Academic Senate considers adding additional UP requirement to curriculum

A new requirement may be added to the University Program requirement curriculum that would require students to take an additional discrimination course not based on race. The Academic Senate discussed the potential change in an hour-long debate Tuesday afternoon.

The subcategory proposal on diversity and discrimination, IV-D, would require students to take an additional class regarding discrimination against sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion and or ability.

"Studies in Other Forms of Discrimination in the U.S. and Other Countries" is the suggested name for the IV-D category.

No vote was taken at the meeting. In typical procedure, proposals on possible changes are drafted and submitted to the decision body, discussed in the senate and then voted on when ready after adequate discussion.

Senator Cherie Strachan, who helped draft the IV-D proposal with Senator Mary Senter, said she was originally approached by concerned students wanting change in 2014.

"They asked 'Where do we go, how do we get someone to address this in the curricular process, because we're tired of our issues not being addressed," Strachan said. "These were juniors and seniors at the time who were upset, ready to start protesting, throw down and (make) picket signs."

Strachan said she thinks pressure from the student body will remain intense until these academic changes are made.

Carissa Martin is one of the students hoping to see IV-D pass before she graduates. The Flint junior, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, has witnessed discrimination at CMU first-hand.

"There are people who are afraid for their lives — that is such a common sentiment," Martin said. "I have known (transgender individuals) who have been assaulted on campus. These are obviously people who won't support the initiative, but it is so needed, especially in our current societal climate after the election."

Martin was one of four students who spoke publicly at the meeting. Two student speakers are involved with Students Advocating Gender Equality, in addition to Martin, and supported the IV-D proposal. The fourth student, a member of the Student Government Association, asked the proposal be submitted to SGA again for re-evaluation because its last SGA approval voting for the change was in 2014.

Strachan said adding another discrimination course to the UP requirements is critical, because studies suggest a need for repeated exposure to diversity in coursework. She said the curriculum change could help create a more supportive campus climate for students, as seen at other universities around the country already endorsing multiple discrimination requirements.

Central Michigan University degree programs require 10 general education graduation requirements. If the IV-D requirement category is added, the elective UP requirement currently in place would be removed to ensure required course credit hours stays the same.

JoEllen DeLucia, program director of the women and gender studies interdisciplinary program, is in favor of adding the new category, but said replacing the elective UP would make it harder to double count courses relevant to major programs.

DeLucia said adding requirements like this is what makes CMU valuable as a liberal arts institution.

"I am a big believer in the function of general education and how it works," she said. "More and more employers want students to be able to think critically about diversity and be able to think critically with different kinds of people."

Termination of a double-counting elective was not brought up at the Academic Senate meeting.

There are 33 classes spanning across the colleges that have been identified as possible courses to fulfill the IV-D requirement, and departments have the option to create additional classes as well, said DeLucia.

Instead, discussion on how many seats the new requirement would generate, how to fill those seats and concerns of implementation fueled the hour-long debate.

The general education committee said it never received a verified number projection for seats.

Senter said IV-D could figuratively generate around 1,200 seats a semester, up to 3,600 in a year, which would match the number of seats other university program courses generate.

Senate ChairpersonMelinda Kreth said the Academic Senate is taking it's time on deciding on the issue because even if it was passed soon, implementation to the bulletin would take up to two years to accomplish.