New courses offered to meet US minority general education requirement

By Daniel Renteria, Staff Writer

For the spring semester, 44 classes will meet the U.S. minority general education requirement that now applies to all current freshmen and future students.

In 2017, the University’s academic senate passed a proposal that requires students to take a course in Western comparative culture, non-Western culture and U.S. minority culture. Previously, students only had to take a course in either non-Western culture or U.S. minority cultures along with Western comparative culture.

According to the proposal made by the Committee on Race and Ethnicity in the Office of the Chancellor, “Given the multicultural, multiracial nature of U.S. society, as well as the race relations/diversity climate on campus and in society at large, CORE firmly believes that all undergraduate students at the University need to take a U.S. minority culture course as a requirement for graduation.”

The change was made due to the lack of students choosing to take U.S. minority courses and an abundance choosing to take non-western culture courses, according to the proposal made by the Committee on Race and Ethnicity in the University Senate.

Isabel Molina, faculty director for Diversity and Inclusion in LAS, said, “I think that for students to step outside of their comfort zone and to begin learning, begin experiencing what it means to work and learn beside others who might have radically different stories and life experiences, is also really good education value and one that universities across this country are realizing is important for their students to have before they graduate.”

The change will affect current freshmen and other incoming students. However, the change will not affect the general education requirements for sophomores, juniors or seniors.

“Students will find this requirement easy to fill. I think that many of these U.S. minority courses count for other general education requirements as well,” Molina said. “I think that they’re going to get a lot out of these courses. They’re interesting courses topically, and I think they’re really going to help University graduates to join the workforce one step ahead of others who don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of this offering.”

Julie Cidell, geography professor, will be teaching American People, Places & Environments, one of the newly created classes that meets the U.S. minority course requirement.

The class will examine the geography of many U.S. regions and will address how minority groups, such as African Americans or Native Americans, have shaped their cultural and natural landscapes.

One part of the course will focus on the cultural landscape of the U.S., such as the placement of monuments and who streets are named after, and the other half will focus on environmental justice and how environmental hazards have differing effects on a person based on their race and income.

“In this country, we are not very good about understanding where other people are coming from,” Cidell said. “This is an opportunity to learn how things got to be the way they are and then what this means for understanding the economy, politics, all these sorts of aspects.”

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Correction: A previous version of the story misstated the number of classes that will fulfill the U.S. minority general education requirement. The story also misstated which department the Committee on Race and Ethnicity belongs to. The Daily Illini regrets these errors.