Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Diversity Initiative Stalled

Three years after University President John J. DeGioia launched his Main Campus Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, several of the project’s main goals have yet to be accomplished.

The initiative was introduced by DeGioia in April 2009 in response to a series of bias-related incidents — including offensive graffiti written on walls and statues and a controversial April Fools’ edition of The Hoya — and the release of a 300-page report on diversity published by the Student Commission for Unity that found that 76 percent of students “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that self-segregation is a problem on campus.

The initiative comprised three working groups that aimed to address inclusiveness and diversity in the areas of academics, admissions and student life. The groups published their recommendations between December 2009 and May 2010.

Though Georgetown has successfully enacted some of the working groups’ recommendations — hiring more diverse faculty, increasing yield rates among minority students and implementing programs like the 1789 Scholarship Imperative, which aims to annually award 1,789 $25,000 scholarships to needystudents — other issues remain unresolved.

Current students and alumni who were involved in the initiative are now voicing concerns about whether the university has acted on the remaining recommendations, particularly those of the academic working group.

According to Saaliha Khan (COL ’13), a diversity fellow in the Office of Campus Ministry, the initiative has faded from the forefront of university policy over the past few years.

“[The university] used to send out all-school blasts about the initiative, the working groups and the recommendations that were being implemented,” Khan said. “Recently, though, I haven’t seen anything.”

SCU member Zenen Jaimes (SFS ’13) expressed similar concerns.

“All the recommendations were kind of pushed aside, despite the fact that many students spent a lot of time on it to try to address a real problem,” Jaimes said. “[The school] simply moved forward without it, and the conversation about diversity on campus sort of ended with it.”

Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny pointed to several of the working groups’ recommendations that have already been enacted, including the hiring of more minority faculty members and the successful implementation of diversity fellowships for professors and students.

According to Kilkenny, two Black professors, eight Asian professors and one Latina professor have been hired on the main campus since last winter.

She added that the university is now in the process of diversifying other administrative areas, including chaplains- and faculty-in-residence, professional staff and resident assistants.

Additionally, the Doyle Initiative, a program that encourages faculty to discuss topics of diversity and tolerance during lectures, ensures that professors broach the topic of acceptance in the classroom.
“Faculty [members] are continuing to take advantage of that program by enhancing their pedagogical approaches to teaching,” Kilkenny wrote in an email.

During the past two academic years, nine undergraduate diversity fellows — including Khan — have been assigned to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, the Office of Campus Ministry, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Women’s Center, the School of Nursing & Health Studies and the Center for Child and Human Development.

“Diversity … is a collaborative effort that permeates the campus,” Kilkenny wrote.

Kilkenny said that the initiative is still in the implementation phase but that students have expressed frustration about the initiative’s slow progress.

“We were under the impression that the university would, in a timely and open fashion, let us know which recommendations would be accepted and which wouldn’t, but that hadn’t come to pass by the time I graduated,” said Ryan Wilson (COL ’12), a member of SCU and a co-chair of the admissions and recruitment working group. “We had no idea about what was being done.”

Wilson pointed to components of the initiative that have stalled, particularly the academic working group’s recommendation that the university develop its minority studies programs.

“The academics working group had put forth recommendations for expanding the African American studies department and creating formal African American, Latino and Asian American studies majors,” Wilson said. “The school has yet to act upon these recommendations.”

According to the SCU’s 2008 report, 95 percent of Georgetown’s peer universities — defined as all other members of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education and all Jesuit schools — already have an African American studies major. Another two-thirds have a Latin American studies major and one-third offer majors in Asian American studies.

Additionally, around 70 percent of these schools include diversity courses in their core curricula, another primary concern for students involved in the initiative.

“We don’t see a focus on diversity education curricula, and that is needed in order to foster respect [for diversity] on campus,” Khan said.

According to Khan, a lack of student advocacy has allowed the university to stall on the implementation of the working groups’ recommendations.

“[The university] needs to step it up,” she said. “I know that many students still care very much about the initiative, both for diversity in the university and to ensure that Georgetown becomes a more welcoming place. But in terms of the administration and holding them accountable, we as students need to push a little bit.”

But concern about on-campus diversity is felt at the administrative level as well. Director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and Associate Dean of Students Dennis Williams said that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — an ongoing case challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action policies — could affect Georgetown’s efforts to recruit more minority students.

“We should also be prepared to do what is necessary to continue to enroll significant numbers of previously excluded students if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that colleges cannot consider race in admissions,” he wrote in an email.

But according to Jaimes, increasing minority enrollment will not address larger issues about tolerance on campus.

“There’s a difference between having the diversity in the numbers and actually feeling that our campus is a place where diversity is valued,” he said.

According to Wilson, this change will only happen if students ensure that the university keeps the initiative at the forefront of its agenda.

“This is not the first time nor will this be the last time that [a diversity initiative] will be debated on campus,” he said. “The most important thing to do is to research and reach out to people so we stop doing the same work over and over again.”

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