Questions on intersectional identities and law enforcement will be added to the Cultural Climate Survey following a meeting between administrators and student leaders Thursday, according to Georgetown University Student Association senator Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22).
The survey, conducted by the Cultural Climate Survey committee in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, will collect data to measure students’ experiences of Georgetown University’s culture. New questions proposed by a GUSA petition include topics about policing on and off campus, culturally reflective curriculum, bias in the classroom from students and faculty, accessibility, LGBTQ issues, religious life, socioeconomic status and national origin.
The GUSA petition has been signed by 160 students and 10 organizations supporting the inclusion of the new questions at the time of publication.
The Cultural Climate Survey committee met Oct. 10 to give students the chance to present the petition’s questions and discuss how and if they could be included in the survey, which is expected to be sent to the student body next semester. While the committee is still working on the questions’ specific phrasing, the committee decided to include questions about on and off campus policing, accessibility and documentation status, according to Sanchez, who was in the meeting.
“I was a little bit hesitant walking in,” Sanchez said in an interview with The Hoya. “I knew that they were open to hearing our suggestions, especially after the petition, which really opened the door for us. I didn’t know how open they would be to actually implementing it. Walking out, I feel confident that the administration is trying to actually work with us and implement the ideas.”
Prior to the meeting on Oct. 10, a three-person GUSA senate committee met with administrators and staff multiple times since Aug. 20 to write questions for the survey.
The GUSA senate unanimously approved a motion Oct. 6 to support advocating for the ideas represented by the 39 new questions.
Moving forward, the team of administrators, staff and students writing the survey will work to refine the questions to reflect inclusivity, according to Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action Vice President Rosemary Kilkenny (LAW ’87).
“The questions are still being finalized and were never limited to race alone,” Kilkenny wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We recognize the many dimensions of diversity and the importance of intersectionality.”
The GUSA petition helped administrators understand how strongly students feel about the proposed questions, Sanchez said.
“The petition definitely forced the administration to have this discussion with us,” Sanchez said in an interview with The Hoya. “I guess it was a demonstration of how serious we were. We weren’t just giving suggestions based on nothing. These were substantive and students care.”
Given recent events on campus, law enforcement questions are essential to the survey, according to GUSA senator Zev Burton (SFS ’22). GUPD garnered attention after an officer was involved in an altercation with Our Daily Planet reporter Kurt Bardella at the Climate Forum 2020 on Sept. 19.
“It is our responsibility to look internally and say ‘How is our policing doing?’” Burton said in an interview with The Hoya. “I really enjoy the fact that they have a statistician on their team making sure the questions are as unbiased as possible, but to not have policing in there at all is honestly naive and it kind of goes against the Jesuit value of self-reflection.”
The new questions would provide the university with new data to inform future initiatives, Sanchez said.
“Right now, we’re telling them things, but without this data that we’re hoping to see from this climate survey, there’s nothing pushing the administration to do something,” Sanchez said.
Although adding questions would make the survey longer, the data is crucial for future GUSA legislation and university actions, according to Burton.
“As a Jewish kid at a Jesuit school, naturally I want questions of religion to be in there,” Burton said. “With some of my best friends being LGBTQ at a Jesuit school, naturally there should be LGBTQ questions in there. Race is one of the biggest issues, but it is not the only issue.”