While it is a university’s job to cultivate good citizens as much as it is to produce graduates with high levels of human capital, some of USC’s past and present character-building attempts have been wasteful and unintentionally regressive. On Jan. 27, the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity hosted an open forum to discuss the progress that university standards have made in producing socially and fiscally conscious community members. Many of the panelists questioned the removal of the diversity general education requirement which was replaced by a broader canon of core literacy classes, echoing some student complaints that by not having a separate requirement for “diverse” studies, the university is complicit in perpetuating an “unsafe” campus climate. However, this logic could not be further from the truth.
The diversity general education requirement, as well as the differentiation of Western versus global studies, incubated a sense of otherness entirely counterintuitive to its intentions. The old GE requirements divided its cultural studies into the GE I, Western Cultures and Traditions, and GE II, Global Cultures and Traditions. By dividing our cultural studies into Western, “Global” and “diverse,” the University was normalizing Western, or implicitly, white culture, while stratifying and objectifying the history and humanities of all other cis, heteronormative, white writers and thinkers.
Furthermore, the existence of the diversity GE in conjunction with the apparently growing number of GEs in general bears a significant cost on low-income students, who simply cannot afford to spend dozens of units of tuition on classes which have no economic value to them. While removing the diversity GE was a step in the right direction, the new GE standards as a whole entailed two steps back, as now there are eight required categories plus a general education seminar, whereas there were previously six required categories, not including the diversity GE.
Going forward, if USC really wishes to create a tolerant campus environment which promotes a multitude of viewpoints and voices, it should condense the GE program for the sake of practicality and converge Western, global and diverse culture into one study of the humanities: human culture.
Few people today really fit into the boxes for which these lines were originally drawn. When intersectionality comes into play — looking at different aspects of people’s identities, such as gender, race, sexuality, etc. — nearly everyone now is “diverse,” so why reimplement a separate but equal standard for historically marginalized groups, when we could instead just integrate them into our studies? There is no reason why Toni Morrison should not be studied next to Walt Whitman or Henry James. And even if you instinctively want to separate them on the basis of Whitman and James being a part of the “dead white man” canon, recall that Whitman himself was homosexual, and although his writings may not explicate feelings of oppression, there remains an inherent intersectionality in them.
USC should drastically cut down its GE program to three courses, one of which should be a quantitative course, another analytic and the third a humanities course. By making a single humanities requirement, USC can gradually remove the sense of social stratification that marginalized cultures may feel in being neglected from main history and literature classes. Instead, we may create a campus climate which celebrates us all under a single humanities course.
Tiana Lowe is a sophomore majoring in math and economics. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.