FARI takes academic reform fight to curriculum review meetings

Members of student-activist group FARI have made changing Geneseo's curriculum the forefront of their efforts on campus, and have been vocal at College meetings about the issue.

On Nov. 28, the college Task Force on Curriculum Review held a meeting during the college free hour at which students were invited to voice their opinions and ideas for possible curriculum changes. The next day, the Task Force held a joint meeting with the General Education Committee to further discuss proposed changes.

FARI members were responsible for a large portion of the student crowd, having sent e-mails and spread the word encouraging students to attend.

According to senior co-founder Tarik Kitson, FARI has been pushing for curriculum changes to increase race and diversity material since its formation. Local and Rochester news outlets that attended the meeting broadcast that it was yet another response to Halloween's "blackface" incident, but conversations regarding curriculum changes long preceded this, Kitson said.

Currently, the Task Force has no plan of action, but they are gathering information from students and faculty in order to determine the most necessary curriculum changes.

Diversity is not the only issue at hand during these dialogues. Students have suggested a technology requirement, and the Task Force is also deliberating over other curriculum changes such as an individualized major and required volunteerism.

The humanities requirement is still high on the agenda of the task force and continues to be a challenge. Suggestions for change include making the second course in the humanities sequence a non-Western Humanities course and eliminating the non-Western traditions requirement, replacing it with a third non-Western humanities course.

The multicultural requirement is also under fire; it was suggested by students at the meeting that Geneseo is behind the other SUNY schools in this area. For example, Oswego has a "Tolerance and Intolerance in the U.S." requirement and New Paltz requires "Racism and Sexism" as an education course.

"You could go your four years at Geneseo without learning much about diversity if you wanted to," said Kitson.

Students may technically be taking a multicultural class, as the Non-Western Traditions requirement can be fulfilled through anthropology classes that study Amazonian tribes or human evolution.

"You're skipping over cultures you interact with every day," Kitson said.

Not all students, however, agree with FARI's position that the curriculum needs changing.

"Something like another [Humanities] class is sort of like gym class," said sophomore Lauren Kimmel. "We all have to take it and no one likes it. So, I don't really think changing the curriculum to encourage diversity will really accomplish much."

Elizabeth Hatton, a sophomore, agreed.

"I don't think that a curriculum change will change much in terms of people's perceptions or opinions," she said. "It's a good idea in theory, but I don't think it will be well received or successful."

According to English professor Paul Schacht, chair of the General Education Committee, "We're looking for a solution that hopefully does not increase the number of hours students devote to general education."

According to English professor Maria Lima, the Task Force hopes to produce a report to give to President Christopher Dahl by the end of the spring term. The time frame for actual changes to be implemented is longer and uncertain, as any changes require approval from both the College Senate and the president.