All current LSA students must take one course addressing issues of race and diversity before graduation — but that wasn’t always the case.
The University’s diversity course requirement passed on Oct. 8, 1990, according to an article published in The Michigan Daily Oct. 9, 1990.
The article reported that LSA’s Faculty General Assembly voted 139-90 to approve a mandatory course for undergraduates “examining the meaning of race, ethnicity and racism.”
After three years of debate, the General Assembly welcomed the new course requirement with “applause and cheers.”
Then-History Prof. Terrence McDonald, who now serves as dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, co-authored the proposal and told the Daily at the time that three other diversity proposals had been presented to the faculty, though only one of them was seriously considered.
That plan, termed Proposal A, focused only on “ethnic and racial intolerance in contemporary American society,” according to the Daily article. The faculty had voted against it 99-50 the previous April.
The Daily article quoted McDonald as saying that his Faculty Proposal included a broader range of disciplines and directly involved faculty in the development of diversity courses.
While Proposal A focused only on diversity in the United States, the Faculty Proposal looked at those issues in any society. This way LSA students could satisfy the requirement by taking courses like Jews in the Modern World, Dutch Culture or Introduction to Anthropology.
Students stood divided over the new requirement, as the Daily reported in an Oct. 10, 1990 article.
“It would get people to confront issues they wouldn’t ordinarily,” LSA senior Nicole Susser told the Daily at the time.
Chad Reidler, an LSA freshman, was more critical, arguing that requiring such a course eliminated choice. Reidler also told the Daily that because of the University’s emphasis on racial and ethnic diversity on campus, a mandatory course was unnecessary.
Although the Michigan Student Assembly did not take an official position, its president, Jennifer Van Valey, expressed both enthusiasm and skepticism over the proposal in an interview with the Daily at the time.
“I will always be in favor of a diversity requirement,” Van Valey told the Daily.
However, she added the broad range of classes would not force students “to look at the way racism is constructed in their minds.”