Diversity course affects perspectives
December 4, 2008
As people drive into River Falls they pass by one of two signs, each proudly displaying the claim that River Falls is an inclusive campus and part of a diverse and inclusive community. But as students getting an education for the real world here at UW-River Falls, are we really becoming educated to understand diversity and what it takes to be inclusive?
One class that focuses on the core concepts of inclusivity is JOUR 315, “Race, Class & News.” The course, taught exclusively by journalism professor Sandy Ellis, takes a broad look at the way race and class are viewed and dealt with in American society.
The course focuses first on class, and how Americans are taught to ignore the growing division between the haves and have-nots. Issues ranging from the shrinking middle-class to the minimum-wage trap, the idea that people working minimum wage do not make enough to escape their poverty level, are discussed.
The second half of the semester turns towards race, and how minorities must struggle every day in the face of meritocracy and white privilege. The idea that whites are unintentionally ignorant about the advantages they receive is a main focus.
By the end of the semester, students passing the class are intended to have achieved a better understanding of how the lower class and minorities must struggle day after day in a rip-tide of inequality. Racism and discrimination has shifted from overt, personal outlets to subtle, institutional ones.
The class is currently directed towards the practice of reporting race and class in the field of journalism, and discusses serious, yet misunderstood and underrepresented, issues relevant to every person regardless of status and ethnicity. UWRF, a University dedicated to providing a rounded world view to its students, needs to adapt this course into a general elective; an elective mandatory for every student, regardless of major.
We have signs about being diverse, but what are we doing to promote it and teach students what diversity actually encompasses? The University does require global perspectives and diversity requirements for graduation. Unfortunately, some of the classes that fill this requirement fail to expose the ugliness of racism that Journalism 315 depicts.
Ellis’ syllabus is a great template to work off of. The class works to change peoples’ perspectives, allowing them to become better, more informed citizens. It is a wrecking ball that knocks down the walls of ignorance.
There is no reason that UWRF should not require a race and class investigative course. It is a class that forces students to examine themselves, remolds the lenses they see the world through and enhances their global perspective.