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WSU adds equity and justice designation to general education curriculum

The Washington State University Faculty Senate approved a new course designation on Oct. 6 called “Inquiry into Equity and Justice (EQJS)” that will expand the University Common Requirements (UCORE) general education curriculum for the first time in a decade. 

The new UCORE designation, which will not impact UCORE credits necessary for graduation, goes into effect in fall 2023. Courses in EQJS will equip students with intellectual tools and social contexts necessary to critically examine power dynamics, and to recognize, question, and understand structural inequities and privileges, according to the UCORE website. 

A set of EQJS courses will be determined over the coming months and, will also provide students vital intellectual foundations, tools, and literacies to assess and evaluate ideologies and narratives to ethically pursue inclusive and just societies.

“This is the first major change to UCORE requirements since they were put in place ten years ago, and the committee feels it represents a much-needed engagement with issues of utmost importance in today’s society,” said Clif Stratton, UCORE director.

Efforts toward the EQJS designation were sponsored by the UCORE committee and began in 2020 with support from ASWSU, key academic departments, and the Office of Outreach and Education, which organizes WSU’s Social Justice Peer Educators program.

UCORE is designed to help students acquire broad knowledge and transferable skills to complement their majors programs of study. Around 400 approved UCORE courses advance specific learning outcomes, make up 34 of required 120 credits, and are currently divided into five broad categories: first-year experience, foundational competencies, inquiry (“ways of knowing”), diversity, and integrative capstone. EQJS will expand the set of inquiry designations available.

Stratton also said that the now stand-alone diversity (DIVR) category will be added to the inquiry designations. DIVR courses introduce students to differences, similarities, and connections among cultures by exploring the multiplicity of individual and group experiences within and across historical periods, societies, and cultures in global comparative context. He said that the EQJS and DIVR designations complement but are still quite different from each other.

Stratton said that he and members of the UCORE Committee have been in steady touch with student representatives, faculty, and administrators to keep the EQJS momentum going. Any change to curriculum will require adjustments, and he’s confident the year before the designation goes into effect will be well spent.

The UCORE website now provides an Equity and Justice FAQ page for students, advisors, and faculty. 

Stratton said UCORE plans to have 10 or more approved EQJS courses available to students for fall 2023. UCORE is reaching out to chairs and directors whose programs have courses with learning outcomes that could be realigned with EQJS learning outcomes. Or new courses could be developed.

“It is critical to note that the addition of the EQJS designation to the inquiry set is credit neutral, meaning it adds no additional UCORE credit requirements to graduate,” said Stratton. Some colleges, however, such as the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences, are planning to implement a college-level requirement that students complete courses in all UCORE inquiry designations. UCORE course requirements to graduate, then, could be determined on a college-by-college basis, as necessary.

“The UCORE committee thanks those colleges for their ongoing commitment to a broad educational experience at WSU,” he said.

Stratton noted that only students entering WSU in and after fall 2023 will follow the new framework. Transfer students who have completed an associate’s degree or an Interstate Passport by that time will not be impacted by the UCORE designations update.

“As all students prepare to register for fall 2023, professional advisors, faculty, and staff will be well versed on UCORE options and will be ready to help each of them best plan their educational journey at WSU.”

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