Wheaton College Adopts Diversity Requirement After Months of Controversy

After several months of controversy over former Provost Stanton Jones’ decision to fire tenured professor Larycia Hawkins for donning a hijab — a show of solidarity for Muslims after the Paris terrorist attacks — Wheaton College, a private Christian college in Illinois, announced a diversity requirement for students that will take effect in fall 2016.

The announcement comes after the college, which boasts a diverse student body, made amends with professor Hawkins and after Jones’ resignation. Hawkins had already accepted a position at the University of Virginia.

The product of a decade-long overhaul of the college’s core curriculum, the diversity requirement will be executed as two new areas of the curriculum: Global Perspectives and Diversity in the United States. The introduction of this requirement next fall will be led by new Provost Margaret Diddams, who is scheduled to begin June 1.

“What both the Global Perspectives and Diversity in the United States [requirements] intend to do is broaden people’s experiences so students are not constricted to narrow confines of the experiences of their own race, class, ethnicity, or Christianity,” Wheaton philosophy professor Cliff Williams told the press.

Each department had to submit course syllabi for curriculum approval, and those that “deeply engage with perspectives relating to race, gender, religious, or ethnic diversity” were approved to satisfy the new diversity requirement. The Curriculum Committee, chaired by professor James Wilhoit in the Christian Formation and Ministry Department, approved all classes.

While the majority of students didn’t play a direct role in the process, representatives from student government participated.

The committee approved Williams’ course “Race and Justice” as part of the diversity requirement. One of the main goals of this course is to “critically and respectfully engage with the experiences and perspectives of marginalized racial, ethnic, class, and gender groups in the United States, as well as one’s own experiences as a cultural being.”

Williams says that courses offered as part of this requirement will emphasize listening to others — those from different backgrounds and who have had different experiences — as well as listening to God.

“Listening is a way of caring, a way of understanding,” he said. “Listening is a way of enriching one’s life; it’s a way of bearing another’s burdens, of crying with others, of smiling and dancing and twirling with joy with others, with their delights and their lives.”