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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Graduate and Professional Student Association GPSA pass resolution requiring that the University include a diversity course for an undergraduate degree

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The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) passed a resolution calling for the University to require a three-credit diversity course be added to the requirements for an undergraduate degree.

At a GPSA meeting on Saturday, all but two members, Travis Baggett and Seth Grant, voted in favor of the resolution. If upheld by the administration, the resolution will be enacted for incoming freshmen in 2014 and will not add to the total credit-hour requirement for graduation.

On Wednesday, ASUNM unanimously passed a similar resolution,
The requirement, if upheld, would require undergraduate students to take a course with more than half its curriculum focused on understanding worldwide issues in regard to race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

According to the resolution, “the benefits of diversity have been shown to positively impact all students regardless of their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, veteran status and religion.”

GPSA member Michael Howland-Davis said the resolution does not require the creation of any new courses and that about 100 courses currently offered at the University within the humanities and social sciences departments satisfy the requirement.

Baggett said he questioned the purpose of requiring students to take a diversity course because UNM is already a diverse campus.

“If we already value diversity at UNM and we already have diversity at UNM, with 46 percent of students being Latino, I suppose the question is ‘What is the purpose of this resolution?’” Baggett said.

Baggett said he was worried the resolution’s inclusion of another requirement would confuse students as to what requirements they would have to take to graduate.

GPSA President Marisa Silva said the resolution should be passed because it was long overdue.

“As a flagship in the state, we do have a responsibility to lead by example, and that includes policy and coursework, and in terms of diversity, we’re far behind the curve,” she said.

Silva said the UNM Division for Equity and Inclusion presented a report in May from the African-American community at UNM stating that 60 percent of African-American students, faculty and staff members at the undergraduate and graduate level reported that their culture was not respected. Silva said the presentation included reports that, at times, classrooms were a hostile environment for people from certain backgrounds.

“This is in response to student requests for support for inclusion and discussion in a critical and safe place in the classroom,” she said. “If you’re Native American, then, yes, you live that, or if you’re disabled, you live that every day, of course, but this is a place to engage in an academic place with your peers about those issues.”

Silva said a similar message has been echoed at recent town hall meetings at the American Indian Students Center and at El Centro de la Raza.

“We’re all a part of this community, but the message at those town halls was ‘Why are we not a part of this curriculum?’” she said.