The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) introduced an endorsement seeking to increase the Ethnic Studies Requirement at UW-Madison from three credits to six on March 4.
There has been an increase of bias and hate towards minority groups on campus, pushing the university to seek ways to foster a more inclusive environment.
“UW-Madison is responsible for providing students with the knowledge to become more understanding and empathetic individuals,” ASM committee leaders said in a press release. “Increasing the Ethnic Studies Requirement is a way to combat current systemic racism and encourage a dialogue around its history.”
UW-Madison first established the Ethnic Studies Requirement in 1988 to add breadth and depth to the curriculum, prepare students for life and careers in a multicultural society and, overall, improve the campus environment.
The ESR then underwent review in 2003 after the school received reports that students were unequipped to work with people from different backgrounds. This resulted in written guidelines for the ethnic studies courses, including a three-credit course requirement. The ethnic studies courses must also explore how minorities have been marginalized and discriminated against in the United States.
“Increasing the Ethnic Studies requirement has been discussed for a while, since the 2016-2017 academic school year,” ASM Diverse Engagement Coordinator Crystal Zhao said. “The University already recommended the increase back then, but the conversation started back up because of national conversations about how institutions can be anti-racist.”
As an organization, ASM hopes that the new ESR will encourage academic programs to pay more attention to how they can incorporate learning about marginalized groups into the classroom. The committee is working on allowing courses to include guest speakers who come to class and share their experiences as minorities in the workplace, in addition to actively engaging students in “conversations about current events and the historical impact of racism,” according to Zhao.
“I hope that the six-credit Ethical Studies Requirement will decrease a lot of bias incidents. For a lot of schools, STEM and business majors have experienced bias from faculty and students within the classroom,” Zhao said. “This will help students become more collaborative people in the workforce later on.”
Legislation to expand the ESR will officially be introduced to the full ASM Student Council in a meeting this upcoming Tuesday, March 9. Twenty-five other student organizations have also signed off on this endorsement, including the Teaching Assistants’ Association, QLaw, ACLU UW-Madison and the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition.