Implementation of diversity requirement in the ‘hands of the deans’

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

Administrators from five of Northwestern’s six undergraduate schools are currently deciding whether to adopt the proposed University-wide diversity requirement.

The Social Inequalities and Diversities requirement, which was recommended by the University Diversity Council to be implemented in the fall of 2015, includes an academic curricular component and a discussion-based activity outside of the classroom. 

The School of Education and Social Policy has adopted the academic component of the requirement, said Susan Olson, SESP’s assistant dean for students affairs. Olson did not specify whether the school has also instituted an extracurricular portion of the requirement. 

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the School of Communication have all developed courses that would fulfill the requirement.

(New course to analyze history of diversity efforts at Northwestern)

Dona Cordero, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, said the requirement now lies in the “hands of the deans.”

“At this point, it’s really up to the schools to make the determination as to whether or not it’s a requirement for their students,” Cordero said. “The faculty determine the curriculum, so with any school, faculty would need to, I would assume, vote on that to make it a requirement. It’s not something that is mandated.”

Cordero said the response to the proposal has been “pretty favorable.”

“There have been concerns about adding courses to places that are already full for many students,” she said. “That’s probably been the biggest concern.”

The requirement was proposed by the diversity council last February.

Cordero said the goal of the requirement is “to interact with people who have different life experiences, who come from different cultural backgrounds in order to one, work together in the academic environment, but two, to work together in the larger society.”

Olson said SESP approved the requirement last spring for students who entered the school that fall.

“The School of Education and Social Policy strives to improve people’s lives,” she said in an email to The Daily. “Whether it is in a classroom, family, organization or through policy, faculty and students in the School value the opportunity to better understand and improve learning and development.  The requirement to take a course that examines issues of social inequality and diversity fits in very well with the mission of SESP.”

Cordero said participation in Sustained Dialogue sessions would be the extracurricular component of the requirement.

Noor Hasan, a Sustained Dialogue moderator, said the program involves students meeting with the same group once a week for 90 minutes over the course of a quarter. 

“It would be similar to a discussion session where you’re meeting with the same group of people every single week, but instead of quizzes or writing, it’s more of a dialogue between different students and the group talking about their experiences, whether at Northwestern or in society as a whole,” the Weinberg senior said.

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