Draft Multicultural Requirements revision proposal

The Senate wasn’t shown a copy of this for the discussion today, but here’s the draft that has been circulating on the listservs for the Town Hall meetings that have been going on, and which are scheduled for Th and Fri.

This draft will be used to focus conversations about possible changes to UO’s multicultural requirement. It is written in the language of a motion that could eventually go to the UO Senate for a vote. Ideally it will give readers something concrete to consider and revise.

Please be in touch (vpugs@uoregon.edu) if you would like to offer individual feedback. We look forward to working together on this important part of UO’s curriculum.

UO Multicultural Requirement: A Possible Revision

Section I

1.1 WHEREAS the University of Oregon has, since 1994, required two “multicultural” courses for a baccalaureate degree selected in two of three categories, American Cultures, International Cultures, and Identity, Pluralism and Tolerance.

1.2 WHEREAS the Black Student Task Force drew the campus’s attention to the degree to which our curriculum raised as a central thematic focus the study of unequal power distribution; allowed for attention to U.S. histories and communities; and emphasized resistance and resilience – rejecting a deficit model of identity.

1.3 WHEREAS the University’s response to the Black Student Task Force included the formation of a faculty-student Ethnic Studies 101 Working Group in January 2016, which ultimately recommended a shared, across-the-disciplines approach to teaching about “inequality and injustice” and developing students’ “skills to navigate a diversifying world” (BSTF memo).

1.4 WHEREAS a parallel joint committee of the Undergraduate Council and the University Committee on Courses expressed “dissatisfaction with the current categories and structure” of the multicultural requirement and identified a “diluting of the purpose and coherence of the requirement.”

1.5 WHEREAS the joint committee recommended updating the multicultural requirement category titles and descriptions to reflect “current scholarship in the field of critical multicultural education” and addressing an “imbalance in the categories” that means most UO students do not take American Cultures (AC) courses and, thus, “are not exposed to the critical conversations occurring in AC courses addressing a critical analysis of students’ cultural context and assumptions.”

1.6 WHEREAS a faculty group reporting to Undergraduate Council, the active, 12-member Working Group on Intercultural and Inclusive Teaching met across the 2016-17 academic year to consider the learning outcomes, teaching strategies, and curricular and support structures it determined best suited for building faculty and student capacities related to critical multicultural education.

1.7 WHEREAS on November 11, 2016 the UO Senate resolved to “strengthen our curricula to reflect the diversity of peoples and cultures that have contributed to human knowledge and society, in the United States and throughout the world.”

1.8 WHEREAS a broad effort to update the general education requirements, which have not been significantly changed since at least the 1990’s, is beginning this year with the formation of a Senate Core Education Task Force, the multicultural requirement is in obvious need of updating and can serve as an important first step and model for future changes in this broad effort.

1.9 WHEREAS the charge of the Undergraduate Council includes: (1) Review and promote the objectives and purposes of undergraduate education and assure that all policies and procedures, curricula, personnel and teaching decisions that affect undergraduate education are consistent and defensible with the institution’s undergraduate education mission as defined in the University’s Mission Statement and Statement of Philosophy, Undergraduate Education; (3) Formulate, monitor, and respond to general academic policies, especially those which have impact on undergraduate programs across the University.

1.10 WHEREAS the Undergraduate Council passed (INSERT TITLE) on (INSERT DATE).

Section II

2.1 BE IT HEREBY MOVED that the current Multicultural requirement be reduced from the current 3 categories (American Cultures (AC),International Cultures (IC) and Identity, Pluralism and Tolerance (IP)) to 2 new categories, United States (US) and International (INTL).

US courses will draw primarily on illustrative material from the United States.

INTL courses will draw primarily on illustrative material from outside the United States.

Transnational experiences of difference, power and agency will appear in both categories.

Students will be required to take one course from each of these categories.

