CMC proposes new Racial-Ethnic Understanding general education requirement, asks for student feedback

Six books with titles about slavery in the US sit on a blue blanket.
Claremont Mckenna College proposed a new GE requirement which would require students to take a Racial-Ethnic Understanding class. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Claremont McKenna College hosted a virtual student forum Feb. 9 to discuss possible changes to the college’s general education requirements, which comes as a grassroots faculty response to the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America.

The new GE requirement would mandate students to take a class focusing on issues of racism, the social constructions of race and the contributions of racial-ethnic groups in the United States or abroad, according to an email from Dean of Students Dianna Graves. 

In its current form, the proposed Racial-Ethnic Understanding GE would be offered as an overlay course, meaning it could count toward another GE requirement without adding an additional course. The courses will not be restricted to any specific department or faculty. 

The requirement would likely be implemented in fall 2022 if it were to be approved by CMC faculty and the college’s board of trustees, according to Gastón Espinosa, professor of religious studies.

According to Espinosa, the GE change was proposed with the hope that it would prepare CMC students to be “more effective leaders in our multiethnic society and understand the history, experiences and contributions of millions of racial-ethnic Americans and immigrants today.”

Espinosa and Dan Livesay, professor of history, moderated the conversation with students at the forum to gain student feedback on the proposal. 

Students were asked to respond to specific questions including, “What would you like this course to help you learn and practice?” and “Do you like the flexible overlay structure which would allow this one course to double count by fulfilling two GEs?”

The forum was aimed at better understanding students’ queries about the initially proposed GE changes before sending an altered proposal to faculty following student comment. Espinosa also stressed that this proposal is a “work in progress” and is still in the early stages of being implemented. 

“The measure must be approved by a majority of faculty present at the faculty meeting, likely with many amendments, and then by the board of trustees,” he said. “The new GE will likely go live in fall 2022 if all goes according to the plan.” 

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