All students learn more when “diverse” voices participate in class discussions, say proponents of racial and ethnic preferences. But minority students don’t necessarily want to speak for their groups. At the University of Colorado’s School of Education, a “school and society” class created a special section restricted to minority students and students who are the first in their families to attend college. Because the class has a long waiting list, that means some students won’t get in based on the color of their skin.
School of Education Dean Lorrie Shepard said the section requirements meet the state’s interpretation of federal law because they are not strictly race-based. In addition to minority students, the class includes those of any race who are the first in their family to go to college.
The course itself is open to all students, she said, and therefore is not discriminatory. But the section for underrepresented students was developed as an experiment last year after students of color found they were continually called on to represent a minority perspective, she said.
The class curriculum covers issues of race, gender and culture.
“Often a student of color would find they were the only non-white person in a given section and … very often their class would turn to them whenever an issue of race was discussed,” Shepard said. “They’d be asked if they agreed with a certain perspective or to defend a position. They’d be put on the spot in ways that made it feel like a hostile environment.”
. . . But for those who choose it, she said, it provides an “important intellectual opportunity” and a “much safer and open environment to be able to agree and disagree with each other without having to speak for their whole group.”
Being asked their opinions created a “hostile” environment?