Expanding diaspora

A&S students have more culture option choices

The Arts & Sciences faculty has voted to expand temporarily the courses that may be used to fulfill the language requirement’s “culture option” and to study the issue with an eye toward permanently revising the Language and World Civilization portion of the foundation requirements for an undergraduate liberal arts degree.

The move will allow more “diaspora courses”—specifically those dealing with Latino/Latina and Asian-American cultures—to be used to fulfill the culture option. The change was proposed to address inconsistencies in the existing requirements, which allowed some diaspora courses—such as African-American history and literature courses, for example—to count toward the culture option, while courses in other diaspora cultures did not.

The revised requirements will apply to students graduating from 2005 to 2007 and in the spring of 2008.

“Inconsistency in our handling of diaspora courses and defining culture areas (allowing some diasporas and not others to count) is exclusionary and clearly sends the wrong message from the university to our students,” read the proposal put before the faculty.

Jack Ridge, professor of geology and chair of the Arts & Sciences Curricula Committee, presented the proposal at the Arts & Sciences faculty meeting on January 28. It was approved by a faculty vote on February 25.

The culture option allows students to complete three courses dealing with a “foreign” culture in lieu of additional foreign language courses beyond the three semesters, or equivalent, required of all A&S students. A foreign culture is defined as one that has non-English-speaking origins.

In addition, the faculty agreed to the creation of an ad hoc committee that will study the culture option and propose revised requirements that would be put in place no later than the fall 2006 semester. The committee will include student and faculty representatives.

If the faculty were to fail to approve permanent changes by that time, the culture option requirements would revert to those that were in place for the 1969-­70 academic year, when they were last revised.

“The last time the foundation requirements were reviewed [by the full faculty] was 35 years ago,” said Ridge. “This is long overdue.”

A dozen students from the Asian-American Curriculum Transformation project presented the faculty with a letter urging changes in the culture option.