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LSU faculty debates adding diversity class to graduation requirements

3 years 5 months 3 days ago Thursday, December 24 2020 Dec 24, 2020 December 24, 2020 10:52 AM December 24, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - Like a stage featuring an ever-shifting series of scenes, America is changing. In the past twelve months, the nation has seen a multitude of attention-grabbing outcries for racial equality in the form of marches, protests, and face-to-face pleas with officials to take steps to ensure the fair treatment of people of color.

As a result, the U.S. seems to have shifted its focus to the welfare of cultural groups who've been systematically oppressed.

This shift in focus is ever apparent in Baton Rouge as Louisiana State University, once criticized for what some believed was an apathetic response to instances of blatant racism against students of color, searches for ways to improve in its active promotion of racial equality. 

For example, The Advocate recently noted that LSU’s faculty is discussing a proposed requirement that future students complete a course on African American contributions to Louisiana and America to qualify for graduation.

The proposed requirement, if agreed on by faculty members, would be presented to the university's officials for approval in the form of a resolution.

Faculty wishes are routinely ignored by administrators and supervisors at LSU, but this resolution has the support of the provost and system president, according to The Advocate.

In addition to this, implementing "diversity and inclusion core requirement for all degrees by March 2021” would be in harmony with the university’s “Diversity & Inclusion Roadmap, 2020-2022,” which is a series of goals aimed at improving LSU's treatment of people of color and women.

Faculty have yet to complete their discussion of the proposed requirement, and the resolution still hasn’t been scheduled for a vote. But The Advocate says the Faculty Senate's President, Dr. Mandi J. Lopez, expects the group to take a vote in January.

If LSU officials move forward with the requirement, they would be following in the footsteps of several other institutions across the nation, such as the University of California at Los Angeles, which requires completion of a diversity course to graduate. Others, like the University of Mississippi, want incoming students to take a class. Virginia Tech, likewise, requires diversity and inclusion training to enter its graduate school.

“We don't need to rewrite the history books. We simply need to add some truth to the history books,” said Associate Professor Sonja D. Wiley, the only Black female tenured teacher at the E.J. Ourso College of Business, told her colleagues when she presented the resolution during the November Faculty Senate meeting.

She also explained that the contributions and history of African Americans aren’t fully taught in Louisiana schools.

“It's a pitiful state of education that I did not know about the accomplishments of Black people until I got to college,” said Social Work Professor Cassandra D. Chaney, a co-sponsor of the resolution. “But I know about all of the accomplishments of Europeans. …I want to make it clear that focusing on the experiences of Black people does not in any way minimize your experiences.”

The key course that would become required is called African and African American Studies 2000 (AAAS2000) and according to The Advocate, it would be worth three credit hours. 

But many are opposed to the idea of mandating AAAS2000 as a required course for all students. 

Rod Dreher, an LSU alum, wrote about AAAS2000 earlier this week in The American Conservative: “From the description here, it is not mere history; it is highly ideologized history (“intersecting oppression”). And if this passes the LSU Faculty Senate, taking this course in left-wing racialism would be a requirement of graduating from LSU.

“If this proposal passes the Faculty Senate, the university will have declared that it is more important for LSU graduates to have had instruction in “intersectional oppression” than Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Milton, Locke, or any of the other greats.”

Some faculty members share Dreher's feelings on the matter. 

Charles N. Delzell, associate head of the Mathematics Department, noted the resolution pointed out that most students aren’t instructed about the true history of slavery or contributions of African Americans. He pointed out that most high school students don’t take courses on ancient Greece or ancient Rome or ancient Judaism.

Delzell said the definition of institutionalized racism seems to have morphed into requiring courses on the history of certain races but not others. “Students in anti-racism courses and programs may be forced to confess that they are racist or to admit that modern day LSU and America are institutionally racist in order to pass,” he told his colleagues.

Clearly, the nation's shift in focus has triggered a variety of viewpoints on the best way to address sensitive issues regarding race, justice, and equality. 

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