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UCLA professors force vote on diversity class requirement

Students go about their business at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Students go about their business at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
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A diversity class approved by UCLA's Academic Senate is now on hold after dozens of professors signed and submitted a petition on Dec. 11 calling for a campus vote of all faculty members.

Under the diversity requirement, undergraduates enrolled in the fall of 2015 were expected to complete a class that would teach them to understand the perspectives of other people whose views, backgrounds, and experiences may differ from their own.

The goal is to promote a "better understanding of and appreciation for the complex differences they will encounter both in the United States and around the world so that they may thrive, function and lead in today’s and tomorrow’s world,” according to a description provided by supporters of the requirement.

Opposition came from 59 UCLA professors who signed a petition asking for another vote that would be open to faculty outside the College of Letters and Sciences whose faculty had proposed the class and won its approval from the Academic Senate.

“Diversity is code for a certain set of politically correct or left leaning attitudes on college campuses. There’s enough of that here,” UCLA political science professor Thomas Schwartz said. “We don’t think students should ever be required to take an ideologically slanted or a politically slanted course.”

Supporters of the diversity requirement see the petition as an end run around the 332 to 303 vote of College of Letters and Sciences faculty held in October supporting the classes. The Academic Senate then followed with a 85 to 18 vote on Nov. 20 approving the curriculum change.

“The college [Letters and Sciences] does happen to enroll 85 percent of all undergraduates at the university,” said UCLA psychiatry professor Belinda Tucker.

The online vote of faculty would start on Feb. 25 and end March 10. It would be open to members who didn’t vote on the requirement before, such as professors in UCLA’s medical school and engineering school.

Opponents sent the letter below to their faculty colleagues detailing their position.