By Charlie Hatcher
On Friday, October 7th, Claremont McKenna College Dean of Students Dianna Graves shared an update on the proposed Racial-Ethnic General Education proposal on behalf of the college’s Board of Trustees. The proposal would have required CMC students to take a course with “at least five weeks discussing two out of three criteria: racism, …the social construction of race-ethnicity … [and the] contributions of racial-ethnic minorities in the U.S. or around the world.” The GE would have been available to double-count, meaning that one course could fulfill both the Racial-Ethnic GE and another GE.
The email stated that the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee had met with Espinosa and Livesay during its executive session on September 29th. CMC President Hiram Chodosh and Dean of Faculty Heather Antecol were also in attendance.
Following the meeting, members of the AAC voted unanimously not to move forward with the proposal as given, which was confirmed by a unanimous vote by the full Board on September 30th. The Board determined that a “general education overlay, requiring only 5 weeks of dedicated attention, diffused across our curriculum and that of other colleges, and only drawn around race and ethnic understanding, is not sufficiently strong or well-tailored to fulfill our mission.”
The Board also recommended that the proposal be “strengthened in several key respects to develop a broad and compelling curriculum (and other related programs) in strong alignment with the College mission.” The Board suggested that the proposal’s objectives should be “both elevated to the highest level of College mission and strategy and broadened to ensure that every student of the College has a fundamental fluency and understanding of all sources of social division, including in particular race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, and others.”
To fulfill these goals, the Board also recommended that “the curricular approach to meet these commitments should go beyond a five-week module GE overlay to become more pervasive, comprehensive, and well-tailored.”
Professors Gaston Espinosa and Daniel Livesay, who led the proposal, told the Claremont Independent that they are “deeply disappointed that the CMC Board of Trustees members of the Academic Affairs Committee took the unprecedented step to vote down and reject the faculty-approved Racial-Ethnic Cultural Understanding GE Proposal….We are dismayed by the Board's interdiction and circumvention of faculty governance of the curriculum by calling on the CMC faculty to start from scratch on an alternative proposal. We believe that the original proposal would be the most effective means to educate our students on core knowledge needed to be responsible leaders, and we will continue to work tirelessly with students, faculty, and our community for its adoption at the College.”
This proposal has been the subject of controversy in recent months. The faculty voted to approve the project in the spring after almost two years of discussion. Following the vote, President Chodosh declined to recommend the proposal to the Board, remanding it back to the faculty with directions to “[develop] a set of preliminary ideas for alternative, parallel approaches.” On September 16th, however, the Faculty Diversity Committee voted to send the original proposal to the Board, setting up the most recent vote.
Image via Herman Miller