UT Senate of College Councils passes legislation to change cultural diversity flag requirements

Sheryl Lawrence

The Senate of College Councils passed legislation to change the requirements for classes that fulfill the Cultural Diversity Flag requirement during their general assembly Thursday. The legislation will be sent to the University administration and the Faculty Council, and the committee will work with them for implementation.

Currently, for a course to satisfy the Cultural Diversity Flag, “at least one-third of the course grade must be based on content about the culture, perspectives and history of one or more underrepresented cultural groups in the United States,” according to the Undergraduate Studies website

The approved legislation would require classes fulfilling the flag to focus on the intersection of at least three of the following topics: gender, race, indigeneity, disabilities and sexuality. Courses fulfilling the flag would also need to demonstrate that students can discuss the oppression of marginalized groups in the United States.

The legislation authors did not return a request for comment by time of publication.

Mackenzie Graham is the Senate appointee to the UT committee who determines what courses carry the Cultural Diversity and Global Cultures flag. She said at the Feb. 11 assembly that keeping track of all the courses that meet the flag is difficult. 

“Because there are so many courses that currently carry a CD flag, it's a lot of burden for the committee to be responsible for tracking all of these courses and making sure they're actually meeting the intended requirements of the CD flag,” said Graham, a finance and Plan II junior.

Suseth Muñoz, Senate ethnic studies ad-hoc committee chair, said at the Feb. 11 assembly that  the legislation would not require creating new courses. She said some classes offered through departments such as the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, Center for Asian American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Center already discuss the framework of oppression in the U.S.

“These departments already do that work, they already talk about oppression and offer the frameworks to talk about the way that it works in the United States,” said Muñoz, an English, government and youth and community studies junior. “We are not reinventing the wheel here, we're just putting (it) into language.”

Senate introduced the legislation at its Feb. 11 assembly, where the authors of the document requested to fast-track the legislation, foregoing a weeklong discussion individual college councils typically have about legislation. The council voted to fast-track, but after debate they decided to wait to vote on the piece of legislation.

Cameron Waltz, Liberal Arts Council vice president, said at the Feb. 11 assembly that his council voted no to fast-track, because they want to push the authors to add religion to the topics the courses can fulfill under the flag.

“Jewish Studies is not solely … religious courses,” said Waltz, an international relations and global studies, Asian studies and Chinese sophomore. “They teach Jewish history, they teach Holocaust studies, they teach Jewish ethnicity classes … then also they would be cut out under this definition as a cultural diverse group in the United States.”

Muñoz said they did not include religion as one of the five topics because the authors believe the other topics cover the reason why religion groups are persecuted in the United States.  

“The reason why religious groups are persecuted is because they're racialized,” Muñoz said. “If (the committee) thinks that a Jewish Studies class fits under that narrative then they should (allow it), but more than likely, these classes and religions do not talk about sexuality … gender, disabilities or any of these important topics.

After this conversation during the general assembly on Feb. 11, the authors updated the legislation with an FAQ about Jewish Studies class. The FAQ said that if a Jewish Studies class includes three of the five topics, it can be included and doing this encourages professors to broaden their teaching of intersectionality.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include updated information about Jewish Studies classes.