Posted by Kat Kullman
On Tuesday, April 19, the Senate of the Student Government Association met with facilitators of the Inter Group Relations class to discuss a petition to institutionalize the program, which Senate passed unanimously.
IGR is currently a two-credit course in the Interdisciplinary Department, but is still in its pilot and has no commitment of resources. The IGR students brought a petition to Senate to collect signatures to show Skidmore that the program has the support of SGA.
The IGR program began in Michigan in 1988, and has spread across the country in the years following. It is a course designed to develop intercultural understanding, and is taught by rigorously trained student facilitators, rather than professors.
The typical class is designed to be half white students and half students of color, so several sides of racial issues can be presented and discussed.
IGR classes have been offered at the college for two years, and the students involved said they wish to make it a permanent part of the curriculum.
Teshika Hatch '11, a trained IGR facilitator, spoke about what she believes is the importance of the program.
"IGR has a lot of momentum because of the campus climate this year," Hatch said. "And there have been some of our dialogues that just can't happen because of lack of resources. With the institutionalization of IGR we would be guaranteed a budget and faculty support. We could even get people off the wait list for the class, and eventually offer dialogues on religion and gender, not just race."
Part of the problem with making IGR more permanent, according to the presenters, is the resistance of some professors.
"Some professors think that the class isn't academically rigorous enough, and that because it's student-led it's not legitimate," Hatch said.
"Some faculty members feel that experience-based learning is not academic enough, but it's very emotional and rewarding. It's totally unique to IGR," Frank Cabrera '11, another facilitator, said.
Currently, the professors involved in IGR are committed to it only through interest, not job description. Institutionalizing the program would ensure that money and professors be allocated to the class.
The Senate unanimously approved making the program permanent, offering to help organize a support rally and a spot in the SGA newsletter to advertise.
One senator said, "Any professor or student who says that this isn't exactly what Skidmore needs right now isn't really here. Any way to get students involved in meaningful dialogue needs to be supported."
Each senator signed the petition of support, which will be distributed to the student body in the coming weeks.