Faculty council focuses on enhanced general education diversity requirement

Thanks to the work of an appointed subcommittee, the Bloomington Faculty Council is a step closer to recommending an enhanced diversity requirement as part of the university's general education curriculum.

The subcommittee, which is made up of members from the council's committees on educational policies, general education, and diversity and affirmative action, as well as students, was formed in response to a diversity resolution passed by the council in April 2016. This resolution charged the Educational Policies Committee with exploring the addition of such a requirement, whether it be a new course, the integration of diversity discussion into several courses, co-curricular experiences or a combination of each, into the early portion of students' time at IU.

Bloomington Faculty Council meetingView print quality image
A subcommittee of the Bloomington Faculty Council is exploring the addition of an enhanced diversity requirement for the university's general education curriculum. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

On Oct. 19, the subcommittee presented recommendations for learning outcomes of the new requirement to more than 50 attendees of a public meeting in Jordan Hall. The outcomes fall into three categories: knowledge; analysis and interpretive skills; and intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. The subcommittee suggested that a course or activity should achieve at least two suggested learning outcomes from each category to meet the general education requirement.

Outcomes include goals such as understanding social constructions of identities and movements that shape and challenge systems of power; being able to identify ways in which individuals and groups have unequal experiences and recognizing their implicit biases and assumptions; and being able to challenge and question how those shape their actions.

Many meeting attendees felt that the list of outcomes was too robust, with five outcomes in two categories and four in the other. Some felt that it would put a strain on faculty, departments and schools to meet these outcomes, while others felt that the broad list of options may lead to a recategorization of existing courses and experiences instead of a thoughtful new approach to learning about diversity.

The subcommittee had focused solely on the creation of learning objectives and used the open meeting to gather feedback before discussing methods of implementation. Attendees pointed out that adding a course or courses for the requirement would also require adding instructors. There were also concerns that structured degree programs with a high number of required courses would exceed the 120-hour credit limit for degree requirements if another course were added.

The goal of IU's general education is to prepare students with a set of skills and an awareness that will be important throughout life and in the workplace, and diversity is a critical component of that.

Simon Brassell

Many meeting participants also stressed the importance of finding a balance between courses and co-curricular opportunities for the requirement. Students on the subcommittee expressed a deep need for activities outside the classroom that facilitate conversation and put the subject area into practice, but some meeting attendees worried that these activities would have less of an impact without the foundation of historical and societal context a course would provide. Minority students might be forced to bear the burden of educating majority students, faculty and staff about marginalization during these activities without help from a course.

The learning outcomes and feedback from the open meeting were shared with the entire Bloomington Faculty Council during its Oct. 23 meeting, prompting further discussion about ways to integrate diversity education into several areas across a student's career at IU. Whether this is achieved by incorporating requirements at the degree program level or university level, council members agree that learning about diversity is crucial for student success.

"The goal of IU's general education is to prepare students with a set of skills and an awareness that will be important throughout life and in the workplace, and diversity is a critical component of that," said Simon Brassell, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and co-chair of the faculty council's Educational Policies Committee.

After a revision of the learning outcomes, the Educational Policies Committee will seek endorsement from the General Education Committee and, eventually, approval from the Bloomington Faculty Council. Once the outcomes are approved, a committee will be formed to recommend a method for implement the diversity requirement.

Interested in providing feedback on the list of learning outcomes? Complete a comment form on the Bloomington Faculty Council website.