By Kaylyn Kluck
Diversity will soon be required reading on campus.
The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences recently announced incoming students will have to fulfill a new diversity and inclusion course requirement. The curriculum update is supposed to replace the old Values, Society, and Diversity requirement by 2017.
The decision comes at a time when issues of diversity, whether on university campuses or in the Oscars, make headlines nationwide. Iowa is one of many colleges across the nation seeking out new ways to create a more diversity-friendly atmosphere.
UI Associate Vice President Georgina Dodge, the chief diversity officer, said she was glad to see the change.
“The former requirement had lost focus over time, and revisiting the goal of the course was necessary,” she said.
Jacob Simpson, the vice City Council liaison for UI Student Government, said he worked with staff and faculty to help develop course content and that proposals would be developed in the coming months.
“The purpose does not limit courses to focusing on diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.,” Simpson said. “Rather, courses could focus on diversity of political views.”
Simpson also said the size of the classes would be smaller in order to foster meaningful discussion among students and faculty.
He said he hopes bringing diversity to the forefront of student minds will result in a more welcoming and inclusive campus culture.
Noopur Inani, the diversity liaison for UISG, said she is also optimistic about the change.
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“Racism and discrimination on campus cannot be eliminated through a few initiatives, but it must be addressed on many different levels,” Inani said.
She said she believes the open-dialogue approach of these classes will be a key aspect of addressing the racism and xenophobia that exists on campus.
However, she said, the class should only be one step in a larger plan to make a change.
Currently, only students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be required to take the new diversity course, but the university’s other colleges may soon follow suit.
Kenneth Brown, an associate dean for the Tippie College of Business, said although a final decision has not yet been made, it is likely that business students will see an update in their curriculum as well.
“Our general education program already closely mirrors the [liberal-arts] requirements, and we know how important this new requirement is for our students,” Brown said.
Liberal-arts Associate Dean Helena Dettmer said the process of enacting the new required course was a group effort.
“The students were intimately involved in promoting that we should have a requirement in diversity,” she said.
Dettmer said although diversity courses have always been offered, they would now be more “prominent” in the curriculum.
“We’re hoping it’s going to make the students more sensitive to differences,” she said. “We’re always trying to better prepare them for the workplace and global community.”