By Chris Bulfinch ’19
Campaign for Community (C4C), an initiative launched last fall by Trinity’s administration in an attempt to ameliorate a number of issues confronting the College, is helping to advance a proposal for the addition of a Multicultural Education Distribution Requirement, according to a number of students and administrators involved with the Campaign’s Diversity Education Resources working group. The proposal, which has yet to be officially submitted to relevant faculty and administrative bodies, was developed by an Education Studies class taught by American Studies Professor Christina Heatherton and is being propagated and advanced by the C4C.
The purpose of the Campaign’s Diversity Education Resources working group is, according to Trinity’s website, to “provide fresh perspectives and align resources to honor and support students of color and LGBTQQI students.” Its other stated objective is to “work in partnership with the Center for Teaching (CTL) and Learning to help new facility to help new faculty adopt inclusive pedagogy.” The proposal coming from the Diversity Education Resources working group means to make good on the latter.
At the outset of the Campaign, over a dozen ideas were raised to address issues of diversity on Trinity’s campus. Of these initial issues, the list was narrowed to a core group of a few ideas that the working group would focus on. The working group collaborated with Trinity’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the Multicultural Affairs Office. Additionally, students demonstrating in the wake of the University of Missouri protests last fall drew up a list of grievances and recommendations for changes to be made to student life, recommendations taken into the working group’s work and consideration.
The working group gained significant insight from COLL 238, an Education Studies class taught by Prof. Christina Heatherton, of the American Studies Program. It examines progressive and alternative pedagogies. Prof. Heatherton’s class was responsible for writing up the proposal. Members of the C4C’s Diversity Education Resources working group sat in on the class, attended class events, and the work of the class significantly informed the working group’s thinking and work. The Campaign’s working group was simply “the administrative backing” for the proposal, in the words of Kendall Mitchell ’17, a member of the Campaign’s working group.
COLL 238’s work runs parallel to the work of the Center for Teaching and Learning, which exists to “support newly hired and non-tenured faculty in finding… the most effective method approaches to teaching and works with tenured faculty to identify and disseminate good teaching practices.”
Molly Thoms ’17, explained the intention of the proposal and the attendant distribution requirement as “getting students, in a meaningful way, to grapple with racism, classism, sexism, and religious identity issues that permeate our culture…It’s a matter of responsibility in terms of being global citizens that are prepared to lead meaningful lives.” She concluded, “We want to progressively change our school.”
Mitchell elaborated, “We don’t want students at Trinity to have a one-track mind or tunnel vision when you’re looking at a global perspective. It’s important for students to have a global perspective when going out into the workforce and understanding [their] positioning in the world around them.”
The proposal itself suggests that, in the same way that Trinity students must fulfill certain distribution requirements regardless of major, all Trinity students, must take a class that meets the criteria for multicultural education. Students could complete the requirement in a number of ways. No new classes would be created according to Thoms and Mitchell. However, Carol T. Correa de Best, Trinity’s Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs, indicated that the CTL would be interested in “proposing a series of courses (already being offered and new ones) that all students can participate in and take advantage of.”
Also, the proposal suggests workshops for new faculty to help engage with more inclusive pedagogy according to Mitchell and Thoms. The Tripod was unable to see the proposal itself.
The proposal is widely acknowledged to be in its infancy. Karla Spurlock-Evans, Trinity’s Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Senior Diversity Officer, says that the Campaign for Community and associated administrators and faculty are “still in an initial exploratory phase,” while Correa de Best described the proposal as being in its “baby stage.” Chaplain Allison Read, the Campaign’s coordinator, indicated that she was looking for faculty comment and guidance on navigating the proposal through faculty governance.
Though some faculty engaged in the proposal’s creation, the faculty as a whole have not been not apprised of the proposed changes. Members of the curriculum committee indicated that they had not heard of the proposal.
Indeed, the proposal has several more hoops to jump through before it is completed. The faculty’s Curriculum Committee will have to look over and approve any changes to distribution requirements, as well as the addition of any classes. Furthermore, the proposal will likely be submitted for review by the entire faculty.
The proposal has seen administrative support outside of the Multicultural Affairs Office and the CTL. Mitchell, Thoms, and Correa de Best all refer to the supportive stance of Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tim Cresswell.
Dean Spurlock-Evans reflected that she was “encouraged that Trinity students have stepped forward to urge the adoption of such a requirement,” and thought that “greater awareness of and engagement with the full range of diverse individuals and communities will enrich students intellectually, culturally, and socially and strengthen the skills they bring to work and service both while they are students and when they graduate.”
Assistant Director Correa de Best said she was “excited that we have listened to the students needs and are attempting to rectify our current shortcomings.”
The proposal’s implementation would have no effect on current Trinity students – it would only apply to incoming classes after its implementation, which could take some time.
By Chris Bulfinch ’19