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March 06, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-03-06

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Page 4

Monday, March 6, 1989

The Michigan Daily



The following proposal is a
collective initiative by members of
the Faculty of the College of
Literature, Science, and the Arts.
It is therefore proposed that the College
of Literature, Science, and the Arts adopt
as a requirement for graduation that each
student take at least four hours of course-
work devoted principally to the extensive
literature on the nature, history, and expe-
rience of race, ethnicity, and racism. In
addition, such coursework should include
the opportunity for wide-ranging critical
discussion of this literature and the issues
it raises.
Courses that fulfill this requirement
should be interdisciplinary and compara-
tive in perspective, ordinarily would be
taught by two or more faculty members
from different departments, and should
have built into them a mechanism for
evaluation. Such courses would be counted
as "not excluded" for the purposes of the
distribution requirement. The new re-
quirement would apply to all students en-
tering the college in the academic year
1990-91 and thereafter, and should be ful-

for stu(
filled within a student's first two years.
The following topics, among others,
should be incorporated in courses counting
toward the requirement:
1. Critical analysis of the concept of
2. Description of historical and con-
temporary forms of racial discrimination
and inequality in the United States, and
discussion of resistance to such discrimi-
nation and inequality.
3. Examination of competing explana-
tions - including institutional as well as
attitudinal - of origins and persistence of
racial inequality.
4. Analysis of discrimination against
women and other forms of discrimination-
such as anti-Semitism, anti-Arab discrim-
ination, and discrimination based on sex-
ual orientation - noting parallels and
contrasts between these forms of discnmi-
nation and racism.
5. Exposure through literature or other
means to the experience of people of color
in this country (e.g., African-Americans,
Asian-Americans, Latinos, Native Ameri-

6. Discussion of the ways in which
students encounter racism and its effects in
various spheres of their lives, and of how
change can be brought about.
We propose the establishment of a fac-
ulty-student oversight committee, which
would report to the LS&A faculty, charged
with the responsibility for identifying
courses that, singly or in combination,
would fulfill this new requirement, and
with responsibility for helping faculty de-
velop such courses. The oversight com-
mittee is to be composed of seven faculty
and two student members, drawn from rel-
evant departments and programs, as fol-
-Center for Afro-American and African
Studies (1 faculty)
-Women's Studies Program (1 faculty)
-Program in American Culture, Latino
Studies (1 faculty)
-Current or past teachers of the course (2
-LS&A faculty at large (2 faculty)
--Baker-Mandela Center and Michigan
Student Assembly (2 students chosen in

dent-faculty proposal

t Ar


! f

"""'! ' _ _ _ _ x
.__ " -
- . .,.
r - .

Students at Stanford University protested Stanford's eurocentric edu-
cational requirements, demanded inclusion of studies about people of
color in University requirements.

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. IC, No. 105 Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

By Elizabeth Anderson
Donald Herzog
Thomas Weisskopf
Tom Will
A liberal arts education is supposed to
prepare students for problems they will
confront in their adult lives. The College
of Literature, Science and the Arts has al-
ready instituted distribution requirements
whose point is to equip students with at
least rudimentary knowledge of their
physical and social environments. It would
be difficult to argue that there is any set of
problems more important to the future of
our society, or more important as a test of
our capacity as a university to attain and
communicate understanding, than those
surrounding racism and racial inequality.
The College has failed to prepare its stu-
dents to deal with these problems, to ex-
amine them with the same critical acumen
we encourage on a host of other issues.
The confusion and ignorance currently
surrounding these matters does not affect
students only outside the university. It in-
fects our classrooms. Racism and racial
misunderstandings have pervaded this
campus and poisoned educational opportu-
nities and interactions among students as
no other social ills seem to have done.
Liberal arts education requires that every
student be able to speak and be heard in a
critical but open atmosphere: this is true
when it comes to querying lecturers about
misunderstood material. Such an open at-
mosphere is impossible when significant
numbers of our community are harassed,
threatened, or intimidated- explicitly or
implicitly- as a consequence of racism.
We believe that a critical and open at-
mosphere can not be secured until students
gain an understanding of the nature and
causes of racial inequality and oppression,
and of the contributions which people of

for the I
color have made to American culture and
society. Thus a course on racism can not
be viewed as an optional appendage to the
ordinary student curriculum. Without a re-
quirement, the education of all our stu-
dents is impaired. The loss of any voice in
classroom discussion is a loss for every-
This requirement would have important
pedagogical benefits beyond its specific
purposes. A college education is supposed
to promote critical thinking. But what is-
sues are more thickly set about with
myths, confusions, methodological
abuses, unexamined thought, and
unarticulated value assumptions than those
connected with race? Courses confronting
the assumptions underlying current think-
ing about race and racism would serve as
an important introduction to the use of

plinary. Not only are there issues of biol-
ogy, economics, politics, psychology, and
more at stake, but also there are intriguing
questions about the relations among these
issues. No discipline can pretend to be the
master of knowledge on these matters. But
there are of course scholars and programs
on campus with considerable expertise in
treating such issues within the academic
framework. The composition of the over-
sight board will take advantage of this ex-
pertise and offer it to faculty members
preparing course proposals.
We are not proposing this require-
ment because we wish to accuse our stu-
dents of any alleged collective sins. We
have no interest in using our classrooms
to promote any "politically correct" view
of race and racism, or in grading students
on the basis of how well they can parrot a

'The College has failed to prepare its students to deal with
these problems, to examine them with the same critical acumen
we encourage on a host of other issues.'

