DePauw continues to discuss the 'M' requirement

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LEANN BURKE / THE DEPAUW

In the wake of the Day of Inclusion, many on DePauw’s campus have been working to continue the campus discussion on diversity and multiculturalism. It is viewed by many members of DePauw’s students, faculty and staff that the next step should be the creation of a multicultural credit into the curriculum.

“In the short time that I have been here it seems to be an awareness that everyone is talking about,” says Renee Madison, Senior advisor to the President for Diversity and Compliance, “It is really important that we all continue to come together and to discuss where we want to be as a campus.”

“I think DePauw’s campus climate could be greatly improved,” said sociology and anthropology professor Matthew Oware. Professor Oware was a member of a campus climate task force that was developed in 2008 to survey DePauw’s campus climate and found that some students, faculty and staff of color were feeling less than comfortable in the DePauw community. Several solutions were created in order to bring light to this issue including the possible creation of a multicultural credit.

“Since 2008 there have still been instances where there has been a need for a course or courses to be taken by students so they have some awareness of otherness,” said Professor Oware. Otherness can be class differences, racial, gender, orientation, religion, nationality, etc. The idea of the multicultural credit has been around since 2008, but it has only been recently that this idea has started to become real. John Caraher, physics professor and chair of the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) has been working with faculty and students to work the multicultural credit into the current curriculum.

“It has been five years since we adopted the current set of distribution requirements” said professor Caraher. The current system, two science and math,two arts and humanities and two social sciences, is DePauw’s current curriculum. CAPP has been working on three curriculum changes that would include a multicultural credit.

The first option would be adding a multicultural, or difference and diversity credit as professor Carher prefers, onto the current two by two by two set of course requirements.  One and a half credits would be needed because then students would be able to complete their requirement through an extended studies course.

The second option would be a “six experiences” idea, where the whole curriculum would be changed. Instead of the current system where one could essentially complete their math and science requirement by just taking science courses or their arts and humanities requirement by just taking humanities courses, these requirements would be organized into six different “experiences.” Students would take a math experience, and art experience, humanities experiences and so on. In essence you would still be taking the same amount of classes but they would be tailored to fit within these different experiences. This is considered to be more intellectually stimulating and exciting than the current system. In order to add in a multicultural credit, a seventh experience would be added.

Finally, a third option is being discussed where there would be a set of core requirements and the development of new courses, where students would take one course in western culture, one in non western culture and one counting as multicultural. This one is less fleshed out than the other two ideas and still being developed.

The hope is, is that this new system would be implemented by the start of the next academic year. Current students would have the choice of either staying with the system that they were brought into or changing to the new system.

The courses that would be considered to follow the multicultural credit would be courses dealing with race, gender, orientation, culture, class, and religion. Some foreign language classes may also be considered if they divulge heavily into the culture of where the language is spoken.

“This is going to be a very, very robust debate among the faculty and I think it ought to be. You want to get it right,” said president Brian Casey. “You are allowed to try different approaches and reflect upon their effectiveness and modify them as you need.”

Over the next month, CAPP will be working with groups of students and faculty members in order to further develop these curriculum changes. Some students feel that adding on a multicultural credit would be unneeded. “I think that it is wrong to force people to study things like that,” said first-year Sarah Ertelt,

“I think it would be better as an elective then a required credit”. Other students think that it is a great “I think that the M credit is a good requirement for the school to have,” said sophomore Jerald Parks. “I think to be able to be aware of these different types of situations is a good idea and I think it will help with future scholars who come to this school to have an open mind.”

President Casey agrees that this new requirement could impact many students in a positive way.  

“I hope that by adding this, our students become more empathetic, sophisticated and better able to move in a world in which they are better able to find themselves,” said president Casey. “The more our curriculum can prepare our students to be citizens of the world, comfortable when encountering people of different cultural norms, the better they are going to be able to move in this world.”