November 18, 2012

Provost: Colleges, Not Day Hall, Should Make Decision on Social Justice Requirement

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As a group of students push Cornell to add a University-wide social justice requirement to its curriculum, Provost Kent Fuchs said he wants to let individual colleges — not the central administration — decide if they will add the requirement.

“I just don’t think the provost should mandate what should be required, though we are encouraging [the colleges’ associate deans] to think about it,” Fuchs said in an interview with The Sun Thursday.

The Assembly for Justice, a group of Cornell students, has protested what it calls the administration’s lack of response to addressing racism on campus. The group has asked the University to require all students to fulfill a social justice component to graduate, which will encourage “critical analysis of oppression,” according to its list of demands.

Fuchs said he is urging the colleges to come to a decision on the matter.

Though he said he does not wish to personally mandate changes to individual colleges curriculums, Fuchs said he recognizes that some community members believe that he should require students to take courses in diversity.

“I know there are students who think we ought to have them — that the provost ought to mandate that,” Fuchs said.

One student who said the social justice requirement should be added, Lila Nojima ’13, said that the requirement could unify students across colleges.

“Although I can understand why some people might not like this idea because it adds more requirements, I think it would be a nice way to bring all the colleges closer together,” Nojima said. “The way the University is currently set up means that [College of] Arts and Sciences students probably won’t be in many classes with engineers.”

The social justice requirement might prove burdensome to students who already have to fulfill several other academic requirements, Michael Rosenfeld ’15 said.

“Imposing more requirements across the board seems like an inconsequential or misdirected solution,” Rosenfeld said in an email. “Students already have enough obligations academically and socially and I doubt it would be received well.”

But Lindsay Omichinski ’13 said students’ reactions will depend on the specifics of the requirement.

“I think it would depend on what [the requirement] was,” she said.

Jeff Stein contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Lianne Bornfeld