The University Record, April 10, 1995

Report card in on race/ethnicity requirement: looks good

Report card in on race/ethnicity requirement: looks good

By Jane R. Elgass

Enacted a little less than three years ago, the race and ethnicity requirement for LS&A students is working well, with students readily enrolling in courses that meet the appropriate criteria and, in general, expressing satisfaction with the courses.

That is among the findings of a committee appointed in January 1994 to review both the requirement and the board for UC299, "Race, Racism and Ethnicity."

Its report, given to the LS&A Executive Committee in March with copies sent to all LS&A faculty with the announcement of the April meeting, also contains a series of recommendations.

The Curriculum Committee has endorsed the report, saying in a memo to faculty that it is "encouraged by the generally positive assessment of the curricular consequences of implementing the ROE requirement."

Although not specifically asked in its 10-point charge, the committee also endorsed continuation of the requirement, noting in the report that it "has been successful in achieving its educational goal of providing for students, as part of their liberal arts education, opportunities to gain an intellectual understanding of the meaning of race, racism and ethnicity and racial and ethnic intolerance and resulting inequality in the U.S. or elsewhere, and comparisons of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, social class or gender."

Among key recommendations in the report:

• Change the name of the requirement from "race or ethnicity" (ROE) to "race and ethnicity" to "more accurately describe its focus in keeping with the language of the requirement approved by the faculty."

In its report, the committee said that the name "race or ethnicity ... has only served to obscure and confuse the approved language of the requirement. It has led to a situation in which a requirement that is already open to some degree of interpretation even by those who read it carefully is publicly misrepresented by its name."

The content of the requirement, as approved by the faculty, calls for courses that incorporate content on:

• The meaning of race, ethnicity and racism.

• Racial and ethnic intolerance and resulting inequality as it occurs in the United States or elsewhere.

• Comparisons of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, social class or gender.

A common misunderstanding, the report notes, is that some feel a course need not discuss race and racism if it discusses ethnicity. Others think a course meets the criteria "if it discusses aspects of the arts or literature of a culture even if it does not address 'racial and ethnic intolerance and resulting inequality' and 'comparisons of discrimination.'"

• Provide instructional support for both faculty and teaching assistants involved in courses approved to meet the requirement.

In its report, the committee "strongly urges" continuation of the faculty seminar previously offered in conjunction with courses meeting the criteria, focusing on the content and pedagogy for "all R&E courses as they are intellectually connected by the requirement."

So far, the report said, some 100 LS&A faculty have taught R&E courses and that they generally are satisfied, but noted that faculty would like to see more opportunities for small group discussion.

The committee recommends that LS&A "be flexible with respect to class format, class size and TA support for R&E courses." To address issues in these areas, the group specifically recommended that the College:

• Acknowledge the faculty mentoring role for TAs by allowing faculty to utilize a 2/2 lecture/discussion format, rather than the more common 3/1 format.

• Give full consideration to requests to limit class size to 18-22 students and to requests for supplemental TAs.

• Require training in teaching R&E courses for all TAs assigned to such courses, and provide optional workshops and consultation for faculty and TAs teaching R&E courses.

In addition, the committee recommends financial support, from funds earmarked for the Undergraduate Initiative, for development and improvement of R&E courses.

• Recertify courses every five years.

There currently is no review or recertification process for R&E courses. Some students, the report notes, have complained that courses in which they enrolled "did not, in their view, appear to fulfill the ROE criteria." Reviewing the listing of course offerings, the committee felt they "generally reflected the degree of interpretation embodied by the language of the requirement. However, some review of courses, particularly in light of these students' complaints, is warranted."

• Reconfigure UC299 as an upper level course and offer a series of first-year seminars based on the UC299 content.

The report notes that UC299 served a number of important purposes, including "providing the core for faculty seminars on teaching about race, racism and ethnicity and, through the structure of team teaching, it demanded an interdisciplinary perspective be brought to the topic of race, racism and ethnicity."

The committee recommends revision of UC299 content for first-year students "offered as a linked set of four-to-six first-year seminars," each ideally limited to 18 students. Each seminar would have a common core of material, with faculty given the flexibility to incorporate material from their particular areas of interest and expertise.

An upper level course (UC399) that would address issues of race, racism and ethnicity with "more sophisticated questions, arguments and materials" should be developed for juniors and seniors.

• Rename the UC299 Board the "R&E Instructional Board" and clarify its role and responsibilities.

The committee recommends renaming the UC299 Board and providing support that will enable it to carry out expanded responsibilities.

The new name--R&E Instructional Board--"is intended to reflect its role in providing instructional support and oversight to a wide range of faculty and TAs teaching courses with race and ethnicity content."

Members of the new board--at least three and not more than six faculty and at least one undergraduate and one graduate student--will be selected by the Office of the LS&A Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education for three-year rotating and staggered terms. The board will be chaired by the LS&A associate or assistant dean for undergraduate education and receive staff support.

Responsibilities of the board:

• Coordinate the restructuring of UC299.

• Organize faculty seminars for R&E instructors.

• Solicit and evaluate applications for course development funds, supplemental TA support and requests for changes in course format or reductions in section size, and make recommendations on these requests as appropriate.

• Oversee required TA training in cooperation with LS&A units and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching's (CRLT) Multicultural Teaching Services.

• Oversee an informational meeting about the requirement for academic advisers, orientation leaders, etc.

• Oversee optional workshops and consultation for faculty in cooperation with CRLT.

• Advise the Dean's Office on all matters related to multicultural teaching.

• Collaborate with other U-M units, state, regional and national organizations in activities that promise to enhance multicultural teaching in LS&A and the University as a whole.

• Seek additional internal and external funding for multicultural instructional efforts.

Copies of the report are available from the LS&A Dean's Office, Room 2522, LS&A Building, 764-0322.