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Academic Senate debates General Education ‘diversity’ category’s name

The Academic Senate did not make a final decision on changing the term “human diversity” to “racial/ethnic diversity.”

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Academic senators spent one hour of their meeting discussing whether the new General Education Policy should name a GE requirement “Racial/Ethnic Diversity” or “Human Diversity,” ultimately not making a final decision on the matter.

At the Sept. 20 Academic Senate meeting, a new ad hoc committee was formed to review the General Education and Requirements Policy drafted by the Curriculum and Educational Policies Council and an additional committee.

According to ad hoc committee representative Grace Reynolds, the committee spent 10 hours over the course of three days revising the policy. Due to time constraints, they could not complete a line-by-line revision and opted to focus on “large issues” within the document, Reynolds said.

One of their proposals was a change of the general education Category F requirement name “Human Diversity” to “Racial/Ethnic Diversity.”

“My college had very strong feelings that just having the focus on racial and ethnic minorities, as defined as certain groups within the United States, was too limiting,” Reynolds said. “There were many of us who discussed and went back to the old language, going back to ‘human diversity.’”

The proposal spurred a debate that lasted one hour in the senate chambers. Along with members of the ad hoc committee, chair of the General Education and Governing Committee Tiffani Travis acted as a moderator.

“It seems there is a misunderstanding about the revision of the GE,” Travis said. “The difference in focus on race is not that great. The major difference is that it focuses on structural disadvantage, and that is a more centralized focus, so it really does hit on what is important for today.”

She also said that professors are free to talk extensively about other social markers and other aspects of diversity, and are not limited to only racial and ethnic diversity.

“This is very much needed, not only because of our political climate, [but] on campus we have a lot of students who are from these underrepresented communities” said Associated Students Inc. President Genesis Jara, who participated in student forums last semester.

According to the campus Common Data Set for 2016-2017, 78.7 percent of undergraduates in that academic year were minorities. That same year, 17.8 percent were non-Hispanic whites and 3.5 percent were unknown.

“There are many elements of human diversity. However, race and diversity is one that’s easy for people to ignore, mostly because it can get contentious,” said college of education senator Edwin Achola. “[I agree with the name racial and ethnic diversity] so that way folks don’t ignore this very critical component of human diversity. At the same time, they have the freedom to express other forms of diversity.”

All students are already required to take the Category F requirement at the Long Beach State campus, but the name change will only go into effect if the ad hoc’s revision is approved by the Academic Senate.

“[We as students] don’t think it should be broad,” Jara said. “This needs to be something that we really focus on as a university, especially since we always talk about inclusive excellence.”

Under LBSU’s Strategic Priorities and Goals 2017-2020, inclusive excellence is listed as one of the campus’s top three priorities along with intellectual achievement and public good.

English Senator and women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor Elizabeth Guzik argued that, despite “racial and ethnic diversity” being a more specific title, classes would still be inclusive of all aspects of human diversity.

“I am teaching classes that would fit under the racial and ethnic diversity requirement,” Guzik said. “You cannot teach well racial and ethnic diversity classes without also teaching those intersectional axes of gender and sexual orientation and socioeconomic classes.”

There were no motions to extend discussion time on the subject.

“Our students need us to make a space to talk about race and ethnicity, a distinct space,” liberal arts Senator and Chair Deborah Thien said. “While my optimism in the nation is rather limited at the moment, my optimism in this campus remains boundless. We are an incredibly collegial and collaborative campus and we can work this out.”

The next Academic Senate meeting will take place on Oct. 18 in Towner Auditorium from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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