CMC to Introduce Courses With a Focus on "Diversity"

Since last year’s protests calling for more institutional support for marginalized students, Claremont McKenna College students have witnessed a number of changes to their campus, including the introduction of more classes that focus on “diversity,” according to ASCMC Diversity and Inclusion Chair Patrick J. Elliott CM ’19.  

Among these classes is Associate Professor of Government Jon Shields’s “Debating Race: Black Intellectuals in the Age of Obama,” which will debut in spring 2017.

According to an email sent to CMC students and staff last March by Peter Uvin, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, this class and five others are being funded through the Innovative Courses, Inclusive Pedagogies grant created as a result of student proposals.

These classes, many of which are still being developed, include: Associate Professor of Religious Studies Gary Gilbert’s “Israel: Zionism and the Jewish State, “Assistant Professor of Psychology Stacey Doan’s “Psychosocial Determinants of Health,” Assistant Professor of History Sarah Sarzynski’s “Vampires, Zombies, and the African Diaspora,” Professor of Philosophy’s Amy Kind’s “Experience,” and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jamel Velji’s  “Pluralizing Islamic Studies.”

In an email to TSL, Elliott wrote that these classes are aimed “to be relevant to everyone on campus, not just the majority” and are “one of the many results of the diversity initiatives that were started last year.”

“There are two aspects of this. The first is to promote the creation of more of these classes, but secondly, is to incorporate these conversations into the classes that already exist. The end goal is for identity, inclusivity, and equity to become integrated into our entire CMC experience both in and out of the classroom,” Elliott said.

There remains no institutional structure in place for students to take these courses, however.

“As of now, there is no GE requirement so these classes are not mandatory; part of the reason why integrating these topics in classes such an Intro to Gov is so important,” Elliott said. 

“All of the other colleges have a diversity general education requirement, and CMC is the only school that doesn’t. Using that as leverage, we kind of wanted to make sure that faculty understood that this is an important issue to us,” said Joey Yamada CM ’18, ASCMC Junior Class President, who focused on “diversity issues” as the presidential advisor to the student body president last year.

According to Yamada, last year’s protest was the catalyst in making larger, institutional changes to CMC.

“Changing the entire curriculum is impossible. We’re trying to make little baby steps. We’re trying to make sure it’s an inclusive environment. And I think [the protests] were one of the first, most important steps yet,” Yamada said.

"I don’t think that’s something that would have been offered 10 years ago had these conversations not initiated originally,” said Felipe Afanador CM ’18, regarding the debut of the class “Debating Race: Black Intellectuals in the Age of Obama.”

Afanador, Vice President of ASCMC, has been working with the Dean of Faculty and other students to further these diversity initiatives.

“I think it came just as a result of the events from last November. The whole school did a reassessment of different components of the college and how it could better be accessible to students of all backgrounds," Afanador said. "So part of that was an analysis of  one, course offerings and two, the makeup of the faculty-- and how that’s changed and how that continues to change.”

“Our student body is more diverse every year. Twenty percent of our students are international. We have different background and experiences represented in our student body. But it’s important for students, especially with our value systems, to be learning from people who look similar to them and that they can relate to, to share those life experiences," Afanador said.