OPINION: Why the “M” requirement is not enough

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Senior Prindle Intern Rachel Hanebutt from 
Huntington, Indiana. 

After an emotionally-charged and educational first DePauw Dialogue, many are asking: “What's next?” in terms of campus-wide education and commitment to inclusion and diversity. Discussions of the Multicultural ("M") graduation requirement bring about important issues of both ethical and social concern.

While the potential "M" course requirement is still in the beginning stages of development, I think it is important to realize that designation of "M courses" completely contradicts the messages conveyed at DePauw Dialogue. Designation of "M" courses and courses that are not "M" courses establishes a false dichotomy between when an inclusive space is mandated in the classroom and when it is not. Shouldn't all DePauw courses be socially conscious and inclusive of all students and their perspectives?

This is not to say that the educational component offered by a potential course(s) teaching about multiculturalism, bias reduction, etc. would not be beneficial to each and every member of the DePauw community. However, the normal set up of a course (with a start and end time, obtainable objectives and gradable outcomes) casts multicultural education as something that is finite and can be checked off a checklist of assignments. Shouldn't intercultural conversations and diversity be a part of the entire DePauw experience, forever?

Additionally, not all disciplines can adequately integrate this type of work within the confines of their course type. While additional certification would be required for teaching "M" courses, the types of dialogue, etc. might not be as effective within a certain major or course. Even if "M" designation was contained to only those departments, which could adequately integrate this education, it seems as though we would be saying one course is enough. Shouldn't these types of discussions and education be a continuous part of a DePauw education?

Requiring students who might be uncomfortable discussing and understanding diversity to be graded on how they perform in an "M" course is problematic. I personally believe all students should hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to respecting others, but I do not think placing a grade or semester-long course requirement as the "task" needed to become culturally and socially aware is the best way to educate our campus. Is it ethical, or even possible to "grade" this type of thing?

The initial "mandatory" stamp on DePauw Dialogue that was repealed raises another very important ethical issue. Some students of color and other marginalized student populations are already uncomfortable in their courses (because of institutional biases ingrained in our community), each of which is mandated for graduation. While I do think there should be some sort of required action focused on educating students about diversity, bias reduction, etc., I do not think containing this type of education to a classroom environment with certain overriding power structures already in place is sufficient. Shouldn't learning about diversity, respect, culture, etc. take place in environments that aren't, for the most part, dominated by one group's ideas and power structures?

I challenge the DePauw community to continue on our journey of education with a critical lens on what our mission is and what we hope to accomplish. It remains important to analyze the implications of likening such an important topic to one semester-long graduation requirement. The potential "M" requirement in itself is not a bad thing, but a potential stepping-stone; let’s not stop there.  

-This article also appears in The Prindle Post