Many colleges and universities have diversity requirements. Students have to take at least one class that directly engages with topics like race, ethnicity, gender. Well, one school, Hamilton College, a liberal arts college in New York state, is looking to go one step further. Joining us by Skype to tell us more is Karen Brewer, a chemistry professor at Hamilton College. She is chairing a subcommittee that will review potential courses before the school's new diversity requirement takes effect next year. Professor Brewer, thanks for joining us.
KAREN BREWER: Well, thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: Other colleges require diversity courses. What's going to make Hamilton's different?
BREWER: What's different about Hamilton's requirement is that each department will design the requirement for their majors. And in that way, they can make it relevant and meaningful to those students for their future goals in the department and their majors as well as in their careers.
SIEGEL: But if a student is majoring, say, in computer science or physics, is it germane to their major to take a course about race or ethnicity? Aren't - isn't the stuff they're studying essentially race neutral?
BREWER: Well, science depends upon a diversity of perspectives in order to kind of decide what questions to ask and what approaches to use to answer those very complex questions.
SIEGEL: Is it really important that your chemistry degree come along with some understanding of race and gender in chemistry?
BREWER: It's germane to what I said before, that science is dependent upon having a variety of perspectives. But also, it's conducted in laboratory groups in industry, government that are becoming more and more and already are very multicultural and multinational. So students thinking about this in the context of sciences is really beneficial to their careers. They'll hopefully be able to work more efficiently and better in teams, show leadership in those teams and hopefully to spot innovation when it's coming from a different perspective..
Remember ethnicity influences what happens when you combine sodium hypochlorite with nitric acid.