Quick Takes: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Requirements

In order to be effective, diversity must be taught in student-centered
form, not through mandatory letter grade for fulfillment of DEI course

It is unquestionable that education in diversity, equality and inclusion is paramount in acknowledging our unconscious biases. Diversity programs, such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion courses required at UCSD and diversification training in workplaces, are well-intentioned in their efforts to promote equal opportunity and form safe spaces for people of all backgrounds. However, recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of these programs. Thus, it is important to address how the DEI requirement is limited in helping students develop opinions regarding prevalent issues, and requiring a letter grade does little to address racism on campus.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a study of 829 companies over 31 years demonstrated that, despite the money poured into training each year, diversity programs had “no positive effects in the average workplace.” Furthermore, as stated by UW Today, diversity structures can create an “illusion of fairness”; companies stop thinking about diversity and the perceived effectiveness really has no quantitative backing. In the workplace, as well as in the classroom, diversity programs are largely regarded as mere formalities through which employees or students are obligated to pass.

As dissected in a paper by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, what individuals and institutions need is an “ongoing, systematic awareness of the state of higher education.” Schools should focus on the active process of engaging diversity in educating students and the ability to reflect on and improve our efforts. In order to reach this ideal situation, a diverse environment for learning is imperative. Diversity should be taught in a student-centered style, promoting interactivity, discussing ideas in an open and constructive setting and voicing differences in a civilized manner.

Diversity, equality and inclusion are invaluable as part of 21st-century education. However, to force students to think about these issues with rigid restrictions, like allowing only letter grades, is unhelpful. At UCSD, there is a decisive administrative lack in addressing racism on campus, as seen by the minimal attention to the “Trump 2016” chalkings glorifying racist speech. If the administration were to show its avid support for the causes students are passionate about, this would further the interconnectedness of issues and people. Once students are given a platform to voice their own stories, we will start to truly understand those around us and gain the sense of empathy and unity that fosters change.

— AARTHI VENKAT   Staff Writer

Allowing DEI requirement to be taken for pass/no pass grade
defeats course’s purpose by allowing students choice in participation

If our university truly wants to promote diversity, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion requirement — which can currently be taken for a Pass/Not Pass grade — should have to be fulfilled only through a letter grade. Otherwise, students are able to, and do, blow off the class because it won’t affect their GPA, which ultimately defeats its purpose. From Reddit threads titled “Easiest DEI Class?” to students who don’t even know what the abbreviation stands for, it is clear that the requirement is not always taken seriously.

Last year — five years after UCSD implemented the DEI requirement in response to the Compton Cookout — UCLA began to implement a similar diversity requirement. But unlike at UCSD, according to UCLA Newsroom, it can only be fulfilled with a letter grade. This issue has garnered a lot of controversy and debate over whether such a requirement makes a difference, or if it is just another hoop for already overworked college students to jump through.

But that is just the point. By taking the class for a letter grade, students will need to approach it in a more serious manner. With the recent Trump chalkings on campus, as Eleanor Roosevelt College Provost Ivan Evans has stated, our university should view this as an opportunity to “acknowledge the persistence of gross insensitivity in American society and insist on greater multicultural understanding on campus.” An immediate way to start addressing these problems is to require a letter grade for a DEI class.

As UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, says, “A world-class university should challenge us all to move beyond our comfort zones … and translate what we’ve learned into interventions that make the world a fairer place.” As long as the requirement only asks for a passing grade, students who are reluctant to engage with these very dialogues will still be able to avoid them. Changing the requirement to a letter grade will mean students are more likely to be engaged and pay attention to the issues discussed in class.

While it is true that there may be other actions that can more effectively address the heart of the problem, changing the DEI requirement to a letter grade is a straightforward and immediate step that the administration should take.

— NUNNAPAT RATANAVANH   Contributing Writer