just personal, that people can just reflect or talk about it,” said Frances Aparicio, director for the Latina and Latino studies program. “There is a whole scholarship on this, so it’s not something that is just about the person.”

Some students feel that the larger NU community is apathetic to issues pertaining to diversity and minorities.

“At Northwestern, the culture is to do well in school and then leave and get a job,” SESP junior Tessa Chiu said. “But if you make them take that class or to learn more about it – I don’t know if they would actually do anything – it would be a step in the right direction.”

The UDC recently replaced the Faculty Diversity Committee to expand the focus to include student and staff issues. Although the shift had been pending before racially insensitive incidents in the spring, the debate on diversity that ensued substantiated the committee reform.

“Certainly the issues that happened over the past year just reinforced the need for more attention in this area,” Cordero said.