By Katie VloetNovember 18, 2015
A requirement that undergraduate students in U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts take a course that addresses issues arising from racial or ethnic intolerance has deep historical roots, Angela D. Dillard, associate dean for undergraduate education at LSA, said during a Law School Diversity Talk.
The requirement grew out of student-led protests by the Black Action Movement (BAM) III and United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR) in the late 1980s, said Dillard, also the Earl Lewis Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and in the Residential College.
Members of the two organizations blocked the Fleming Administration Building to protest a series of events on campus that they considered to be racist, to demand an increase in black enrollment and the number of black faculty members, and to insist on changes to the curriculum. The protests led to LSA faculty in 1990 approving the addition of a race and ethnicity (R&E) requirement. UCAR “applauded the sincerity of the faculty” but did not support the proposal, which they believed did not go far enough, Dillard said.
Dillard pointed out that protests on campuses this year, such as those at the University of Missouri, mirror some of what happened at the University of Michigan some 25 years ago. “It’s not surprising that … the students at Missouri are calling for something that sounds an awful lot like a race and ethnicity degree requirement,” she said.
Dillard added that the requirement should be a point of pride for U-M. “For the last decade on this campus, we’ve been a little embarrassed about this requirement,” Dillard said. “We should be all in, with both feet.”
Responding to a question about other types of diversity in the classroom, she said, “Intellectual and ideological diversity are very important. We should all take it seriously. … But I think it is a separate concern from this … and we confuse the issues at our peril.”
Dillard said she hopes that options for students to complete the degree requirement can be expanded in the future, perhaps to other colleges and schools within the University. If she had a blank check, she said, “I’d think more expansively about this degree requirement” – in study abroad, in the Natural Sciences, in community-based learning courses and elsewhere in the curriculum.
The talk was the third in a series of diversity conversations at Michigan Law this semester. See coverage of the previous two here and here. The conversation with Dillard was facilitated by Darren Nealy, the director of student services in the Office of Student Life at the Law School, and was cosponsored by the Program in Race, Law & History; Office of Student Life; Michigan Access Program; and the Michigan Law Educational Environment Committee.
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