Last year, the Committee on Education Policy (CEP) instituted the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement in place of the Peoples and Cultures Requirement. For the 2009-2010 academic year, an additional 34 courses were approved on top of those courses from this year, for a total of 129 approved EDI courses.
According to Chris Waters, EDI subcommittee director and professor of history, “For a long time, the People’s and Culture’s Requirement insisted that students take a course about other cultures, but there was unhappiness with the requirement.”
Waters said that the Peoples and Cultures requirement did not assess the different aspects of diversity and had no serious supervision. He explained that the main purpose of EDI is, in contrast, “to examine different ways of approaching diversity, not just studying another culture.” All members of the Class of the 2012 must take one course approved by the CEP. However, members of the Classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011 do not have to take one if they satisfied the People’s and Cultures Requirement.
Last year, the CEP approved 95 courses, both existing courses and ones newly designed for the initiative. However, only 46 of those courses were offered this year. In order for a course to be considered fulfilling the EDI, the faculty member designing the course must submit a proposal explaining how it meets the new criteria. The CEP sponsored the development of new classes tailored to the initiative.
“Every year the number of courses will expand, but it is a tough and slow process because we have to make sure that the course works well with the purpose of the initiative,” Waters said. He expects another 30 courses to be approved by the CEP in the upcoming year.
Unlike under the Peoples and Cultures requirement, students planning to study abroad can petition the CEP to consider their study away experience as a completion of the requirement. Last year, faculty expressed concerns regarding whether study abroad programs should count for EDI credit, as some thought students could study abroad without actually exploring diversity. A subcommittee set guidelines to which study abroad programs can fulfill the requirement. Students will be able to submit a written statement, along with their study abroad application, justifying how their program will fulfill EDI. Faculty members in each department will review the proposals and decide whether credit will be granted.
Waters expressed satisfaction with the first year of the EDI. He explained that it differs from the People’s and Culture’s Requirement in three ways. First, he said that the program covers more ground in terms of dealing with different issues, adding that courses need to explore class, gender and sexuality, not just race. Second, he said that the initiative aims at giving people the tools necessary to think about diversity more broadly. Finally, according to Waters, every EDI course includes language as a component of the learning process. “Not all language classes are considered EDI, though – only those whose instructors have demonstrated how the class explores diversity,” he said.
Before the initiative, department chairs would decide the classes classified as Peoples and Cultures – according to Waters, sometimes without the professor’s knowledge. “With the EDI in effect, it places burden on professors in making sure they make the process work,” he said.