Diversity and Social Justice in the United States proposals

Course proposals for the Diversity and Social Justice in the United States Theme should describe how your course fits within the Theme, and how this Theme is situated within the purpose and values of liberal education.

Components of your proposal

Your proposal will include both a narrative description and a syllabus.
As you develop your proposal, you should not assume that the goals of your courses are obvious. It may be helpful to remember that the members of the Council on Liberal Education, like students in liberal education courses, come from units across the University. The council's aim is to ensure that liberal education courses meet the University's goals and that these goals are clear to students and to faculty members.

Narrative proposal

Your narrative proposal should explain how the course meets:

  1. the general requirements of liberal education;
  2. the common goals for all Core courses; and
  3. the specific goals for the Diversity and Social Justice in the United States Theme.

Effective proposals will provide concrete examples from the course that illustrate how the course meets these goals, e.g., from the course syllabus, detailed outlines, course assignments, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or methods.

Your proposal should also include two brief statements that address:

  1. how your course addresses one or more of the University's Student Learning Outcomes; and
  2. how the learning associated with this outcome will be assessed.


Because it is written for students, your syllabus should contain the following elements.

Language to help students understand what liberal education is and how this course fulfills its mission as a liberal education course. A course description at the head of the syllabus followed by a paragraph describing the precise aims according to the guidelines is one efficient way of doing this.

A clear explanation of how the particular course fulfills the Diversity and Social Justice in the United States Theme, so that students are aware of how and why the course meets LE requirements. This can be done through the stated course objectives, course topics, writing assignments, and required readings. You may also include supporting materials, such as lab manuals, sample assignments, or handouts, or descriptions of small group discussions, debates, revision workshops, and so on, that will be employed in the course.

A brief paragraph describing the Student Learning Outcome(s) the course addresses, how it addresses these outcomes, and how the learning that is associated with the outcome will be assessed.

Additional syllabus guidelines:

  • For existing courses, the syllabus must be for a term within the past two years.
  • For courses under development, the syllabus may be provisional but still must document how the course will meet the LE requirement(s), as indicated above. A list of lecture topics or discussion topics should be included, with the understanding that dates, schedules, and readings may be tentative.
  • The syllabus needs to conform to the University Senate Syllabi Policy, approved December 6, 2001. It should be in English, or with an English translation provided.
  • Formatting is often lost when material is copied and pasted into the system. Try to keep formatting simple.


All liberal education courses must:

  • explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens;
  • meet one or more of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). In the syllabus you submit, specify which of the SLO(s) that the course meets, how it addresses the outcome(s), and how the learning that is associated with the outcome(s) will be assessed;
  • be offered on a regular schedule;
  • be taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses;
  • be at least 3 credits (or at least 4 credits for biological or physical sciences, which must include a lab or field experience component).

Guidelines for all Theme courses

All Theme courses have the common goal of cultivating in students a number of habits of mind:

  • thinking ethically about important challenges facing our society and world;
  • reflecting on the shared sense of responsibility required to build and maintain community;
  • connecting knowledge and practice;
  • fostering a stronger sense of our roles as historical agents.

With their emphasis on compelling contemporary issues, the Themes offer opportunities for students to consider timely and engaging questions in all of their complexity; to reflect on ethical implications; to discuss and to debate; to formulate opinions; to have their opinions respectfully challenged and to respectfully challenge the opinions of others; and to connect what they are learning to their own lives and to the world around them. Courses in these areas offer students a sustained opportunity to engage in difficult debates around moral, legal, and ethical issues that require critical inquiry from a variety of perspectives and the cultivation of independent thinking.

To meet more than one requirement:

  • A course may be approved to meet one Core or one Theme or both a Core and a Theme. In the latter case, the Theme must be fully and meaningfully infused into the course (the old standard of "one-third of the course" will no longer be sufficient).
  • Courses may continue to be submitted for both LE and WI designation, though the WI review will now be handled by the Campus Writing Board. Reviews by both bodies will be coordinated as much as possible to assure timely responses.

Diversity and Social Justice in the United States objectives and criteria

Understanding the internal diversity of the United States and the complex ways in which diversity can be both an asset and a source of social tensions is integral to an informed, responsible, and ethical citizenry. Courses fulfilling the Diversity and Social Justice in the United States theme requirement may emphasize very different content and be taught from a variety of disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives. They promote historical and contemporary understanding of how social differences (such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disability) have shaped social, political, and cross-cultural relationships within the United States. More specifically, courses fulfilling this Theme will critically investigate issues of power and privilege, instead of merely promoting a surface-level "celebration" of diversity. The objective of this requirement is to ensure that students' educational experience and knowledge-base of the United States is inclusive of group and social differences. Through this type of educational experience, our students will be better able to live and work effectively in a society that continually grows more diverse and inclusive.

Course must meet these criteria:

  • The course explores one or more forms of diversity through the multi-layered operation of social power, prestige, and privilege. 
  • The course advances students' understanding of how social difference in the U.S. has shaped social, political, economic, and cross-cultural relationships. 
  • Students examine the complex relationship between a particular form of diversity in the United States and its impact on historical and contemporary social dynamics, democratic practices, and institutional stratification.
  • The course enhances students' understanding of diversity as a social construct that has promoted the differential treatment of particular social groups and served as the basis for response to subsequent social inequities by these groups.
  • The course engages scholarship that has emerged in response to epistemological gaps in information and perspective in traditional disciplines.