Forum to discuss multiculturalism class

By Matt Gilbert

The Student Association is hoping Thanksgiving break and pressures of upcoming finals have not led NIU students to forget about tonight’s forum on the proposal for a multiculturalism graduation requirement.

The forum will feature the key players in the SA who are forging the proposed requirement. The forum will be at 7 p.m. tonight in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center.

SA President Abe Andrzejewski, SA Vice President Dave Gonzalez, Student Regent John Butler and Student Affairs Adviser Derek Anderson will speak to an open microphone. Andrzejewski said he hopes to see a large turnout of NIU students in a “rational free exchange of concerns.”

“Basically it’ll be a chance for students to air their views and tell us what they think about a multiculturalism requirement,” Andrzejewski said.

“It will also give us a chance to talk directly to the students and tell them what kind of research we’ve been doing over the past few months,” he added.

Gonzalez said the purpose of the multiculturalism class was not an Orwellian attempt to alter or monitor the thoughts of NIU students

“We’re not trying to brainwash people,” Gonzalez said. “We’re just trying to make them aware that the world is becoming more and more diverse.

“I just hope those people who have been writing letters (to the SA and The Northern Star) will show up so we can get their opinion,” Gonzalez said.

The SA’s plan for the requirement has evolved since Andrzejewski ran for SA president last spring. His platform included a belief that the SA should “take a pro-active approach to issues such as racial and cultural understanding.”

Shortly after his election, he characterized the students’ vote for him as a vote for multiculturalism. “It’s a strong indication that the students are in favor of a politically cohesive senate and a multicultural curriculum,” he said.

In a Star interview last May, Andrzejewski voiced his plans to “bring a multiculturalism class to our campus,” and in September he established the ad-hoc multicultural committee under Anderson to study multiculturalism programs at other colleges.

He also spoke publicly about how the class might be run, including the required reading of biographies of people from different cultures who have had an impact on American society. He also said the class should be mandatory.

As the committee continued its studies, Butler began to speak in SA meetings about conversations with NIU President John La Tourette that revealed the establishment of a new class would not be economically feasible.

Instead, a list of existing classes might be drawn up by a committee comprised of faculty members. Any one of the classes on the list would fulfill the requirement and might even be in the college of the students’ major.

Last Tuesday, Butler said he was not sure whether the class would fulfill general education requirements or be included with major studies.

“We’re not trying to brainwash people, we’re just trying to make them aware that the world is becoming more and more diverse.”