On Wednesday, April 26, ASUCR voted to continue showing support for a previously passed resolution for the establishment of a gender studies requirement, which, if approved by the faculty members of UCR’s academic senate, would make taking such a class mandatory for all incoming freshman students. Since then, ASUCR has pushed for the academic senate to put this proposal on their agenda so that it can be voted on this year, rather than next academic year (which would require it to be reviewed from the beginning).
This editorial board, however, disagrees that this effort to make a gender studies class mandatory for freshmen is a necessary measure, nor do we believe that it will be adequate for achieving its goal of educating students on this controversial subject.
A major problem with implementing this requirement is some students’ attitudes toward the nature of this particular class. For students who are religious or conservative (or both), the material that would be taught in a gender studies course is going to be incompatible with their beliefs. It is unfair to require students to sit through material that they very well may find offensive. Yes, universities exist to challenge students’ beliefs, but that should not make it mandatory for students to have to their beliefs confronted. Furthermore, such an inherently liberal-leaning class is likely to be perceived as a form of propaganda or indoctrination on behalf of the liberal-leaning administration that would be charged with approving this requirement.
Ultimately, a 10-week class on gender (or any other subject that is required as a breadth course but is not actually helpful for one’s major) is not going to really change one’s beliefs on the matter. One perhaps will be a little more informed on the subject, but when it comes to making a real impact, a stuffy lecture hall is not conducive to truly learning about highly subjective and often personal material. Add to this the problems that plague any non-major course — such as students spending the whole class staring at their phone instead of the presentation, and doing the bare minimum to actually pass the class — and it becomes clear that rather than creating understanding among the student body at large for gender-related issues, only the students who want to immerse themselves in this kind of educational echo chamber (who tend to not need additional information on the matter) will get anything out of it.
Rather than forcing students to dedicate time to a class that many (perhaps even a majority) would prefer to ignore, the campus administration could implement this gender studies requirement in some alternate fashion. One possibility would be turning this requirement into a series of modules that teach various aspects of gender studies. Such an option allows for multiple advantages: Students would not have to dedicate months of their lives to taking a full-scale class on the subject; those students who would sooner risk failing a course than truly pay attention to it would not have to concern themselves with the possibility of actually failing; and all students would be exposed to a consistent narrative on gender, without the variations that would occur for 200 acceptable courses on gender studies. This would not be an unprecedented step, as most freshmen already have mandatory modules regarding alcohol safety. Since this option would replace an actual academic requirement, there would need to be strict enforcement of this module (e.g. a hold on quarterly registration for anyone who has not completed it), so that students cannot simply ignore it.
The administration could also strongly recommend that each student take a gender studies class. Such a measure obviously does not guarantee that students will take these classes, but the administrators would still show support for the original proposal — and as a bonus, they also could not be accused of attempting to indoctrinate students or disregard their political or religious beliefs. Another alternative could be increasing the number of breadth classes that count for the gender studies requirement; just as students would resist having to deal with an additional breadth requirement, they would be equally willing to kill two birds with one stone and get two breadth requirements taken care of with a single course.
Regardless of what good could possibly arise from educating students across this campus on the complexities of gender, requiring all students to take gender studies classes is just a measure to flatter the liberal administration (and the liberal student body) without accounting for the wishes of a critical minority on campus, and it is highly naive to not realize that many students will simply tune out the positive message with their earbuds.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this editorial inaccurately suggested that implementing the gender studies requirement would require an additional class and potentially delay graduation time for incoming freshmen. These areas of the piece have since been edited or omitted to reflect the correct information on the requirement.