Director of UC Irvine’s CTE’s letter to Humanities reps on the Council for Educational Policy Regarding the Proposals to Change Breath Requirements

(via facebook event):

[letter to Humanities reps on the Council for Educational Policy]

Dear David and Arlene,

I’m writing to urge you to vote against the proposal regarding
multicultural and international breadth requirements being discussed by
CEP. I understand that the proposal would require students to fulfill what
now is Category VII (Multicultural) and VIII (International/Global)
breadth only in the course of fulfilling Categories II, III and IV. While
students are already “encouraged” by the existing catalog to double count
courses fulfilling VII and VIII, and many do, in future they could only do
so. –There are several problems with the proposal, but the main one is
that this change sends the wrong message to the UCI community by
subordinating Multicultural and International requirements to other
breadth requirements.

The whole point of categories VII and VIII is to demonstrate that
Multicultural and International education is as important as other forms
of education. The fact that students would still be asked to take
multicultural and international courses would be undermined by their being
required to do so only while fulfilling something else. The assumption
seems to be that because courses in VII and VIII are or could be included
in II, III, and/or IV as well, “Multicultural” and “International” don’t
need to be treated as categories in their own right. That’s a logical
fallacy: Multicultural and International breadth categories were created
because not all Humanities and Social Sciences courses educate students
about these issues, and thus in recognition of the fact that valid rubrics
exist for organizing an education besides those reflected by previously
given School and disciplinary boundaries. We could just as easily argue
that the categories “Multicultural” and “International” are larger than
either of the categories “Humanities” or “Social Sciences” alone as that
they are subsets of “Humanities” or “Social Sciences.” By taking a
position on that question, and subsuming Multicultural and International
requirements into categories II, III, and IV, UCI would imply that
Multicultural and International education is incidental to other
requirements. Imagine how faculty would respond if, for instance, Social
Science requirements continued to exist, but students could only fulfill
them if they double-counted for Humanities. This differential treatment of
“Multicultural” and “International” would be a problem even if all of the
courses that currently fulfill VII and VIII were included in II, III, and
IV (a circumstance that isn’t certain).

Further, framing the question solely in terms of the nomenclature and
logical structure of the existing breadth categories, as if that were all
that was at stake, obscures more substantive issues: namely, the
educational mission of VII and VIII. Many undergraduates already feel that
the underlying purpose of breadth categories VII and VIII—actually
educating students about multicultural and international/global issues—is
already insufficiently served by the existing requirements, because of the
encouragement to double-count and the weakness of the criteria for listing
courses. The logic of the proposal seems to be that categories VII and
VIII are already so weak that nothing’s lost by formalizing their complete
subsumption. This logic neglects the question: What do we want students to
understand about multicultural and international issues? How can we best
serve and enhance such an understanding? UCI can demonstrate its
commitment to diversity only by using terms that serve the underlying
purpose of the requirements, i.e. by asking how to enhance rather than
obscure their value as independent from other values.

It goes without saying that streamlining the degree—and perhaps cutting
courses, if courses currently included in VII and VIII are not included in
II, III, or IV and therefore decline in enrollment—saves money. Even a
fraction of a course saved on the way to graduation may add up to a
significant sum when multiplied, in the case of Gen Ed courses, by the
entire student body. If multicultural and international breadth is the
first to be streamlined, however, the question will be why areas
associated with diversity are the first to be scrutinized. DUE’s decision
to downsize the staff of Student Academic Advancement Services (SAAS) in
2009 has been questioned in this light (see “Shutting the Door on the Most
Needy Students at UC Irvine,” an article on a young alumnus’s Latino
politics blog

(http://latinopoliticsblog.com/2009/08/26/shutting-the-door-on-the-most-needy-students-at-uc-irvine/).

The impression that savings are being extracted from diversity projects
will be inescapable in 2010, after egregious racist incidents at UCSD and
UC Davis demonstrated dramatically the need for more and better diversity
education. If UCI is to get through the budget crisis with credibility, it
cannot treat diversity-related areas worse than others.

Finally, I’m writing to you so late in the process because I’ve been at a
loss about how to make these views known. Protocol indicates that UCI
community members lobby their School representatives on CEP and so that’s
what I’m doing. But we can’t do that if we don’t know what CEP is
discussing. It is awkward to write to you regarding information that I
didn’t get from CEP. In the end, I’m doing it regardless of the
awkwardness, but there must be a better way. CEP hasn’t posted minutes
since spring 2009, and those going to the website for information will
find the agendas off limits to anyone not on the committee. Curricular
changes are not sensitive, confidential information, as personnel cases
would be. So in closing I would like to request that the May 6 meeting be
opened to auditors so that we can understand your debate; and I would like
to know how UCI community members can possibly make their views known to
CEP reps in future. In the meantime, to help clear up a situation that
non-committee members have so far had access to only through the
grapevine, I will be sharing this letter widely with others.

Thanks for your attention,

Rei


Rei Terada

Professor of Comparative Literature
Director, Critical Theory Emphasis

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