A student government committee addressed common themes from student feedback on possible proposals to expand the current ethnic studies requirement at a meeting Monday.
The discussion focused on additional time requirements, reducing discussion sizes and adding service-learning courses. The student responses were collected from a roundtable event hosted by the Associated Students of Madison’s Diversity Committee last week. At the event, students were asked to fill out notecards with suggestions for changes to the requirement.
According to Vice Chair Hannah Kinsella, there were four themes to students’ responses.
One common theme was expanding the current requirement of one ethnic studies course with three credits to two courses with six credits, Kinsella said.
The second theme was that students should be required to take one ethnic studies course in their first two years at UW, and then another class in their final two years, Kinsella said.
A third theme, favored by Chair Mia Akers, was for all classes in the requirement to reduce the sizes of their discussion sections so there may be more room for intimate discussions about students’ own personal experiences with diversity.
“I’m in Intercultural Dialogues right now, and I’ve never been in such a real environment where people can say whatever they feel…and not feel like they’re being judged,” Akers said. “I think the smaller the better because then you really have to open up and discuss with one another.”
The fourth theme, Kinsella said, was the introduction of more service-learning courses for ethnic studies, which are classes that require students to go into the community to interact with different people.
The committee will present the students’ feedback to the university committee drafting the new campus Diversity Plan, Akers said in a previous interview with The Badger Herald.
Diversity Committee member Niko Magallon said the feedback included a mix of undergraduate students, graduate students and a professor.
Magallon added it was nice to hear from students who had taken the classes, along with graduate students and professors that were involved in educating students on the ethnic studies courses.
Akers said she wished more students had attended and would have liked more conflicting viewpoints that could have led to more discussion.
In addition to the discussion of last week’s event, University Affairs Chair Becca Buell attended the meeting to offer an opportunity to the committee members about testing a new alcohol education program that may be implemented on campus for first-year students.
Magallon said some students told him at the ethnic studies event that they were discriminated against at times when other students appeared to be intoxicated and this alcohol education could also teach students about ethnic prejudice.
“The education course could help students become more mindful that when they’re drinking … deep seeded prejudices that we have against people of different ethnicity do tend to come out more,” Magallon said.