Michigan college drops math, considers diversity course instead

Students at Wayne State University no longer have to take a single math course to graduate, and may soon be required to take a diversity course, instead.

“This decision was made largely because the current (math) requirement is at a level already required by most high school mathematics curriculum," the school explained in an announcement to students obtained by The Detroit Free Press.

According to The Daily Caller, WSU asserts on its website that its general education “provides a shared educational experience that imparts knowledge and expertise essential for all undergraduate students regardless of their major or interests.” However, almost one-third of WSU students have to take remedial classes during their first year at the school, which would suggest that many students could benefit from taking high school-level math courses at the university.

In its proposed revision to the general education curriculum, however, WSU alludes to another motivation for the change, saying, “a clear message our committee received from the university community (faculty, students, staff, alumni, and employers) was that diversity is central to the nature of WSU, i.e., ‘Distinctively Wayne State.’ Thus we have placed the values and goals of diversity as a central component of the University Core program.”

“What we’re finding is a lot of students need remediation in math. They’re not at a high school level,” said Kim Shmina, who served on WSU’s nursing faculty until her contract expired in May. “Our beginning nursing students...at least 10 percent of them had difficulty passing basic math calculations for healthcare workers.”

That figure, of course, was from when WSU still had its math requirement.

“One of the reasons why students come from all over the world to come to Wayne State University is the rigor of our university, and now we’re talking about getting rid of math,” Shmina remarked. “It’s comical if you think about it.”

Expressing a somewhat different opinion, James Biller, a member of WSU’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter, told Campus Reform that he believes “there shouldn’t be a math requirement for majors that aren’t STEM,” but that “the cultural diversity requirements should only be required for majors that aren’t STEM,” because the school already imposes enough requirements for graduation.

“Most degrees are useless by themselves and adding requirements to get one is only a way to make more money for the university, which is bullshit,” Biller elaborated. “Wayne State can’t just say ‘oh well, since we believe in diversity we’re going to force you to pay more money to take classes you might not even like or need for your career.’”

Shmina, on the other hand, doesn’t even consider the diversity requirement a worthwhile endeavor.

“I think we will lose diversity if we get rid of core competencies like math,” she told Campus Reform. “Wayne State University is one of the most diverse universities with students from all over the world. It’s one of our crowning jewels—we have students from everywhere interacting in different classrooms, and different courses teach diversity; you can’t help when you are immersed in diversity [but] to learn about diversity and other cultures.”

The content of many diversity and cultural sensitivity courses, she added, is generally “divisive” and based on “a bunch of stereotypes”—exactly the sort of thinking they are designed to repudiate.

Ashley Thorne, Executive Director for the National Association of Scholars, echoed Shmina’s sentiments, pointing out that mathematics are a legitimate academic discipline, whereas cultural diversity is not.

“Mathematical ability is an objective and practical skill that will serve students the rest of their lives, which is why it has traditionally been a core part of college curricula,” she told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “‘Diversity’ is not an academic subject. It is a concept invented to classify people by their social identities. Focusing on individuals’ race, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality in this way has been demonstrated to lead to racial animus, segregation, stigmas,discrimination, and poor academic performance. It also politicizes education.”

According to Shmina, some WSU students fear being reprimanded by other students or even their professors if they express conservative opinions in class, and in at least one instance, an instructor even threatened to lower a student’s grade for sharing such opinions.

While Shmina has not been employed by WSU for over a month, she speculates that the school’s Board of Governors could be responsible for the new policies, pointing out that six of the eight current Board members are Democrats. Two seats, however, are open for election in November, and Shmina is running for one of them in the hope that she can provide a counter-weight to the Board’s liberal slant.

“I decided to run for this because I am tired of the things that I’m seeing. Politics are put above substance, above academics, above everything,” Shmina explained. “My job...as a nurse, has always been to help people...my goal is to help them help themselves.”

WSU students seem to need help. According to College Factual, “only 10.8 percent of students graduate from Wayne State University on time (two or four years depending on the degree) and only 34.3 percent graduate at all, ranking this school below average in both categories when compared nationally.”

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