School looks at diversity classes

ALBUQUERQUE – Students at the University of New Mexico may soon be required to take at least one class on diversity.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a draft proposal by the Provost’s Diversity Council calls for a three-credit diversity requirement that could go into effect in fall 2014. The class would be required for all students before graduation under the proposal.

The council will seek approval from the Faculty Senate and other entities within the next few months. The Diversity Council, formed a year ago and made up of 22 students, faculty and staff members, has been examining a potential three-credit course requirement for several months.

President Bob Frank and Provost Chaouki Abdallah say they are on board with the proposal.

“New Mexico’s richness is predicated on our cultural and social diversity,” Frank wrote in a letter backing the requirement. “As a majority-minority state, we have a unique responsibility to ensure that our curriculum reflects our values in the areas of diversity and inclusion.”

Students at many Southwestern universities already have such a requirement.

The diversity credit could be fulfilled through new courses, existing ones or modification of existing ones, according to the draft. To qualify as a diversity credit, a course’s content would have to be at least 50 percent focused on understanding subjects such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and disability, and it could do so in a U.S. or global context.

“It is a well-documented fact that undergraduates who have more frequent experiences with diversity tend to be more engaged, and are more likely to persist and graduate than their counterparts who lack such experiences,” the council wrote in a draft of the proposal.

UNM is a Hispanic Serving Institution, which means it gets special federal funding for serving a minimum 25 percent Hispanic population. The school’s Latino population is actually 37 percent, while whites make up 38 percent of the student body and American Indians make up 11 percent.

Asian Americans and blacks make up 3 and 2 percent respectively. In total, more than half of undergraduate students come from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

This is not the first time UNM has tried introducing a mandatory diversity requirement. An attempt in 2007 would have added required credits to existing degree programs, which the new plan would not.

The earlier version also included graduate students, while the new proposal would be strictly for undergraduates.

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