College faculty to vote on 'Community and Conflict' requirement
Faculty in the College of Letters and Science are set to begin voting Friday on a proposal that would require all undergraduates in the College, beginning with students entering in fall 2013, to enroll in a general education course in a new subcategory called "Community and Conflict in the Modern World."
Faculty and student representatives on the College’s Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) have been polishing this new proposal, which has been under discussion and analysis by faculty, for more than a year. If passed by a majority of the College faculty and approved by four Academic Senate bodies, the proposal would require all College undergraduates to take one course that will promote, through education and research, an understanding of how differences between people bring strengths as well as conflicts to communities.
Photo by Stephanie Diani.
Currently, to fulfill their general education (GE) requirements, undergraduates must take 10 courses — amounting to at least 48 units — that they select from three different categories. "Community and Conflict" could fall into any one of these three GE foundations areas.
The proposal would not increase the number of GE courses undergraduates are required to take, explained Michael Meranze, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) and a history professor. It simply means that one of those 10 courses will need to be a course in the subcategory, "Community and Conflict in the Modern World."
If the proposal is adopted, the FEC would work with faculty, departments and the GE Governance Committee to develop a list of courses that would fulfill the new requirement. As examples of the kinds of courses that may qualify, the FEC task force cited a course in Afrikaans literature (studied in English translation) from the pre-apartheid to postaparthied era; an introduction to American Indian studies; the history of Asian Americans; and a survey of the religious, political and cultural history of Jerusalem over three millennia.
Although many UCLA students and faculty have been calling for a diversity-related requirement since the 1990s, UCLA remains the only UC campus that doesn’t have one in its GE criteria. Only one school at UCLA — the School of the Arts and Architecture — has such a requirement, adopted by its faculty in 2007. In 2004, a proposed diversity requirement for College undergraduates was rejected by faculty, many of whom expressed the opinion that multicultural studies were already a part of many courses at UCLA, making a specific requirement unnecessary. Others were unhappy about the inclusion of the term, "diversity," which has taken on controversial overtones.
In 2010, however, Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh established a workgroup to investigate the possibility of developing a College-wide general education requirement aimed at advancing the university’s recently adopted Principles of Community
, which were developed by the Chancellor’s Advisory Group on Diversity to ensure "a welcoming and inclusive environment for all" in the campus community and serve as a guide for personal as well as collective behavior.
The current proposal evolved from that effort and was eventually approved by the FEC following a few revisions. Written to be much broader than the failed 2004 proposal, the requirement, Meranze clarified, stresses "not only conflicts between communities, but conflicts within communities."
Furthermore, the term "communities" is not strictly defined by race or ethnicity, said Kyle McJunkin, director of curriculum coordination and operations in the College’s Department of Undergraduate Education Initiatives. Courses could focus on any group defined by a sense of identity, unity or purpose that makes them distinct, lasting and coherent.
While there are many courses that UCLA students can choose from that follow this rubric, Meranze said, making it a GE requirement "will help ensure that it is a common learning experience rather than a self-selected one," and will "bring together both students who already have interests in these areas with those who may not — for the benefit of both."
And while the 2004 proposal and the current one share a common goal — to deepen students’ understanding of the new global environment in which they live — the current one is structured differently and covers very different ground, Meranze explained. "The new proposal places its emphasis less on the multiplicity of the modern world than on the processes of conflict within and between communities as they have responded to the historical development of modernity."
Student leaders have played a large role in working with the FEC to develop the proposal as well as in informing other students about it to build support. In spring 2011, students held a campuswide advisory vote to gauge whether undergraduates would support the proposed requirement, said Tlaloc Vasquez-Rodriguez, a student representative on the College FEC. About 63 percent of those who voted favored such a requirement.
"Student interest is what has propelled this proposal to its current stage," said Vasquez-Rodriguez. "Even now, students are lobbying UCLA faculty to garner support for a requirement we feel is much needed. To me, the process this proposal has undergone is a testament to the strength, passion and commitment of students."
Adopting the proposal, the student leader said, would be "a step towards creating awareness and encouraging critical dialogue on our campus" about issues prevalent in modern communities, especially those that are underrepresented at UCLA.
In a letter to faculty members last month, Meranze expressed the FEC’s support for the proposed requirement. It will "further the University’s ongoing efforts to promote analysis and understanding through education and research as well as deepen the campus’s commitment to civil dialogue, diversity and the freedom of expressions," he wrote.
Voting will begin May 18 and conclude May 25. Results will be announced June 1. If passed, the proposal then moves to the UCLA Academic Senate for review.