Undergraduate Studies Committee

Report on Multicultural Courses at the University of Delaware


     In the seventeen years since the multicultural requirement was established for all undergraduates, neither that requirement nor the particular courses used to fulfill it have ever been subject to systematic review. Since 1987, moreover, ideas about students’ possible cultural parochialism, the dangers to which it might leave them in their roles as future professionals and citizens, and the best ways to educate students in broader cultural understanding have changed and are likely to keep changing.


     Last fall, the Undergraduate Studies Committee announced a routine review of all courses fulfilling the multicultural requirement under its current guidelines on the grounds that no such review had been conducted since the requirement’s inception. At the request of many instructors and program heads who felt they had been given inadequate notice of such a review, we postponed it until the following year.


     Over the course of this past year, we met with members of the faculty who often asked about empirical evidence that would demonstrate the effectiveness of the current multicultural requirement. To our regret, we were not able to find any compelling such evidence. Although we were given to understand that the Faculty Senate conducted a review of the requirement some twelve years ago, we have not found any record of a review in the Senate archives. It has repeatedly been suggested that many of the hundreds of courses currently satisfying this requirement have been better calculated to promote enrollments in courses or programs instructors would like to offer than to meet students’ needs. Because we have only anecdotal evidence about the efficacy and appropriateness of the multicultural requirement in general or any specific courses that have been used to fulfill it, we are reluctant to recommend any sweeping revisions to the requirement. We therefore limit the scope of this report to two areas: specifying more clearly the goals or outcomes courses fulfilling the multicultural requirement should set and achieve, and creating a mechanism for assessment that will produce more reliable data about their success.


     Instead of carrying out its review of multicultural courses next fall under the existing guidelines, which state that “the purpose of the multicultural requirement is to provide students with some awareness of and sensitivity to cultural pluralism—an increasing necessity for educated persons in a diverse world” (Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog, p. 66), the Committee plans to conduct this review under the guidelines set forth herein, which establish more specific goals for courses fulfilling the multicultural requirement, mandate regular reviews for all such courses, and establish procedures for collecting empirical data about the success of each course seeking to fulfill the requirement.


     In March 2000, the Faculty Senate approved a list of Ten Goals for Undergraduate Education that concluded by resolving that every undergraduate at the University of Delaware would


9. Understand the foundations of United States society including the significance of its cultural diversity.


“10. Develop an international perspective in order to live and work effectively in an increasingly global society.”


     In order to address these goals more directly and to insure that they will continue to be addressed in the future, the Undergraduate Studies Committee plans to adopt the following five outcomes for all multicultural courses, beginning in fall 2004:


1. Students have acquired a significantly greater understanding of the cultural or ethnic diversity of the people of the United States.


2. Students have acquired a significantly greater understanding of world religions and cultures.


3. Students have acquired a significantly greater understanding of the behavior of individuals from other cultures and ethnic backgrounds.


4. Students have used the ideas the class has generated about the cultures it considers to deepen their understanding of their own ethnic and cultural background, beliefs, and values.


5. Students are able to use their understanding of ethnic, cultural, or religious differences to inform their own behavior and decisions to a significantly greater degree.


     Beginning in the current review cycle, which will close on 15 November 2004, all instructors proposing courses to fulfill the multicultural requirement submit proposals must include course materials (e.g., syllabus, reading list, lists of guest speakers or field trips) that will demonstrate how the course under consideration will achieve at least three of these outcomes.


     The Undergraduate Studies Committee will continue to review all such applications whenever a new course is proposed, or a standing course revised, in fulfillment of the multicultural requirement. Every course certified for multicultural credit will be routinely reviewed every five years by the Undergraduate Studies Committee, and courses not submitted for review will be decertified for multicultural credit.


     In order to earn recertification for any course after the initial five-year period, the instructor must submit evidence from a valid and well-constructed assessment study that demonstrates empirically that the course achieves at least three of the five multicultural outcomes. Upon considering the evidence presented, the Undergraduate Studies Committee will either recertify the course for multicultural credit, decertify it, or recertify it conditionally for a period not to exceed two years pending receipt of additional assessment information. No course once decertified for multicultural credit will be eligible for recertification for a period of three years.




     Instructors of all courses carrying multicultural credit are hereby encouraged to work with the appropriate University organizations (e.g., the Center for Teaching Effectiveness) to develop metrics for assessing the success of their courses in achieving the outcomes they have chosen from the list of five outcomes to pursue.


     We urge the University make every effort to assist instructors in designing or revising innovative courses developed specifically to satisfy the list of multicultural outcomes. This encouragement could begin with such initiatives as these:


a. Pose the stipulated multicultural goals as drivers for course development or redevelopment.


b. Overcome the University’s lack of diversity by using high tech links to more diverse classrooms in other geographic or demographic regions.


c. Use satellite- or internet-based conference connections.


d. Provide translators as needed to allow connections to environments in which English is not the primary language.


e. Establish a distribution of target demographic links:


(i)       African American, Latino/Latina, Native American.

(ii)      Mexico, Central America, South America.

(iii)     Europe, Asia, Oceania.

(iv)     Island environments.

(v)      Groups based on religious ties or religious diversity.


f. Schedule such classes at times congenial to all parties involved (e.g., evening on one side of the globe, morning on the other).


g. Provide seed monies to assist instructors with special projects for establishing multicultural links.


h. Fund worthy multicultural initiatives supported by the administration through the Center for Teaching Effectiveness.


     Because the multicultural requirement affects instruction across the University, the Undergraduate Studies Committee plans to seek formal endorsement of the Faculty Senate for these outcomes by spring 2005, after we have had some practical experience using them and some idea whether they might more usefully be revised.