Faculty approve motion changing EDI requirement to DPE starting in 2018

Last Wednesday, the faculty voted 52-15 to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement in the College’s curriculum with the Difference, Power and Equity (DPE) requirement. The DPE requirement aims to “provide students with the opportunity to analyze the shaping of social differences, dynamics of unequal power, and processes of change,” according to the motion presented at the faculty meeting. It also serves to employ “a variety of pedagogical approaches and theoretical perspectives” and “examine themes including but not limited to race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion.”

The ad-hoc EDI committee hoped to revive the pedagogic focus that the EDI requirement originally promised and are seeking to “foster difficult but carefully framed conversations about how difference works and has worked, how identities and power relationships have been grounded in lived experience and how we might both critically and productively approach the question of difference and power.”

The EDI requirement was approved by the faculty in May 2006. The current committee started working in fall of 2015 after Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell named Professor of History Roger Kittleson the director of EDI and gave him the responsibility of reviewing the requirement. “Based on that review, I was to recommend where we should go with EDI: Keep it as is, replace it with a new requirement or eliminate it altogether,” Kittleson said. The committee reached out to various parts of the College campus and took a closer look at similar requirements on other college institutions.

Last year, the EDI committee consisted of Professor of German and Comparative Literature Gail Newman, Chair and Associate Professor of Asian Studies Li Yu and Chair and Professor of Biology Joan Edwards. Allegra Simon ’18 and Jonathon Burne ’17 served as students on the committee, with Katy Dix ’18 joining in the spring after Burne left to study abroad.

“We held discussions with the Committee on Diversity and Community, the College Council, the co-chairs of the Minority Coalition and the Steering Committee, among other groups, and presented options at a chairs meeting, an associate deans’ forum, one of the open student forums that [Vice President] Leticia Haynes ’99 organized, [lunches for junior faculty] … and a faculty meeting,” Kittleson said. They also brought in speakers as part of the EDI speaker series who were experts in the teaching of diversity. Some of these speakers included Professor Jennifer Harvey, a scholar of religion at Drake University; Professor Evelynn Hammonds, scholar of the history of science at Harvard University; and Professor Ellen Berrey, a legal scholar of diversity at the University of Toronto. This year, the committee has held two faculty forums and presented at two faculty meetings.

“The CEA [Committee on Educational Affairs], the committee I chair, got involved in the discussion starting last year,” Professor of Anthropology David Edwards said. “We served primarily as a sounding board, and we helped craft the language. The EDI committee that Professor Kittleson chaired did the majority of the leg work.”

The motion presented to the faculty read, “We believe that the College can better shape thoughtful citizens by embracing new approaches to ‘diversity’ that go beyond exposure to the variety of human experiences. The requirement we propose will instead foster critical engagement with the practice and experience of difference in our world, especially as it relates to the power dynamics that structure difference.”

“A class will be designated as a DPE class the same way that W [writing intensive] and Q [quantitative reasoning] courses are presently designated. There will no longer be a ‘diversity czar’ who vets each and every course,” Edwards said.

The academic departments will be in charge of designating DPE courses and the CEA will have the ultimate authority. “This is primarily a managerial service to make sure that course descriptions and requirements are clearly written and outlined,” Edwards said. “The vetting function will now be handed over to the departments, which is where the CEA felt this function properly belonged.”

Revision options the committee considered included some expansion of a “diversity” requirement, a specific required course such as a first-year seminar, an expansion of the requirement with more than one course, a student-designated requirement where students can petition to have courses meet the requirement, an extracurricular requirement and a complete removal of the requirement, according to the motion.

Professor of History Chris Waters, a former director of EDI, believes that the EDI requirement needs to be reevaluated, but he expressed concerns in faculty meetings as to whether the DPE requirement is the best way to fix the problems with EDI.

“It isn’t clear to me whether or not there are enough guidelines to make that category clear for people developing courses,” Waters said. “The second problem I have with this is that it now leaves it up to departments and individuals to discuss whether their courses will meet this requirement, so there isn’t the kind of oversight that I would have liked to see.”

Ultimately, Waters worries about where DPE will take the College. “I worry that in another few years from now we will have a hodge-podge of courses that may not do the work we want them to do. They may do the work that we want them to do, but I am skeptical,” Waters said.

Waters proposed an amendment that puts the DPE requirement up for review in its sixth year of implementation. This amendment passed at the faculty meeting in a close vote, 35 to 32. Some people expressed the concern that this requirement should be a permanent part of the curriculum, like the writing intensive requirement, but that putting it up for review makes it seem less permanent. Others supported Waters’s amendment, saying that difference, equity and power are constantly changing and therefore this requirement should be reviewed. “I wanted this to be a formal amendment that would indeed be formally required if we voted to accept the new DPE requirement,” Waters said.

The transition from the EDI requirement to the DPE requirement will occur over the course of the next academic year.  The EDI requirement will still be in effect for students in the classes of 2021 and earlier. “This year’s CEA will be recommending to next year’s committee that they initiate a discussion with relevant departments to encourage them to consider offering such courses and to monitor how many courses are being prepared for the following academic year in order to ensure that we have a sufficient number,” Edwards said.

“There will be a DPE Coordinator, a faculty member who will organize faculty workshops (perhaps with speakers brought in from other institutions) and other conversations to help faculty design courses that will fulfill the DPE requirement and thus help academic units in their discussions of DPE offerings,” Kittleson said.

Workshops and events for faculty members who want to teach DPE classes will start in next academic year. The new requirement will be in effect in fall of 2018 and therefore the class of 2022 will be the first class to have the DPE as a degree requirement. 

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