A controversial effort to force students to take a diversity course to graduate has passed an important hurdle, as UCLA faculty voted to approve the mandate in a hotly contested vote.
The College of Letters and Sciences voted 332-303 to approve the diversity requirement last week, paving the way for the measure to move through a few more smaller panels largely expected to rubberstamp the professors’ decision.
A diversity requirement has come before UCLA faculty at least twice before. Both times, in 2004 and 2012, the requirement failed. This is the first time the requirement has passed, and also the first time voter turnout has come close to 50 percent.
Proponents of the measure included Chancellor Gene Block, several ethnic student unions on campus, and many members of the UCLA student government.
Last week as the faculty voting took place, students lobbied for the measure to pass by distributing pledge cards and holding a rally. Its supporters argue the course will help students understand new perspectives and improve campus climate.
But opponents, including a coalition of six professors who openly opposed the requirement in a widely distributed statement, say the requirement’s goals are not academic, that studies purporting to show that such classes help curb racist tendencies are not valid, and that imposing new restrictions on graduation requirements will add burdens to students currently struggling to graduate.
Professor Thomas Schwartz, in a statement to the Daily Bruin, said the requirement will suck “up resources to pay for this piece of ideological puffery.” He also said that the requirement would be used to inculcate students with a liberal agenda.
In addition to the questions of bias, there are also concerns that the requirement will be expensive. Estimates of cost are in the hundreds of thousands, as the requirement will involve creating new classes, training TAs, and reformatting certain classes to fulfill the requirement. In the context of the tight financial situation at the university, this is a deep concern among many on campus.
Indeed, many students also oppose the measure, including Ryan Jones, President of Bruin Republicans and a fourth-year economics student.
“The diversity requirement perpetuates the liberal fantasy that we are still somehow a racist and insensitive society,” he told The College Fix. “It is just another example of liberal indoctrination growing on campus.”
Other students disagree.
“(The signatories) have certain privileges. … They are all white males,” student Jazz Kiang told the Daily Bruin in response to the scholars’ statement opposing the requirement. “I am still angry and quite upset that these professors can say things that have a subtext that is racist.”
According to the text of the proposal, “the course must substantially address conditions, experiences, perspectives, and/or representations of at least two groups using difference frames that include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, language, nationality, citizenship status and/or place of origin.”
All entering freshman in 2015 and all entering transfers in 2017 would be subject to the new requirement.
Its supporters say they believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. As the issue moves on to the Academic Senate, the diversity requirement will continue to be a point of contention at UCLA.
College Fix reporter Jacob Kohlhepp is a student at UCLA and vice president of the Bruin Republicans.