Say No to status quo

Today at 4 pm in MLB Auditorium
#4 faculty of the College of LS&A will
have their first opportunity to openly
debate, and possibly vote, on the pro-
posed graduation requirement on
racism. The idea for a graduation re-
quirement in the study of race, ethnicity
and racism was first proposed in the
original twelve demands by the United
Coalition Against Racism in the spring
of 1987. Since then students and fac-
ulty dedicated to the struggle against
racism have been working on the pro-
posal for the graduation requirement. It
is possible that the debate will be set-
tled today.
There are two proposals that will be
discussed today. The first is from
Concerned Faculty, the United Coali-
tion Against Racism (UCAR) and Fac-
ulty Against Institutionalized Racism
(FAIR) and the second is from the
LS&A Executive Committee.
In recent years Concerned Faculty,
UCAR and FAIR have all been at the
forefront of the struggle against racism
on campus. These groups have been
instrumental in pushing for institutional
academic changes, like the cancellition
of classes in recognition of Martin
Luther King Jr. Day.
The LS&A Executive Committee, on
the other hand, has recently been re-
sponsible for such institutional deci-
sions as rejecting a qualified Black
woman scholar from a tenure-tracked
position, maintaining their status quo
of one women of color with tenure at
the University.
The proposal which the Executive
Committee has created, besides being
this late in the process and therefore
questionable in its intentions, is fun-

The LS&A executive committee's
proposal requires every LS&A graduate
"to receive credit for at least three credit.
hours of course work that deals with
race and other issues of diversity in
modem society." This proposal does
not mention institutional racism or,
discrimination against other groups like
gay men and lesbians. The criteria for
meeting the requirement is at best
vague, and most importantly the power
of overseeing the graduation require-
ment is given to the executive commit-
tee and the Dean of LSA.
The executive committee's proposal
does not give faculty a choice in pro-
posals, nor does it establish
"boundaries" for tonight's debate as
LS&A Dean Steiner claims it does.
(Ann Arbor News, 3/5/89). Rather it is
another attempt by those in power to
water down and avoid the issues.
An integral part to the first proposal
is that the oversight committee is com-
posed of seven faculty and two stu-
dents who because of their back-
grounds and areas of expertise have
proven sensitivity to the issues of race,
ethnicity and racism. The committee
would consist of one faculty member
from the Center for Afro-American and
African Studies, Women's Studies
Program, Program in American Cul-
ture, Latino Studies, two current or
past teachers of the course, two LS&A
faculty at large, and two students cho-
sen in consultation from the Baker-
Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Educa-
tion, and the Michigan Student Assem-
The Executive Committee was only
integrated last year with the addition of
one faculty member of color.

critical thinking.
The requirement would also promote
interdisciplinary thinking among faculty
and students. Despite the complex inter-
weaving of the richly varied experience of
minorities with all aspects of our history
and culture, the history and literature of
African Americans, Latinos, Native
Americans, Asian Americans, and other
peoples of color remains seriously under-
represented in our present course offerings.
No doubt our students recognize that mi-
norities have suffered unequal treatment,
but how widespread is any actual acquain-
tance with the experiences of these
groups? A graduation requirement in the
study of racism would provide the begin-
nings of such an acquaintance.
Any serious and comprehensive inquiry
into race and racism has to be interdisci-

party line. The proposed requirement has
nothing to do with any such egregious
abuses of the university; nor does it lend
itself to such abuses. The six criteria that
any combination of courses meeting the
proposed requirement must satisfy are or-
dinary academic criteria of the sort with
which we deal all the time. We do not
presume that most or many or some stu-
dents are racists. The issue is not the
moral character of our students; indeed the
moralism now surrounding these matters
interferes with understanding them. Even
the best intentioned college students need a
considered account of the phenomena sur-
rounding race and racism.
We are confident that the faculty and
students of the University of Michigan and
the College of Literature, Science, and the
Arts can rise to the challenge of this pro-
posed requirement.

Eduication a right for all

By the United Coalition Against
The struggle for access to education for
people of color has a long history and has
taken many forms. In the days of slavery,
when laws prohibited Blacks from having
access to basic reading and writing skills,
Blacks literally risked their lives to pursue
education as a vehicle for understanding
the world around them. And it was free
Blacks in the reconstruction South who
demanded free public education that essen-
tially led to the first public school system
in the South and eventually in the North
as well.
On college campuses, the Civil Rights
and Black and Chicano liberation struggles
of the 60's took the form of demanding
that colleges and universities open their
doors to people of color. The rallying cry
was "Open It Up, Or Shut It Down." As

ened by the presence of students of color
who challenged the dominant white middle
class culture of these institutions. And a
retreat from objectives articulated in the
late 60's and early 70's appeared both nec-
essary and possible.
The current anti-racist student move-
ment, led by people of color, has recog-
nized the importance of higher education
in determining life choices for all people.
Limited access to education means limited
access to choices. Therefore, there is a
need to clearly define what "access" to
higher education really means and amplify
its importance. The anti-racist student
movement is not only fighting for access
for people of color from middle class
backgrounds, but access particularly for
poor and working class people of color -
the majority of our communities.
We have also recognized the need to
fundamentally change these institutions to

people of color) and clearly designed for
elitist white students and a few students of
color who can adopt this view of the
world. But Black, Latino, Asian Ameri-
can, and Native American students from
Stanford, Berkeley, Wisconsin, and now
Michigan are demanding that these
institutions head in a new direction.
Students at Stanford successfully waged
a struggle to expand their Western Cul-
tures requirement to include the experi-
ences of people of color and are now con-
sidering ways in which their curriculum
can better deal with the issue of racism.
Currently students at Berkeley are
demanding that their institution adopt a
requirement similar to the one being put
forth here at the University of Michigan.
The California state-wide alliances of
Latino, Black, Asian American, and Na-
tive American students are pushing for
statewide legislation to require courses that

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