Academic Senates Discuss Possibility of a Diversity Course as GE

Academic Senate — a group of approximately 150 UCSD students, faculty and staff members — held its second meeting of the year on Nov. 30 to discuss a proposed diversity course requirement for new students, its response to the state’s budget crisis and the development of a new writing center.

The senate reviewed Academic Council recommendations for increasing revenue. Among the recommendations was faculty and staff downsizing, a moratorium for capital building projects and a limit on the creation of new academic programs.  Although the recent 8-percent tuition increase was mentioned and its ramifications discussed, no actions to decrease its effect on students were finalized.

“The Senate may comment on fees but the regents set them,” Academic Senate Chair Frank L. Powell said. “Decisions about new academic programs, [as well as] the size of faculty and staff, will likely be considered as part of the Senate’s on-going work to deal with budget cuts.”

Though the senate advises UC Regents on budget issues, the UC Regents make the final decisions on budget policies.

During the meeting’s discussion on budget cuts, some spoke out against the tuition increases, arguing that the state was not funding UC enough because the students would cover the costs.

“[Some in the legislature look to] balance the budget on the backs of students, seeing them as a resource for revenue,” Pathology Professor Henry Powell said.

UC students are bearing a brunt of the financial burden caused by California’s recession, Powell said. He also argued that policy makers see professors that advocate for higher education funding as a special interest group, while student advocates are seen as a group that makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion.

Also discussed were workload issues for the wellbeing faculty and student. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue talked about responding to “students of concern”, or troubled students, and gave a red folder to staff and faculty to let them know how to deal with students in cases of emergency.

“Students of concern are those who have a GPA problem, problems with attendance, display erratic behavior and whose friends are worried about them,” Marshall College Provost Allan Havis said. “The administration wants to take a proactive stance towards these students of concern in the future.”

For the Founders’ Day event on Nov. 18., Chancellor Mary Anne Fox said she was proud that the students protested against fee increases in a silent, professional manner as to not disturb other students, faculty and staff that attended the event.

In addition, a diversity course was discussed as a possible general course requirement for entering freshmen. According to Havis, the need for such a class was highlighted “in the wake of the unrest last year,” when racially controversial incidents offended minority students on campus and led to increased funding for groups like OASIS and SAAC.

The Academic Senate formed a special committee — made up of students, faculty, and provosts from the six colleges — to discuss the standards for the diversity class, which would raise awareness among incoming students about issues of race, gender, and sexuality.

Academic Senate also discussed the possibility of opening a writing center to improve the colleges’ writing standard, in addition to helping with exams and graduate school applications through one-on-one tutoring.

The next Academic Senate meeting will be on Jan. 25, 2011.

Readers can contact Chris McCoy at [email protected].

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