2.2 BE IT FURTHER MOVED that Multicultural courses in each category formed in 2.1 will explicitly address:

  1. Inequality, that is, the operation of political, economic and other forms of power to exclude, subjugate, marginalize by establishing classifications and hierarchies on the basis of social formations such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, nationality, sub-nationality, etc.
  2. Resistance, that is, practices of agency and solidarity in response to discrimination or inequality, especially as manifest in the histories, linguistic forms, cultural production, and scholarship of those subject to discrimination or inequality.
  3. Intersectionality, that is, the reality that human populations cannot be neatly classified into single and discrete identity categories, but instead express multiple and changing forms of identification depending on multiple and overlapping social formations, histories, legal frameworks, and cultural practices.
  4. Listening and reflection, offering tools for ethical dialogue across many perspectives, to expand students’ abilities to engage in respectful, civil conversation on deeply felt issues on campus, and in wider national and global contexts.
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20 Responses to Draft Multicultural Requirements revision proposal

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    It sounds like a parody of the worst sort of academic leftist oppression cult. I would tell any prospective student to run as fast as possible. I hope UO doesn’t succumb to this. It is not representative of the faculty I know. I hope the sane people stand up, like they did last time. Maybe UO has really changed that much. If so, lots of luck.

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    • uomatters says:

      Bernie, I’m guessing you agree with the general idea that we should require that our students learn something about the world beyond Lake Oswego or Orange County. So how would you propose the Senate codify that requirement?

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      • Dog says:

        Call it perspectives, or multi cultural perspectives, since that is what it is – seeing the world/history through different lenses.

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        • Oldtimer says:

          3 and 4 have merit in emphasizing complexity, multiple lenses, and dialogue. 1 and 2 are the opposite, at least as articulated.

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          • honest Uncle Bernie says:

            Oldtimer, I am inclined to agree. “Intersectionality” as defined here means something different from what I have understood it to mean in these circles (which are not the ones I run in). In fact, the definition given dovetails with my own understanding of self-identity.

            I liked the aspect of the old requirement that allowed the use of a course on a cultural manifestation completely different from any of the modern manifestations, e.g. the study of ancient cultures, which might or might not be ancient Western culture (which had various manifestations quite different from each other).

            If the multicultural requirement is just going to consist of victim studies, better not to have it at all!

            I am much more interested in teaching students how to get along with each other constructively, than teaching various groups to feel and think like victims, at least in the main. (And of course, some people are victims; e.g. people actually literally crucified by Islamic state, no argument from me there.)

            But teaching people to be victims is just a way to turn people into losers. It is destructive, and actually rather hateful, and unnecessary, and not reflective of reality. (The latter perhaps a word with a flavor from another time.)

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            • uomatters says:

              I’d support revising the “Resistance” learning objective so it was less about “linguistic forms, cultural production, and scholarship of those subject to discrimination or inequality” and more about learning how to fight back.

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            • Environmental necessity says:

              So, do you object to the idea that the current order creates victims, people who suffer disproportionately in this society, or do you object to studying the processes that create such circumstances?

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            • apt says:

              “resistance” should definitely have the spirit of “fighting back” as uomatters points out. That spirit goes a long way to -both- identify structures of power that are violently oppressive (through multiple kinds of violence) as well as identify active forms of resistance/fight back (and again through multiple kinds of “resistance”). I recently started reading through the following article and respondent contributions that take up these concepts of victimhood and resistance in some thoughtful and complex ways:


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            • honest Uncle Bernie says:

              To E.n. — In the main — speaking very broadly — I don’t think this society creates victims; it offers tremendous opportunities to most people lucky enough to be here. (As evidenced by the fact that illegal immigration is such a huge phenomenon and issue in the U.S. — I know of no other more or less civilized country with our level or fracation of illegal immigration.) Now if you want to tell me that someone innocent who gets shot in Chicago, or grows up fatherless, or gets raped by a stranger, or a little kid who goes hungry, yeah, I would say that they are victims, though we might disagree about what they are victims of in each case.

              I would put it more that different parts of the society and culture have dysfunctionalities, more than that they create victims.

              But if the curriculum insists on emphasizing victimization — I would insist that a variety of viewpoints be taught. I would include voices including Shelby Steele, Amy Wax, Heather MacDonald, Charles Murray — even though I don’t completely agree with any of them. For that matter, I would include W.E.B Dubois and Booker T. Washington.

