Daily Egyptian

Students ask for course diversity

By Jessica Brown, @BrownJessicaJ

The university’s mission statement lists inclusive excellence as one of SIU’s priorities.

However, Crystle LaCroix, a senior from North Brookfield, Mass., studying English, said a lack in diverse curriculum and staff contradict this claim.

LaCroix said one of her main concerns is most of the material covered in the English department was written by white males.

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“We do have classes that center around African-American writers, and some women of color, but as a whole, it’s not really something that’s offered,” she said.

LaCroix, a white student, attributes part of this to the predominantly white faculty.

“The lack of diversity in hiring is reflective of the lack of diversity in the text,” she said.

George Boulukos, an English professor, agrees a diverse staff would be beneficial to the student body. With budget cuts and a small window of opportunity, he said it may not be a realistic goal.

“Our chance to shake our faculty in any regard is pretty much nothing, because we don’t hire people regularly,” Boulukos said.

He said his interests in increasing diverse course material and staff are sometimes not matched by the university’s course of action.

The faculty’s means and the courses it offers are often determined by arbitrary things, such as budget issues, and not by its educational mission, he said.

“Should representing diversity be a major priority? Yes.” he said. “It’s a thing I think most of our faculty are very interested and committed to. Can it translate into reality? I don’t know.”

This absence of cross-culturalism is not just exemplified within the English department.

Johnathan Flowers, a doctoral candidate in philosophy from Oak Park, said the problem starts with the university’s core curriculum.

“The multicultural requirements are only three credit hours,” he said. “If that’s the only engagement a student is required to have with coursework specific to the experiences of people of color, then [the university] is basically saying these things are worth studying only as an afterthought to main coursework.”

Jane Swanson, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said raising the three-hour multicultural requirement is not the best action to take.

“It would certainly be nice to increase the number of required hours, but it would be at the expense of something else,” she said. “There are so many competing demands in terms of what we think is important in a liberal arts education.”

Though an increase in required multicultural courses may not be a viable option, there are other steps that can help work toward inclusion, she said.

Implementing diversity in classes that are not strictly multiculturally based is something Swanson, Flowers, Boulukos and LaCroix all said they approve of.

LaCroix said a wider variety of class options is also something that could improve diverse curriculum.

“We don’t offer any classes that center around Latino writers, Native American writers or Asian writers,” LaCroix said. “We offer white authors and some black authors and that’s it. There’s no variation.”

Diversity is vital to a college education, she said.

“The purpose of academia is to be inclusive, create safe spaces and provide students with the ability to have access to things that they never thought they could have access to before,” LaCroix said. “When you have multicultural courses, it does all of those things.”

Jessica Brown can be reached at [email protected]

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