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Advancing a Tradition of Social Justice

Building on its Quaker traditions, Haverford College has been able to reach broad campus consensus on its commitment to diversity. Haverford has emphasized the importance of community values and consensus building as it has revised and developed its multicultural curricular requirements and as it worked to amend its student-defined honor code.

Haverford has had a diversity requirement since 1984, and the history of this requirement exemplifies the importance of continued community dialogue about curricular purposes and strategies. Students could fulfill the original 1984 requirement by completing a course on (1) the history, perspectives, or cultures of non-Western peoples, U.S. minorities, or women or (2) the nature, history, and workings of prejudice. However, when a committee reviewed this requirement, two significant facts emerged. Over 150 courses had been developed over the decade for category one. By contrast, very few courses on prejudice had been developed. As a result of this finding, in 1990, faculty members adopted a new "Social Justice Requirement" that focuses not on a particular culture or group but on the critical analysis of prejudice and discrimination.

Leaders at Haverford also wanted to move beyond the single course to "making diversity an intrinsic and inescapable part of all majors." The need for campuswide faculty, staff, and student development around issues of diversity was also recognized and addressed.

With an initial Ford Foundation grant and later an additional grant from Philip Morris, Haverford sponsored two interdisciplinary faculty seminars to support the development of new or revised "social justice" courses. Faculty members particularly valued working with colleagues across departmental lines and focusing on shared concerns about pedagogy. Fostering interdisciplinary dialogue about comprehensive diversity goals and especially multicultural requirements is crucial to building campuswide consensus and ongoing commitment to diversity issues. Haverford has institutionalized diversity training programs for students, faculty, and administrators to foster the mediation, communication, and pedagogical skills essential for these campuswide academic and student life efforts.

There has also been an ongoing dialogue led by Haverford students about the school's Honor Code. The Honor Code enjoins students not only to govern their own lives with honesty and a sense of responsibility for others but also to engage in debates about the intersection of personal and institutional values and, ultimately, about the values that shape society. Since the 1980s, during the yearly ratification process through which they commit themselves to maintaining the Honor Code, students have attempted to define and redefine how it addresses issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. Over the course of these yearly discussions, students decided against establishing a speech code and, instead, have ratified an Honor Code that calls for mutual respect and the recognition of human dignity in all. The Honor Code ratification process engaged students in a continuing process of understanding each other--surely a primary responsibility of colleges in a diverse democracy.

An evaluator of the Ford grant notes further that "Haverford has been as successful in its ability to create as many diversity courses as it has and have as rich a conversation as it does because diversity is integral to the college's mission." It was "extremely important that [the] campus have a variety of forums and arenas where students can carry on their developmental issues beyond the classrooms."

Social Justice Requirement
(revised in 1990)

Students must take one course that focuses on one or both of the following:

  • 1. The nature, workings, and consequences of prejudice and discrimination, including those which arise from confrontations with radical difference, otherness, or foreignness;

  • 2. Efforts at social and cultural change directed against, and cultural achievements that overcome, prejudice and discrimination.

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