Written by: Joe Lollo
The University of Washington’s Undergraduate Advising website says that the university requires “all undergraduates to take a minimum of 3 credits, approved by the appropriate school or college, that focus on the socio-cultural, political, and/or economic diversity of the human experience at local, regional, or global levels.”
Picture a student going for a standard 4-year BA/BS degree capped at the typical 15 credits a quarter workload. That’s just one course out of 36.
It has become abundantly clear, however, that UW’s requirements are not enough. From recent events, however, it is clear that many students haven’t been respecting the mindset that diversity classes are supposed to have. 3 credits are not enough.
Students come from different places with different backgrounds, and arrive at the university where they all become part of this huge “melting pot” of different cultures — cultures that everyone can learn from in a certain mindset. It infuriates a lot of UW’s student body, me included, that the differences that students bring with them aren’t always positively recognized.
We are in a place where all kinds of students have a lot of ability to grow, not just while we’re here but after we graduate and enter the workforce. One of the most important things students should learn about, however, is the oppressive systems that bind us all, and the experiences people have with those systems that make us human. Improving the diversity requirements at UW, especially can have such an irreversible positive impact on how students learn.
Students can benefit so much from learning about social and historical injustices. Courses that cover them, then, are critical for every undergraduate student, not just the students who are already interested in learning more about these topics — they can influence your perspectives in the professional world.
Some Steps the University Can Take:
- Increasing the Credit Requirement: This is honestly one of the ideas I’ve heard about the most from other students. Students should learn about these subjects because it’s really important to know that we’ve all gone through experiences that make us human. Maybe increasing the requirement from 1 course to 2 could help more students notice and appreciate that.
- Requiring Different “Types” of Diversity Credits: Kind-of going hand-in-hand with the above idea, I think making UW give students requirements for learning about different “kinds” of diversity — maybe one about race/identity and one about ideology/theory — can be integral. Due to my interests, I’ve taken classes covering queer & feminist theory, equity in education, and critical race theory as it applies to art and literature, yet in every class I’ve only had students taking them for “easy Diversity credit.” Allowing multiple diversity requirements, especially when they overlap with other graduation requirements (usually Individuals & Societies and Visual, Literary & Performing Arts) can help students customize their curriculum a little more and help inform them on a wider variety of perspectives, which is something the world needs right now.
This may be just a pipe dream for me, but I really want students to be more aware of the injustices we have faced as a country and as a world. Empathy is one of the best ways of learning.
I hope that, one day, we live in a world where we have deconstructed colonialism, rejected nationalism, and learn about oppressive systems only in history books. I seek to live and work in communities where all forms of knowledge is valued, and to have experiences to help me better fight for the futures of the less privileged. My Diversity classes at UW helped me with that, and with my intended future career being education, I hope that I can make a positive impact on a wide variety of students in an equitable environment.
Changing the requirements for Diversity courses at UW could help me with that dream. We need to educate and organize ourselves in the face of social fragmentation.
Sign this petition if the future of our student body is something you are passionate about: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-washington-uw-reallocate-graduation-requirements-to-emphasize-the-importance-of-div-courses