Faculty have approved a proposal requiring all undergraduate students in the UCLA College to complete a course focused on diversity.
The vote, conducted March 30 through April 10, was 916 to 487 in favor of the proposal, according to results posted on the Academic Senate website.
Supporters — including senior campus administrators, UCLA College deans and faculty, and student leaders — said universities have a responsibility to prepare students for life in a multicultural world and that understanding the perspectives of others is a core competency. They said their position was supported by scholarly research on diversity in higher education, as well as surveys of employers, who increasingly are seeking employees comfortable in diverse environments.
“A diversity-focused course requirement has been a long-standing priority for me because of its clear value to our students, so I am very pleased with the campuswide faculty vote approving the proposal,” Chancellor Gene Block said. “I want to thank the many faculty members and students who have worked hard for several years to make the diversity requirement a reality.”
The requirement takes effect for freshmen entering the UCLA College this fall and transfer students entering in fall 2017. The College comprises approximately 84 percent of UCLA’s undergraduate student body.
“Passage of the diversity requirement gives us a great opportunity to up our game and critically examine, from multiple disciplines, how difference, inequality and community function,” said UCLA Law Professor Jerry Kang, who on July 1 will become the campus’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. “A world-class university should challenge us all to move beyond our comfort zones, have hard conversations, grow smarter and translate what we’ve learned into interventions that make the world a fairer place.”
Students will be required to earn at least a C grade in a course that substantially addresses racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, sexual orientation, religious or other types of diversity. More than 100 existing courses — in departments as varied as history, biology, classics, political science and religion — meet the requirement, which does not increase the number of units needed to graduate.
The Academic Senate’s Legislative Assembly — which includes faculty representatives from academic departments across campus — overwhelmingly approved the requirement in November, following previous approvals by the College faculty and various Academic Senate committees. The Academic Senate’s rules committee later determined that a petition submitted by some faculty required a vote of the entire eligible membership of the Senate — about 3,600 professors, including 1,110 emeriti faculty.
All other University of California campuses but one — UC Merced — have diversity-related requirements in their primary undergraduate units. The UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture already has a similar requirement for undergraduates.