During an open forum Monday afternoon, around 20 students expressed dissatisfaction with the LSA Race and Ethnicity requirement amid an ongoing review by the LSA Office of the Dean.
The current requirement mandates that LSA students take a course focusing on racial and ethnic inequality, as defined by LSA administrators, in order to graduate.
A leading concern at the forum was that many of the classes that satisfy this requirement are too large and therefore don’t meaningfully engage students in discussion. The three largest courses that fulfill this requirement are Cultural Anthropology 101, Women’s Studies 220 and Public Health 200, which enrolled 693, 366 and 351 students in the fall 2014 semester, respectively.
“When I took my Race and Ethnicity requirement it was in a class of over 300 people, and it was one of my favorite classes I’ve taken at the University,” said Public Policy junior Alexandra George, CSG communications director. “But because the class was so large people felt uncomfortable speaking up and asking questions.”
Students also expressed concern that many of the courses that technically satisfy the requirement actually fail to meet the criteria used by the LSA administration to classify courses as Race and Ethnicity. One such course mentioned was Public Health 200, which, although containing a unit examining health care disparities by race, focuses on data and fails to have any discussion about the underlying causes of inequality, attendants said.
Evans Young, assistant dean for undergraduate education, who was present at the event, acknowledged student concerns and laid out some tentative solutions, such as adding questions to the course evaluations of courses satisfying the Race and Ethnicity requirement so that departments can have better feedback data, and providing more training to Graduate Student Instructors of such classes to better engage students.
Throughout the forum, participants reaffirmed the importance of the requirement, citing ongoing racial tensions at the University of Missouri and on other college campuses, as well as incidences of racism at the University. Engineering senior Erin Moore spoke at the forum, providing a personal example of this behavior.
“I was on a bus in North Campus and I was reading an article and watching videos about what’s happening on another college campus,” Moore said, referring to the protests occurring on the University of Missouri’s campus, “and someone tapped me on my shoulder and said, ‘We’re sharpening our knives in case you guys are planning on doing something — just so you’re aware.’ ”
A number of students also argued that the Race and Ethnicity requirement should be universally required across all other undergraduate schools, including the College of Engineering and Ross School of Business. Currently, only LSA students are required to satisfy this requirement.
“We are in a moment where we can change this requirement and apply it to the entire University,” said LSA senior Branden Shafer, a CSG representative. “You can take all the science courses you want, all the engineering courses you want and be brilliant, but you also need that broader knowledge of the people that you interact with and the world you live in.”