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Updating the Curriculum

Revising requirements and outcomes of the core curriculum multicultural requirement
Story Series
Action: Racial Justice and Equity

It has been 16 years since Bridgewater State University’s core curriculum was implemented. Much has changed since that time, both in society and higher education.

It was therefore no surprise when BSU’s Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice Final Report included several recommendations concerning the ways in which the university’s core curriculum needs to be updated. In fact, task force members found that what is currently being taught about diversity and social justice in the classrooms of BSU required “deep changes.”

The task force issued three recommendations dealing directly with the core curriculum. The first indicates that the entire core needs to be overhauled in order to represent BSU as a racially just institution. Next, the report called for the creation of a new core curriculum skill requirement in racial equity and justice (or social justice). The final recommendation is that requirements in global cultures and multiculturalism should be revised.

An overarching recommendation of the task force’s report was to change the name of the core’s “diversity general education learning goal.” The renamed “difference, equity and social justice learning goal” better reflects “the current state of academic discussions of diversity, difference, equity, and inclusion,” according to the report. It also provides a wider lens through which to view these areas.

In addition to the name change, the requirement includes more ambitious outcomes. Students should learn how, in the words of the task force’s recommendation, to effectively “critique forms of systemic oppression and marginalization based on difference, and identify how these structures enable and constrain agency and inform visions of equity and justice, and to engage with diverse lived experiences and examine the ways in which one’s place in the social world relates to systems of power.”

“The old requirements are vague and belong to an earlier era,” said Professor Gregory Chaplin of the Department of English, who is working with Dr. Rita Miller, dean of undergraduate studies, and the other members of the core curriculum steering committee on exploring changes to the multicultural requirement. “It’s now clear what those requirements always should have been, and now we need to take a more critical look as to how groups interact with each other and the inequalities built into multicultural arrangements.”

The work of the task force, in which Dr. Miller participated as part of the training, education and learning opportunities subcommittee, comes at the right time.

“This is all part of what the core curriculum steering committee has been working on for a long time, including the updating of student outcomes in all areas,” she said. “Now is the time for us to tackle the multicultural requirements.”

Currently, students must take one course from the multicultural area. Many of these courses also fulfill other areas of the core curriculum.

Drs. Miller and Chaplin and their colleagues decided first to concentrate on rethinking and revising the name of the multicultural requirement and its related outcomes. “Recasting it as diversity, equity and social justice will invite new ideas and new courses into this area,” Dr. Chaplin said. He added, “There will be a new sense of clarity of purpose with the new name.”

Last year, the steering committee worked with a small group to write draft outcomes and a new name for the requirement.

The next step, which began in early November, is collecting feedback from faculty members about the initial work that’s been done. Input from the broader campus community will follow, Dr. Miller said.

“We want to let the campus know what’s going on,” she said. “We need input, and there will be multiple opportunities for that.”