To the editor:

As members of the Academic Working Group of the Diversity Initiative, we would like first to express our appreciation for all the feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism we have received thus far, and secondly to clarify a few points in response to the thoughtful comments that appeared in The Hoya (“Game Plan,” The Hoya, April 13, 2010, A2; “Proposal Fragments Curriculum,” The Hoya, April 13, 2010, A3).

1. The proposal for a diversity requirement is indeed based on our conviction that there are scores of courses currently offered by a wide array of departments and programs that could readily fulfill the suggested requirement (while also being double-counted toward a whole range of other requirements, be they in the general education curriculum, various majors and minors, et cetera). We merely mentioned a handful of such examples in our draft proposal, out of about 140 courses that struck us as having the potential to play such a role. The specific courses we mentioned were certainly not intended to form an exhaustive list! In any case, the formal identification and designation of such courses (be they already existing or newly designed) would be the task of another body, to be set up in the event the diversity requirement were duly approved and instituted.

2. The proposed diversity requirement would not be limited to courses dealing with a closed set of identity groups, be they ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic, gender-based, sexual-orientation-based, et cetera. Given that identity is linked to subjective perspectives, perceptions and experiences, and given that it is fluid, multifaceted and complex, we would not presume to put forward a restricted list of ascriptive criteria that must be fulfilled in order for a given identity to “qualify” for inclusion in a diversity requirement course. Nor would such courses be required or expected to preach any particular doctrinal line; courses questioning the role of ascriptive criteria in determining identity, and exploring the tensions and synergies between particularism and universalism, could be perfectly suited for inclusion in a diversity requirement. Ideally, any course would expose students to a multiplicity of perspectives and interpretations and draw them into discussion and debate about these sorts of fundamental questions. Indeed, fostering informed and reflective student engagement with such issues – rather than telling students what they ought or ought not think about them – is the fundamental purpose of this proposal. Narrow-minded “political correctness” is not what this proposal is about. We certainly cannot imagine how it would infringe on anyone’s academic freedom, given that students would simply be required to learn about topics related to diversity, rather than be required to absorb a particular perspective or line of thinking about such topics.

3. The proposal for a strengthening of African-American studies and the creation of similar programs focusing on the study of other minority cultures explicitly emphasizes the importance of basing faculty hires for such programs in existing departments. We are opposed to a scenario in which hires for such programs would be isolated from their respective disciplines.

We look forward to continuing the discussion.

Sam Marullo
Professor and Chair,
Department of Sociology

Eusebio Mujal-Leon
Associate Professor,
Department of Government

Aviel Roshwald
Professor and Chair,
Department of History

Veronica Salles-Reese
Associate Professor,
Department of Spanish and Portuguese

April 16, 2010

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