Hamilton College Adopts Diversity Curriculum Requirement

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In order to demonstrate its diversity and inclusion efforts, Hamilton College in New York this year adopted a new curriculum requirement that all major areas of study must include relevant coursework on diversity.

Beginning in fall 2017 every concentration must have a component aimed at helping students gain an understanding of structural and institutional hierarchies based on one or more of the social categories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, and abilities/disabilities. Proponents of the rule believe it will bolster students’ ability to think critically about the experiences of diversified social groups.

It will be up to individual departments and programs at Hamilton to decide how students fulfill the new requirement in a way that corresponds with each area of study.

While faculty approved the proposal with an 80-19 vote, some think it is short sighted.

“The requirement would improperly impose esoteric ideological values on the student body and fail to live up to the college’s commitment to freedom of inquiry,” according to a statement released by the independent group Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform. “[We encourage] the Committee on Academic Policy to reject this proposed resolution, which improperly advances a prescribed ideological position and mandates its universal instruction.”

Another concern, even among supporters, is that diversity is vaguely defined in the new requirement. However, the faculty will be charged with ensuring the curriculum is in line with the college’s mission to help students learn to embrace difference.

“Individual departments can decide what their students need to know in order to succeed in their discipline,” Hamilton professor Nancy Rabinowitz said in a statement. “That will differ for humanists, artists, social scientists, and scientists. The flexibility is the beauty of the requirement Hamilton has created.”