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Izzy Pipa

Students should value diversity requirements

January 20, 2022

Students should take diversity courses seriously.

As a queer woman, I have some personal experience with the information discussed in diversity requirements. 

However, as a white person, signing up for Intro to Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies furthered my knowledge on races other than my own.

Race and Ethnic Lit Studies allowed me to read about perspectives of black people and  understand the oppression they historically faced in the U.S., as well as understand the intersectionality of blackness with other identities such as gender or class.

“Diversity requirements are important to build trust among students, as well as a sense of community that transcends differences of opinion and polarization,” Annika Ljung-Baruth, English and gender, sexuality and women’s studies professor said.

The diversity requirements were created after UVM accepted demands made by student protesters during the 1988 Waterman building takeover, according to a March 2,  2016 Cynic article.

The occupation occurred because students were frustrated with the lack of cultural diversity on campus, according to the article.

This resulted in a one-credit diversity requirement, later replaced in 2006 by the six-credit requirement we have today, according to the article.

Since previous students fought for these classes, we should value the experience they provide to us.

“Students and teachers alike benefit from these classes, as they provide a safe space for discussion and learning about a multitude of perspectives and experiences,” Ljung-Baruth said.

The conversations I’ve had in diversity courses profoundly impacted me.  

These classes expanded my previous understanding of oppression and allowed me to recognize the experiences of others who faced much worse than myself.

I’ve witnessed students who might’ve just taken the class to check off a box on their transcript, leave with a more informed and open-minded view of those different from themselves.

UVM lacks diversity, which makes these classes that much more valuable.

Out of the 11,136 of UVM’s total undergraduate students, 9,135 identify as “White, non-Hispanic,” according to UVM’s 2020-21 Common Data Set

Although no classroom discussion can fully make up for this lack of diversity, the diversity requirement provides education on the experiences of other demographics, allowing for a more accepting environment for underrepresented students.

Students should view these classes as a learning opportunity to expand their knowledge of other perspectives that they may never have gotten to experience otherwise.

During this add/drop period, students should consider the impact diversity requirements will have on their thinking. 

Putting true effort into learning this valuable information is the best way to make the most of this requirement.

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