Georgetown University graduate student government leadership voted to form an advocacy committee focused on collaborative diversity and inclusion efforts for students, as part of a broader racial justice campaign launched by the organization.
Under the Executive Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, executive board members and senators of the Georgetown University Graduate Student Government will coordinate diversity and inclusion initiatives among graduate programs, as well as work with university officials on related proposals.
The move comes as a part of GradGov’s racial justice and inclusivity campaign, which was spurred by the recent verdict announcement in the Derek Chauvin trial, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted for the killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd.
The committee will allow members of GradGov to more deeply examine issues of inclusivity that affect students, according to Jonah Klempner (LAW ’22), president of GradGov.
“The truth is that one of the major problems at Georgetown in terms of diversity and inclusion is that they look at diversity and inclusion numbers from the top and their efforts from the top,” Klempner said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Diversity and inclusion is really all about the room that you’re in. There need to be changes in each room, and some people are doing that better than others.”
The new committee will consist of 15 members selected from either the GradGov executive board or the GradGov senate. The structuring of the committee will make it easier to coordinate diversity and inclusion efforts across the 115 graduate programs under the domain of GradGov, according to Klempner.
“I think coordinating those efforts and trying to centralize them by saying, ‘Here’s what other programs have already instituted, and here’s a roadmap’ is going to be really helpful to bringing that change to each program, especially with programs that are further behind,” Klempner said.
In addition to the creation of the Executive Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, GradGov also proposed a list of action items for the university, including increasing diversity in faculty hiring and establishing a graduate-specific Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The push for diversity and inclusion initiatives comes after recent incidents in Georgetown graduate programs, including a Georgetown Law Center professor who was fired after a video of the professor voicing racist views toward Black students went viral.
Increasing diversity in faculty and staff is an urgent priority for universities, considering many institutions of higher education have only been desegregated for 60 or 70 years, according to Tamara Springer (GRD ’21), the outgoing director of advocacy at GradGov.
“Our professors mostly stem from very similar backgrounds and walks of life,” Springer said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Obviously the school has voiced that they want to improve diversity. One of the first ways to do that is hiring more diverse faculty and staff.”
Georgetown has already begun identifying ways to address the concerns of graduate students regarding diversity and inclusion, according to a university spokesperson.
“Our schools, departments and units across our campus have launched new work in the past year related to curriculum, pedagogy and course design, recruitment of faculty of color, mentorship, and fellowships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In addition to facilitating diverse hiring practices, the university agreed to hire an Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for graduate programs, according to a university spokesperson. Currently, Georgetown does not have a specific position dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives for either undergraduate or graduate students.
The position will serve within a graduate-specific Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which will be implemented over the summer, according to Klempner.
The move to broaden inclusivity and diversity initiatives comes after Georgetown released the results of its first graduate cultural climate survey April 16, which highlighted that students felt racial justice should be a part of the curriculum across the university’s programs, according to Klempner.
Georgetown is currently reviewing and responding to the results of the diversity survey and will collaborate with GradGov in the future on diversity initiatives to strengthen inclusion and belonging on Georgetown’s campus, according to a university spokesperson.
It is important the university fosters a community where students of all identities and backgrounds can feel at home, according to Taelor Logan (GRD ’22), current director of advocacy at GradGov.
“I come from a community where a lot of people in the Black community don’t go to schools like this because we feel like it’s not for us,” Logan said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “And we want to change that. I want people to see that you have just as much capability and right to be in these schools as anybody else, and that starts with the schools providing an atmosphere where people can see that.”
Though it seems near impossible for these changes to happen overnight, GradGov’s persistent advocacy efforts in favor of diversity and inclusion at the university represent the path to achieving the goal of increased equity, according to Klempner.
“It’s not something where you’re going to wake up and see a change; it’s something that is slowly happening,” Klempner said. “I do believe that the process is underway. It’s just about keeping the pressure on and reminding them every once and a while because GradGov does not have the power to hire faculty, but they do take our advice.”