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            • Environmental necessity says:

              To honest uncle bernie: “I don’t think this society creates victims”; clearly we see things differently. You acknowledge that some are harmed individually, while you skip over systemic harms like racism, sexism, theft of native land, entrenched homophobia and transphobia, and on and on, rushing to extol the virtues of opportunities…which a cursory review of the data show are differentially conferred, even setting aside unearned prior privilege, and granting the full weight of your argument. There is opportunity, but it is and has been concentrated. This is the essence of institutional or structural analysis as opposed to a worthless series of anecdotes and individualized accounts that obscure their operations. “Dysfunctionalities” betrays your perspective as it both naturalizes oppression and positions it as the outcome of unintentional factors. In any event, you will be relieved that no proposed courses teach people to be victims (as if it could) but rather, at least the best ones, describe the social processes that disadvantage some relative to others, and attempt to provide students, all students, the tools the analyze those processes and structures and the means to work together to be a part of their solution.

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      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        I might begin with not snarking about LO and OC. The former a source of many of our best students, by the way. OC is probably far more “diverse” than any place in Oregon including UO.

        The old muticulti reqs were not so bad, especially by comparison with the new proposals.

        Oh, I might begin by having them read some Claude Steele. And then some Shelby Steele.

        And then perhaps the Black Book of Communism, about matters of which they are shockingly unaware.

        We could go from there.

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      • Anonymous Duck says:

        Can we cover “Irish indentured servants”, the Barbary slave trade (at least the First Barbary War), or the mere fact of the etymology of the word “slave” itself?
        As a white person who was raised on “gubment cheese” and free lunches, I really find your comment distasteful and offensive. I came to the U of O to try and better myself and my family, not be browbeat about the color of my skin and assumptions you make about my origins.

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        • Dog says:

          Yes, individual lens views of the world and its opportunities of lack of opportunities are complicated and nuanced.

          An old proverb, while trite by modern standards, is important:

          Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.

          We often forget this, or worse, pretend we understand it when our lenses maybe be complete different. We tend to categorize, organize, and level (i.e. intersectionality, resistence, inequality) before we consider the most basic issue: through my lens is the world for me one of opportunity or one of obstacles? where that binary choice is generally driven by skin color, religious preference, ethnicity , gender … does my lens come from historical oppression and suppression of opportunity or does it come from historical elite and entitlement status. Clarification and consistency in how we deal with these various lenses in a scholar manner (this is what I call perspectives) is at the heart of a “multicultural” requirement much more than the historical treatment of a few examples, upon which we liberally generalize.

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        • honest Uncle Bernie says:

          Amen, A.D.! And yes, by all means, there is a place to teach about the early Irish coming here literally to avoid starvation, due to both natural and imposed disasters. But it is not the whole story. I am in all likelihood descended from at least one such person, far enough back. Fortunately, the ancestors had enough sense to try to make the best of being here, and more or less succeeded in doing so. Other ancestors came from even more dire circumstances. I have always been very grateful that they had the opportunity to come here and have a life, despite it being a very imperfect place.

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      • come on bill says:

        Come on, Bill (and the rest of the senate). If you want to have a general ed requirement for “liberal indoctrination,” then you have struck the right tone. I hardly see why something focused on “multicultural” needs to come off as so slanted. If this is how we define multicultural, at minimum you should pair this element with a course on the importance of individual rights, freedom of speech, etc.

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  2. cdsinclair says:

    Dude, Spoiler alert!

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  3. apt says:

    Thanks uomatters for putting up the draft resolution. We didn’t submit to the FacSen today since we’re still listening to and incorporating feedback. There’s work left to do, and we’re looking forward to hearing from faculty and students what they’re thinking, and of course we’re looking forward to the dialogue that takes place here…(not sure how to insert subtle sarcasm)

    Feedback sessions:

    Thurs, Mar 1, 4-5pm
    EMU Miller Room (107)
    All faculty are warmly welcome!

    Fri, Mar 2, 4-5pm
    Knight Library Browsing Room
    Session specially for students

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    • Old timer says:

      Whatever one thinks of this proposal, the regular order procedure would be to refer the proposal to the appropriate university committees for review, the undergrad council, as well as the committee on courses, since the proposal establishes new gen ed rules and puts very specific requirements on individual courses.

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      • Of course says:

        This is happening – it can’t be approved otherwise.

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  4. BillyGoat says:

    I don’t understand the narrow focus on “inequality” and “resistance”. Multicultural interactions are so much more than that. It is made up of conflict, assimilation, peace, war, mere curiosity–sometimes driven by inequality and fighting back, other times by other sources. The reductionist approach taken by the committee strikes me, at best, as parochial.

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