From April 7 to 9, Georgetown hosted three prominent World Bank speakers: CFO Bernand Badra, Chief Economist Kashik Basu and Senior Economist Karla Hoff, on three separate occasions as a part of “The Global Future of Development” portion of a two-year-long Global Futures Initiative, designed to advance the university’s educational mission. This series has twice brought World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to campus in the past semester alone, raising serious questions about representative equality in the speakers and events that the university hosts on campus and presents to students.
We urge the Global Futures Initiative to diversify its speaker series and open the university’s dialogue on development to include newer and more innovative NGOs, which are more attuned to modern issues, instead of only featuring the most prominent and well-funded institutions. The World Bank, though a veritable leader in its field, ultimately represents only one viewpoint.
International development has long been a primary focus at Georgetown. With rigorous graduate school programs in international development, an undergraduate certificate program in the SFS, a strong relationship with D.C.-based development institutions, and newly created Global Futures Initiative, the university has positioned itself as a leader in today’s conversation surrounding the challenges and opportunities presented by international development.
Although the World Bank is the primary leader in international development, it is not without controversy. The institution has been criticized for contestable grant decisions, its partnership with the private sector and the unrealistic conditions it has placed on many of its grant-recipient countries. In bringing exclusively World Bank-associated speakers, the university is unwittingly allowing a single organization’s point of view, which is one on the side of international prominence, comfortable following and dependence from its clients, to dominate the development conversation.
Diversity of thought does not end when class lets out, but instead extends to all aspects of university life — in particular, the speakers whom we invite to campus and with whom we engage in discussion.
Campus speakers are a crucial dimension of the Georgetown experience that spark dialogue and enrich the conversation of our community. Given such significance, the student body deserves a level of diversity in line with the university’s stated mission.