Mizzou will now require ‘diversity intensive’ courses for graduation

Still reeling from last year’s student protests, the University of Missouri took action this week on two more diversity demands, hiring a chief diversity officer and requiring students to complete diversity-themed courses.

The College of Arts and Science at Mizzou announced Wednesday that undergraduates will now have to complete three credit-hours of “diversity intensive” (DI) courses in order to graduate, saying the courses will focus on “understanding differing social groups” and “will explore at least one form of social inequality, broadly defined.”

The College accounts for more than half of all Mizzou students, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled.

Similar curricular changes had been periodically debated since a 1990 rally at which students demanded mandatory “multicultural” classes, but the idea was repeatedly tabled until this week, when it was approved with 75 percent of a faculty vote.

Although the College is careful to note that the new requirements were not devised in response to the 2015 campus unrest, the press release strongly suggests that the protests were a major factor in their approval, observing that “the events of the fall of 2015 forcefully demonstrated that the concerns students first raised in 1990 have not disappeared.”

“It is important to note that this is not something that we whipped up in response to the events of last fall or the student protests,” said Elisa Glick, chair of the A&S Diversity Committee and an associate professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies. 

Glick also boasted that students will not be forced to take any additional classes, and that they will be able to choose from a variety of diversity-themed course offerings in any field of study. Students may take the courses at any point, but are encouraged to fulfill the condition in their first three semesters.

The revised A&S curriculum is not the only form of mandatory diversity training at Mizzou, however. Starting this semester, all incoming students must participate in a “Diversity@Mizzou” workshop intended to help them understand and appreciate cultural and racial diversity.

At the inaugural training session in January, for example, students were treated to several examples of cultural appropriation, such as dressing up as a geisha or taco for Halloween, and were also told that the pursuit of inclusivity should take precedence over freedom of speech.

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The various diversity initiatives being pursued at Mizzou will be overseen by Kevin McDonald, who was appointed Wednesday to serve as the university’s first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. McDonald, who previously served in a similar role at the Rochester Institution of Technology, will receive a starting salary of $235,000 to fill the position created in response to the demands of student protesters.

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