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June 9, 2011 Volume 32, No. 31

After failed vote, MU remains committed to diversity requirement


“Multiple factors” led to proposal’s narrow defeat

Campus leaders say that despite the failure of a recent proposal to pass muster with MU faculty, they plan to keep working on a diversity-intensive course requirement for undergraduate students.

In May, the general faculty narrowly rejected a proposal drawn up by the MU Faculty Council that would have required completion of a three-hour course that explores “the diverse human experience” before graduation. Ballots were sent to 1,200 faculty members; 210 voted for the proposal, while 232 voted against it.

Council Chair Leona Rubin said “multiple factors” contributed to the proposal’s defeat. Some faculty members were concerned about the process for approving courses that would be designated diversity-intensive. Others thought the focus on “social inequalities” was too narrow. Still others believed students were already knowledgeable about diversity issues and a course requirement was unnecessary.

“My biggest concern is that we did not hear these concerns before the vote, or we were not listening because we thought we had a good product,” Rubin said.

Rubin said she expects the council to revisit the issue during the 2011-2012 school year.

Debate on a diversity course began in 2004. The issue took on added urgency following two racially charged incidents involving students. In February, an 18-year-old freshman was arrested in February for allegedly spray-painting a racial slur on a statue outside Hatch Hall. That incident, just one year after two students were arrested for scattering cotton balls in front of MU’s Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, sparked outrage and a broad discussion about the campus environment.

In March, after months of debate and discussion, faculty council approved a proposal to require students to take a three-hour course dedicated to the study of social inequalities related to ethnicity, race, class, gender and religion. Under that proposal, a subcommittee of the Committee on Undergraduate Education would develop criteria for courses credited as diversity-intensive courses.

Rubin said she would continue to gather input on the need for a diversity requirement, while addressing specific faculty concerns, especially  the process for approving diversity-intensive courses.

In a statement, MU Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said he was disappointed that the proposal failed, but expressed confidence that faculty would ultimately come to agreement on a requirement.

“I remain certain our faculty are as committed as I to supporting diversity on our campus,” he said.