Faculty revises EDI requirement

The faculty voted to revise the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement and replace the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) with new committees at the Dec. 3 meeting.

Experiential study away will no longer be eligible for EDI designation.

“EDI credit will be given to courses taken during study away and not to home stays, for example. The reason being this is a course requirement and we wanted to clarify that. That doesn’t mean we don’t think experiential learning isn’t important. In regard to diversity it certainly is and to every other aspect of the educational experience at Williams. But this is specifically a course requirement,” Peter Low, chair of the CEP, said.

Study away courses are not guaranteed EDI designation but must fulfill at least one of several criteria established by the initiative. Students who wish to receive EDI credit for study away will now petition after they return from the program instead of before they depart. The faculty believes it will be better able to evaluate courses if students write their petitions after completing them.

The faculty also voted to remove one of the five criteria courses could fulfill to receive EDI designation, cultural immersion.

According to the initiative, “Courses in this category would include foreign language courses that explicitly engage in the self-conscious awareness of cultural and societal differences, traditions, and customs.”

“The feeling was the cultural immersion was sort of passive in a way that didn’t jive with the rest of the criteria, which are about active, pedagogical experiences with an emphasis on methodology, on analysis. Also, cultural immersion in this respect felt more experiential and potentially less about a specific classroom experience,” Low said. “As the student body at Williams has become increasingly international, the whole idea of cultural immersion was becoming problematic. What about a student coming from Buenos Aires or Beijing and being in a dorm here at Williams? That should count as cultural immersion just as much as an American student from Williams going to Paris.”

No courses currently designated as EDI courses, including language courses, will lose that accreditation due to this change. Low said that this is not problematic because cultural immersion was implicit in the four remaining criteria: comparative study of cultures and societies, empathetic understanding, power and privilege and critical theorization. The faculty also approved textual changes to clarify the description of the EDI requirement in the course catalog.

With these changes, the CEP sought to address the recommendations generated by an ad hoc committee in March 2014. The faculty voted to replace the Peoples and Cultures requirement, which was considered too vague, with the EDI in the 2008-09 academic year. Study away and language have remained concerns since the inception of the EDI. During the spring semester, the faculty will create an ad hoc committee which will consider making larger changes to the EDI next year.

The faculty also approved the CEP’s proposal to divide into a Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) and a Curricular Planning Committee (CPC). The CEP affects the curriculum by evaluating, implementing and advising policy as well as making recommendations regarding tenure tracking. The CEP believes that these responsibilities are distinct and would be better handled by separate committees.

The CEA will evaluate and implement policy changes, while the CPC will review staffing requests. Nominations for the CPC will take place in February, with a special election in March.

“The College is increasingly trying to plan for the future in regards to staffing, and that requires sustained attention,” Low said. “The CEP is focused on current issues and yearly issues like requirements and the possibility of adding minors, for example. This is very different business and hard to do well at the same time.”