Sunday, May 24

Faculty to resubmit diversity requirement petition with wording changes

The professors and administrators who petitioned for another vote on a diversity course requirement proposal withdrew their petition Thursday to make wording changes.

The wording changes, which come from the Academic Senate Committee on Rules and Jurisdiction, are meant to clarify that the requirement would only apply to students in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and not to those in other schools. Committee members said in a report on the petition that they thought the current wording might be misleading to faculty voting on the measure.

Faculty members are expected to submit a new petition in the next few weeks.

“The Academic Senate is proceeding as if they will get the petition back. They are scheduling the vote before the full faculty,” said M. Belinda Tucker, vice provost of the UCLA Institute of American Culture, who advocated for the requirement in October. “But as for now, we are on hold.”

In late October, faculty of the College of Letters and Sciences approved the implementation of a diversity course requirement with a 332-303 vote. Starting in fall 2015, the requirement would mandate that students take a course about inequalities based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion. The Academic Senate later approved the proposal 85-18.

In December, a group of 59 professors and administrators submitted an anonymous petition calling for a new vote that would include UCLA’s entire faculty.

Last month, the UCLA Records Management and Information Practices department released the names of the professors who signed the petition after several individuals and organizations, including The Bruin, submitted public record requests to find these names. Joel Aberbach, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, said from now on, the senate will not allow anonymous petitions to come to the floor.

Some professors who signed the petition said they did so because they think there were problems with the October vote.

Benjamin Zuckerman, a physics and astronomy professor who signed the petition, said he thinks there were voting inconsistencies in October because past votes for diversity requirements at UCLA were struck down. In 2004 and 2012, UCLA faculty voted down diversity-related requirement proposals.

“If the vote was reasonably close and there were irregularities in the way the vote is structured or carried out or advertised, it could swing the result from one side to another,” Zuckerman said.

As another vote on the requirement is expected to come up in the coming weeks, some students have been trying to rally their peers on each side of the debate. Petitions circling social media both support and oppose the proposal.

Jacob Kohlhepp, a third-year economics and political science student and external vice president for Bruin Republicans, said he thinks the requirement would force students to enroll in classes in which professors teach based on their personal biases.

“I am nervous that professors would teach ‘what to think’ classes and not just present the facts,” Kohlhepp said.

Some undergraduate student government members said they plan to continue lobbying for support of the requirement until it is officially passed.

“We expect a new petition to be proposed by the deadline, but we plan to continue our lobbying efforts,” said Allyson Bach, Undergraduate Students Association Council Academic Affairs commissioner, who created one of the petitions in favor of the requirement.

Faculty and administrators have until Thursday to rewrite the petition for another vote, Aberbach said.

While faculty members wait, Tucker said the process to find and vet syllabi for courses that would apply toward the diversity requirement is stalled.

If a faculty vote happens, it is scheduled to take place from Feb. 25 to March 10.

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