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Group suggests 12 more non-Western gen-ed units

By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 1, 2004
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A faculty committee is recommending that the university require undergraduates to complete 12 units of gender, race, class, ethnicity and non-Western civilization classes, nine more than students must take now.

Six of those units should come as part of the general education requirements, and six should come through courses within students' majors that would address more diverse means of approaching individual disciplines, the group recommended.

The committee, one of four charged with outlining how the UA can become excellent in critical academic disciplines, said the current three-unit requirement doesn't demonstrate a serious enough commitment to exposing students to diverse ideas.

"This kind of initiative is partly about breaking out of a notion that there is one set of facts, one way of seeing the world and taking seriously that there might be others," said Miranda Joseph, an associate professor of women's studies and one of the committee's co-chairs.

Her committee's recommendation was one of an array of proposals suggested by the groups, who were each assigned to outline how the UA can improve in an area that President Peter Likins and Provost George Davis have emphasized as a strength.

One of those strengths is cultural, ethnic, gender and area studies, the area Joseph's committee felt would be enhanced by broadening the diversity requirement.

"The idea is to really have these areas of research, have the university take it seriously," she said.

University administrators say they'll ask other committees to consider the feasibility of altering the diversity requirements, but Davis said a four-fold increase in the number of required courses in this area could be "a tough sell."

A committee evaluating the university's general education curriculum will consider the proposal, which would double the number of diversity-related general education courses.

Though he isn't sure what the committee will decide, Jerrold Hogle, vice provost for instruction, said he agrees that diversity is a field that shouldn't get short shrift in students' educations.

"I believe that understanding how we have dealt and might deal with issues of gender, race, class and ethnicity, learning about those processes and learning about that history is part of a liberal education in the modern world," Hogle said.

But he warned that requiring six units of these courses in each major could pose logistical problems.

Joseph acknowledged that integrating this requirement into some departments could be a challenge.

"You can't suddenly say to the physics department that you have to offer your majors two courses in non-Western approaches to physics," she said.

Some students objected to the possibility of being forced to take more required courses.

"It's a bad idea," said Lisa Minieri, a pre-business sophomore. "They already make us take classes not in our major, and that affects our GPA." Minieri also said she didn't think the university is lacking diverse views.

Todd Helmick, a business sophomore, disagreed. He said he thought some university students need classes exposing them to different views.

"If there are types of programs that'll make society as a whole better, then I think it could be good," he said.

Three other committees' recommendations for improving other critical academic disciplines were also released this week.

Those disciplines are:

  • cognitive science and neuroscience

  • Earth sciences and environmental programs

  • life sciences

    The committees made a wide range of proposals, including hiring dozens of new faculty members and creating cross-departmental collaborations that would encourage faculty to work not just with people inside their narrow areas.

    Not all the study teams made specific recommendations about how many faculty must be hired, but two of the four groups suggested hiring a total of 71 faculty within five years.

    Davis and college deans will combine those recommendations with other academic priorities.

    But he said the university won't be able to implement all the recommendations.

    "There's no way we can afford (all of) them," he said.

    The reports can be viewed

    in their entirety at

    - Mitra Taj contributed to this report.

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