At Cornell University plans to force all students to take a diversity or social justice course have been advanced by the school’s student government, which hopes to have the requirement approved and implemented within the next two years.
The student proposals include either to develop a course all freshmen would have to take, force students to take an existing diversity elective, or insert diversity lessons into the core curriculum. Apparently, each school within the university would shape the requirement as it sees fit.
Students pushing the initiative have downplayed its significance and controversy.
“A lot of people here come from lots of different backgrounds … so it’s kind of one of those things where they introduce you to different things you might encounter, pointers on how to handle those situations,” senior Ulysses Smith, the school’s student vice president for diversity and inclusion, told The Cornell Daily Sun.
The effort to create the mandate launched in the spring and was led largely by a group of students who called themselves the “Assembly for Justice,” according to Alfonse Muglia, editor-in-chief of the Cornell Review, the conservative student newspaper on campus.
Muglia is also co-creator of a petition launched recently to halt the initiative. By Tuesday night, 248 students had signed it.
Conservative students on campus say it’s bad enough the mandate would create another academic burden, for many one that has nothing to do with their major. But the problem runs deeper than that, they note, arguing the proposal, if approved, would be akin to forcing a liberal ideology on students.
“Social justice is a highly controversial philosophical argument, not an objective truth,” states a Feb. 11 blog post on the conservative Cornell Insider website. “Many scholars and conservative thinkers alike argue social justice does not even exist. So why should Cornell students be forced to learn about a biased liberal ideology? Because the Student Assembly, in their ‘infinite wisdom,’ thinks it is appropriate to socialize students into their own beliefs.”
According to the Sun, the diversity mandate has fans and detractors.
“Why aren’t these students petitioning against the PE, freshman writing, swimming, and all of the other requirements needed to graduate from Cornell,” one student wrote on the Sun’s website. “Very interesting that they ignore those but get upset by a social justice/diversity requirement.”
Others students see it differently.
“I think that by adding more requirements, Cornell is limiting students’ ability to take classes they are genuinely interested in,” student Ashleigh Bowie, who signed the petition, told the Sun. “We can only take so many courses each semester and we should have the flexibility in our schedules to pursue courses that aren’t required by our majors.”
Jennifer Kabbany is assistant editor of The College Fix.
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