U.S. diversity credit committee works to streamline course approval


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

A recent lawsuit filed against Iowa State University by Speech First challenges the chalking ban, prohibition on student emails related to political campaigns and elections and the Campus Climate Reporting System.

Iowa State’s U.S. Diversity Course Requirement Committee optimizes the course approval process and works to prepare students to meet the challenges of civic engagement in a culturally diverse workplace.

Three out of four established diversity outcomes must be met to qualify for the U.S. diversity credit. This amendment was voted upon by the committee in the Fall of 2021.

Blake Van Der Kamp, a junior majoring in agriculture life sciences and former student representative on the diversity committee, said the committee was created and works to streamline the course approval process. 

“We wanted to get more students involved, and we wanted to kind of streamline the process of how we approve committees and what they look like and making sure that we make all those criteria,” Van Der Kamp said.

Van Der Kamp said for courses to be approved, the process begins with faculty members submitting their courses to the diversity committee for review. A smaller committee reviews syllabus content, course materials, curriculum, and its relevance to U.S. diversity.

He explained that from this point, the committee votes favorably or unfavorably, considering whether or not the course aligns with three of the four learning outcomes.

“Once it gets through that step, we would vote on it as the entire committee, and then from there, it’s approved [or not approved] for the following year,” Van Der Kamp said.

According to the bill approved by the Faculty Senate, students must achieve three out of four learning outcomes for a course to uphold the diversity requirement. This document states the learning outcomes include:

  • Analyze how underrepresented or marginalized groups have contributed to the history and culture of the U.S.
  • Be able to apply the concepts of culture, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality and religion to an analysis of the U.S.
  • Examine systemic oppression and personal prejudice and their impact on marginalized U.S. communities.
  • Identify diversity, equity and inclusion aspects to enhance students’ ability to work, live and collaborate in the 21st century.

Kelly Reddy-Best, the U.S. diversity course requirement committee chair and associate professor of apparel, events and hospitality management, stated over email with the Daily how the learning outcomes for the U.S. Diversity Requirement impact students. 

Reddy-Best stated the U.S. diversity courses in their current format will still meet the requirement for students enrolled in the 2022-23 catalog or earlier. She said all courses approved this academic year can be used by students enrolled in the 2023-24 catalog.

Reddy-Best said the committee’s official charge is to approve courses proposed to satisfy undergraduate students’ diversity requirements.

Reddy-Best stated the committee is currently reviewing course proposals at every meeting and is not discussing anything beyond the course proposals received. 

Steven Freeman, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering DOGE and former judiciary and appeals chair of the Faculty Senate, explained the goals of the diversity committee and why it was created.

“The creation of the new committee was to essentially accomplish what the students were requesting when that conversation started, [which] was a better student experience,” Freeman said.

Freeman said the current learning outcomes are an improvement compared to the ones formerly in place. He explained that there have always been several ways a course could meet the U.S. diversity requirement. 

“Student Government started talking to the Faculty Senate about updating and improving the same experience related to these outcomes,” Freeman said.

Freeman said an additional Faculty Senate committee was implementing policy changes for the new learning outcome requirements. He explained the reasoning behind requiring three out of four outcomes was due to the flexibility of the faculty.

“They wanted to take the flexibility of faculty on how to meet those requirements and expand the number of courses that would be available that could meet at least three out of the four to be considered appropriate,” Freeman said.

Freeman said the previous method for approving courses for the U.S. diversity requirement needed to be more structured.

“Part of the updating process to put in better learning outcomes was also to create a structure at the university level to review proposals so that there was more consistency across campus on how courses were meeting those outcomes,” Freeman said.

Van Der Kamp explained the importance of the committee and the role of U.S. diversity courses in preparing students for success after graduation.

“Having a diversity of ideas, and really embracing innovation to the fullest extent is really important, and U.S. diversity is a very easy way that we can prepare Iowa State students to be successful in their careers,” Van Der Kamp said.

Van Der Kamp said the process is exciting, and the committee takes on many courses to evaluate for approval.

“It was a very large amount of courses coming in, but that’s really exciting because it means that we’re getting to produce courses and make sure that we are offering students the great opportunities that they should be offered,” Van Der Kamp said.

Van Der Kamp said the diversity committee has set a framework for evaluating course content to ensure unbiased ideologies.

“What I really like about Iowa State University is we’ve actually set the framework and I think this committee is something very profound in the sense that we look at a very diverse set of things, syllabuses, course assignments, the books that you reference, the videos you watch, and a bunch of different things and how it relates to U.S. diversity,” Van Der Kamp said.