Fri 10 Feb 2017
The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 4, and the end, of our discussion.
1) Again, it is sleazy for the CEA to list colleges with a similar requirement and not mention colleges, like Amherst and Yale, without one.
2) The College has been pushing these, allegedly, “innovative approaches” for 30 years. Has anything been accomplished? Consider some of the courses that meet the current EDI requirement:
CHIN 101 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 102 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 201 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)
CHIN 202 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)
JAPN 101 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 102 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 201 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)
JAPN 202 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)
CLAS 340 (F) Roman Cities in the Near East (D)
CSCI 205 (F) Cinematography in the Digital Age (D)
These look like great classes! But it is absurd to pretend that they, in any meaningful way, involve exploring diversity, or at least exploring diversity more than any competently taught language or history normally class does. Looking closely at the EDI listing (pdf) makes it obvious that one big element here is under-enrolled departments listing every possible class in order to increase student interest. A second element is departments listing at least one class in order to get the diversity apparatchiks off their backs.
Indeed, the cynical way to view EDI/DPE is as the College’s method for moving students from over-subscribed classes that they want to take — especially in economics, psychology, statistics and computer science — into under-subscribed courses in unpopular departments.
The central issue is the hypocrisy of Williams in pretending that it requires students to take courses which “represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other” while, at the same time, allowing that requirement to be fulfilled by introductory Japanese, but not introductory Arabic.
This is a fantasy on several levels. First, almost every single non-science class at Williams does this, at least given the constraints of its subject matter. Show me a history or political science or sociology or anthropology or . . . course which does not “study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other.”
Second, it is hard to read “core of their pedagogical mission” as anything other than a plea for indoctrination or as plaintive virtue signalling. Assume (as EphBlog does!) that the Williams faculty is highly competent, that they structure their classes intelligently, providing a balanced coverage of the relevant issues. In that case, the amount of time that, say, HIST 284: Introduction to Asian American History spends on the “shaping of social differences” is appropriate even if it is not the “core” of the class. If you believe that Williams faculty are competent, than you should assume that they spend the appropriate amount of time on issues relating to difference, power and equity, given the subject of their course. Why wouldn’t they?
Moreover, we assert unapologetically that the elimination of a curricular commitment to difference and power would send a terrible signal to our community and beyond.
Is there a better example of virtue signalling at Williams in the last year? Recall that this requirement does nothing meaningful to change the content of specific courses. The syllabus of HIST 284 is going to be the same as it would have been if the professor taught at Amherst. Removing the requirement does not change a single class at Williams. It just allows students to take the courses that they want to take, which is the same freedom as Yale and Amherst allow their students.
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