Faculty to vote on pluralism requirement

For the first time in 16 years, the entire University of Washington faculty will vote on a new academic rule as the Faculty Senate polls 2,500 professors on establishing an American pluralism requirement.

The new rule would require freshmen to take five credits in “pluralism in American society” by the time they graduate from the University of Washington. Originally conceived as an ethnic studies requirement, last spring the Faculty Senate expanded the proposal to also include issues of gender, age, religion, sexual preference and other topics.

In April and again in May the senate approved the new standard. The senate then received 462 requests for a faculty referendum on the proposal—which was almost double the 10 percent required by senate rules.

Nursing Professor Anne Loustau, a chief proponent of the measure, defended the requirement at the May 29 senate session. “We see this as a preparation for life and work in a diverse society,” she said, adding that there are already 116 courses taught in 22 departments that could meet the requirement. “We don’t see it as a cure for society’s ills.”

Calling the idea “a political response to a fad,” Sociology Professor Pierre van den Berghe said it “is misguided and will backfire. [There is] no better way to make students hate the subject than to force them to take it.”

The proposal began as a student initiative for an ethnic studies requirement. The original, 10-credit proposal was then trimmed to a five-credit provision. Later the senate expanded the language to require studies in “pluralism.”

Classes taken to meet general education or major requirements—or as electives—would fulfill the new mandate.

To succeed, a simple majority of those voting must approve the proposal. Faculty will receive ballots on the first day of classes and have 21 days to respond. Results are expected by late October. If passed, the pluralism requirement would take effect in the autumn of 1992.