Texas Twister: Texas Colleges Tangled over Multicultural Curriculum Requirements

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Texas Twister: Texas Colleges Tangled Over Multicultural Curriculum. Requirements

AUSTIN, TX -- Three Texas universities are considering plans to add multicultural components to their curricula even as their counterparts in California continue to back away from deliberate efforts to integrate their campuses.

At the University of Texas at Austin, the state's flagship university with about 50,000 students, some minority student leaders this month asked administrators to require all students take a course in multiculturalism.

Marlen Whitley, director of the school's Minority Information Center, calls such a requirement "a necessity. If the university wants to be on the leading edge, it has to be aware of the trend toward diversity in the workplace."

But it is not the first time the school, which has a 34 percent minority enrollment, has taken up the issue. Following months of rancorous debate, the university's faculty senate rejected a similar proposal three years ago.

"Texas is not exactly on the cutting edge in this area," says Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, an associate professor of journalism and Latin American studies at UT, who supports a multicultural component to higher education.

The university's schools of communication, pharmacy, and social work already have such a requirement. Students can choose from scores of existing courses that delve into diversity issues.

Ed Sharpe, the university's vice president for administration and public affairs, says the students presented their proposal for a multicultural education requirement to President Robert Berdahl.

But Sharpe says any such change would have to gain the approval of faculty groups on campus because "the faculty ultimately control degree programs. There are procedures that have to be followed.

"Typically," he says, "the president doesn't get ahead of the faculty on what is primarily a faculty issue. I would say this matter has been discussed but that there is no formal proposal."

Texas A&M, the state's second largest university, also is weighing whether to require its students to take a certain number of classes that underscore the achievements of women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others.

State GOP Leader Assails Liberals

Although the proposal has been on the table since 1993 with still no decision in sight, a flap erupted last month when the leader of Texas' Republican Party warned the liberals had infiltrated the A&M's faculty and administration.

The school, with strong ties to the military, has long been a conservative bastion in Texas. Minority student enrollment at the school stands at about 16 percent -- the lowest of the state's major universities.

Republican presidential hopeful Phil Gramm announced his candidacy for the White House at A&M. …