UIS Senate Considers Removal of Diversity, Equity Curriculum Requirement for Graduation

By Benjamin Cox on January 24, 2022 at 9:25am

The University of Illinois Springfield’s graduation requirements may be undergoing a serious change.

According to a press release on Friday from the campus General Education Review Committee, a number of faculty and administration have proposed resolutions to the UIS Senate that would cut or even all together eliminate the graduation requirements of the campus’ Engaged Citizenship Common Experience curriculum, known as ECCE.

The ECCE program has been at UIS for over a decade, and according to the campus’ website, provides students with internships and classes that include information on racial diversity, engaged citizenship, gender identity, and the history of social changes. Students must complete a minimum of 9 hours of coursework in the program to graduate.

Associate Professor of History at UIS and a member of the campus’ General Education Review Committee Kristi Barnwell says that the committee spent two years researching the campus’ general education requirements and unanimously approved continuing it with some changes and modifications. She says its an important piece to creating a well-rounded student at UIS: “Eliminating the ECCE Program at UIS would deeply undermine the value of an education that students at UIS receive. It would eliminate crucial elements of our curriculum that provide our students with the tools they need to be engaged citizens in a global world.”

Barnwell says that college curriculum needs to shift with the current demographics and the times to stay relevant and create graduates that are ready for a diverse and changing workforce and world: “The reality is that the demographics in the Springfield area and that the demographics in Illinois are changing. The demographics in the United States are changing. For our students who are coming to UIS for an education that’s going to prepare them for the future, to interact with other people, to interact with other cultures – students need to engage in serious classwork that prepares them to have those conversations and to bring their concerns to the communities that they live in.”

Professor of History, Peter Shapinsky says, “This resolution to eliminate UIS’s innovative diversity course requirements misrepresents more than a decade of hard work by faculty and dismisses the successes of our students. [The resolution] is unbecoming of an institution of higher education; it makes a mockery of our work to build a public liberal arts university that enshrines equality, social justice, and diversity as core values. It will deny our students important local and global experiences.”

Campus Senator and Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Ryan Williams, teaches the ECCE course: ‘Policing in America’ questions what kind of message the resolution will send to students: “This [past] week [was] of MLK, Jr. Remembrance. We are on the eve of Black History Month–at the height of a pandemic that has only furthered structural inequalities. An attempt to eliminate established curriculum focused on central issues of social class, race, ethnicity, and gender is not the legacy we want to leave for our students at this specific time in history.”

The UIS Senate voted to remove the resolution from the agenda on Friday morning. A first reading of a proposal to modify the ECCE requirement was heard. More discussion on the ECCE Program and its requirements are likely to be taken up at the UIS Senate at their next meeting on Friday, February 4th.