An update on DPE:

To: All Faculty
From: Committee on Educational Affairs, Lara Shore-Sheppard, Chair
Date: February 16, 2018
Subject: Implementation of the Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement

Dear Colleagues,

The Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) is currently engaged in the annual curricular review. As you may recall, this year we are moving from the Exploring Diversity Initiative course requirement to the Difference, Power, and Equity course requirement which was passed by the faculty last spring and is slated to go into effect in fall of 2018.

Thanks to the anonymous faculty member who sent us this. Would love to have a professor, anonymous or otherwise, take on the Lily Shao role of posting such messages. Future historians will thank you! Since these e-mails go out to around 300 people, they are hardly state secrets. I am also somewhat worried that the College, in its general incompetence and ahistoricism, does not archive these messages so that, a decade from now, Williams historians won’t be able to easily read them.

We need at least 60 courses per semester to make this requirement work, and currently we have about 50 courses submitted for the entire year. We suspect that despite our best efforts at communication with chairs and faculty, there may have been confusion about the process for submitting a course to be designated as DPE, so this memo is intended to clarify the process. We urge any of you who might be interested in having your course designated as DPE to submit your course as described below if you have not already done so. Please do this as soon as possible as the course package goes before the faculty at the March meeting in order to be ready for preregistration in April.

First, and most important, as the DPE requirement is replacing the EDI requirement, any course that your unit decides can be used to satisfy the DPE requirement must be submitted as a substantially revised course in order to receive the designation, even if the course is not changing. We suspect that many current EDI courses that faculty intend to change into DPE courses have not yet been submitted in this way. If your unit wants your course to have a DPE designation, you must submit the substantial revision form indicating this.

Ha! (Note that the bolding was in the original e-mail.) The majority of the faculty care so little about this absurd exercise in virtue-signalling that they can’t even be bothered to submit the appropriate paperwork.

My opinions (one, two, three, four) about DPE are unchanged from a year ago.

Rest of e-mail below the break:

Second, the course submission form itself (both the new course form and the substantially revised course form) has a significant change that affects ALL of the College-level designations (Writing-Intensive and Quantitative/Formal Reasoning as well as DPE), which is that there is now a Distribution Explanation field in which the faculty member should explain how the course fulfills the requirement. Importantly, this field contains important information for students and thus is visible as part of the catalog entry for the course. It should not duplicate text in the course description, but should explain so students can understand why your course is receiving the indicated designation. Note that if your course satisfies two requirements (e.g. it is WI and DPE) your Distribution Explanation field should discuss both of them. You will need to be more brief with each in that case.

For reference as you are preparing your Distribution Explanation, here are links to the DPE catalog description and further explanation for faculty, the Writing-Intensive description and further explanation for faculty, and the Quantitative/Formal Reasoning description and further explanation for faculty.

As the CEA is concerned that it be clear to students about how a course will satisfy the relevant requirement, particularly in this first year of the DPE requirement, we may contact you with a request to revise your Distribution Explanation field to increase the clarity of the explanation. We are not making a decision about whether or not a course should have a DPE, W, or Q designation—all of these decisions occur at the unit level—but we are looking for clarity for the students about how the course will satisfy the relevant requirement. If you would like to revise your Distribution Explanation field proactively in light of this information about the visibility of the field to students, please email the revised text to Amanda Turner ( in the Registrar’s office.

If you are curious about how the new information will appear, there is an example of a catalog entry for a DPE course with the new Distribution Explanation field available on the CEA website so you can see how all of the information will be presented. In addition, the CEA website as a whole contains much useful information about the process of submitting new and revised courses. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your assistance is implementing this important curricular change.

Lara Shore-Sheppard
Chair, Committee on Educational Affairs

Lara Shore-Sheppard
Kimberly ’96 and Robert ’62 Henry Professor of Economics
Williams College

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