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English Department Proposes Diversity Requirement

The Barker Center is home to the Barker Center Cafe, where students can buy coffee, pastries, and sandwiches.
The Barker Center is home to the Barker Center Cafe, where students can buy coffee, pastries, and sandwiches.
By Joshua J. Florence, Crimson Staff Writer

Starting with the Class of 2020, English concentrators may be required to enroll in a course featuring authors “marginalized for historical reasons” if a motion submitted by the English faculty is approved next week.

The Committee on Undergraduate Educational Policy, chaired by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, will hear the motion next week and vote on whether to approve it, according to Derek Miller, associate director of undergraduate studies for the English department.

English Department Chair James Simpson said authors counting for the requirement could have been “marginalized” due to issues including “racism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity.” While the department still has time to figure out what the new requirement will look like in practice, Simpson highlighted a few areas of potential study.

The Barker Center houses the English Department offices.
The Barker Center houses the English Department offices. By Grace Z. Li


“The humanities actually have an immense opportunity here,” Simpson said. “Those courses could be in ethnic literature, or in courses where you have predominately women authors.”

The English department, which welcomed 49 new concentrators in the fall, would institute the new requirement for current freshmen who have not yet declared concentrations. The requirement would not create any new courses, but will instead highlight existing courses, according to Miller.

“There’s no class. That’s one of the things that’s different from our other requirements,” Miller said. “Courses will be decided on a semester-by-semester basis.”

The path to a full vote before the English faculty was a lengthy process that began with student proposals, according to Miller.

“We received a letter from some undergraduates about this, and it was brought then to our student advisory committee first,” he said. “It was really a full process that really involved people across the system.”

The new requirement comes as some students and faculty ramp up efforts to create a more diverse curriculum for undergraduates. In 2015, a College Diversity Report recommended expanding the number of courses that cover diversity and flagging those courses so students more easily find them when searching for courses online.

Last month, several students advocating for a new ethnic studies program met during a Wintersession seminar to discuss strategies for shoring up support this semester.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at joshua.florence@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

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Humanities DivisionFAS AdministrationEnglish