UCLA again considering diversity class requirement

Student activist Janay Williams looks through a window from UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall. Williams is pushing for the school to require an undergraduate course dealing in topics of diversity. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / April 2, 2014)

Despite three unsuccessful previous efforts, UCLA officials again are proposing that most undergraduates take a class in racial, cultural, gender or religious diversity.

Most UC campuses and many other universities have such a requirement. But UCLA’s largest faculty group, which has authority over curriculum changes, has repeatedly rejected the idea, most recently in a low-turnout vote in 2012.

Now, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block is trying again for what he said is an important academic goal.

“We owe it to our students,” Block said in a recent interview. “Many of our students have wanted this for several years. I think the faculty owes it to the students to pay attention, even though I understand there are intellectual arguments on both sides of the issue.”

Although Block said he knows that cultural diversity topics are infused in many classes, he said that “there is value to an explicit class that deals with the multiple cultures in the United States living together and the conflicts.”

Past proposals sparked arguments about whether students were overburdened with other requirements, particularly in the sciences, and whether a budget-strapped university could afford extra classes. Additional questions about whether these classes improve ethnic relations and whether they usually skew left politically were also raised at UCLA and other campuses nationwide that had similar debates.

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