A revised “Pathways to Social Justice” requirement will replace Georgetown University undergraduate students’ “Engaging Diversity” core requirement, which has been in place since 2016. The new course will start with the Class of 2027.
The university’s main campus executive faculty approved proposed changes to the curricular requirement Feb. 24. Beginning in the Fall 2023 semester, undergraduates will be required to take a one-credit, pass-fail seminar titled “Race, Power and Justice at Georgetown,” as well as two other classes in different departments meeting the pathways requirement to more deeply investigate social justice.
Students across all five undergraduate schools can currently choose from a wide array of courses like “Business Arabic” and “Issues in Environmental Justice” to meet their two-course “Engaging Diversity” requirement: one course for “Engaging Diversity: Domestic” and one for “Engaging Diversity: Global.”
Under the new requirement, the “Race, Power and Justice at Georgetown” seminar will teach students about Georgetown’s role in the history of enslavement and racism, according to the subcommittee’s proposal.
“This course will teach Georgetown’s history of enslavement of people of African descent and how that history intersects with national and global experiences of slavery and emancipation, settler colonialism, imperialism, and contemporary struggles for justice,” the subcommittee’s proposal reads. “It will develop a common vocabulary for all Georgetown students to continue to engage in conversations about racial equity and justice and should be taken in the first or second year.”
The 2015 creation of the diversity requirement mandated a five-year review of the curriculum’s efficacy. As part of this evaluation, since fall 2020, over 25 students, staff, faculty and administrators from the main campus’s Core Curriculum Committee, the Georgetown University Student Association and the College Academic Council have worked to review and revise the “Engaging Diversity” requirement as part of the Engaging Diversity Revision Subcommittee.
The subcommittee found that students would prefer to focus on understanding concepts of justice and power in today’s world for the diversity requirement, according to biology professor Heidi Elmendorf, a member of the subcommittee.
“Some of this was about balancing historical perspectives with modern day perspectives,” Elmendorf wrote to The Hoya.
“Some of this was about tackling issues of structural inequities of power and privilege rather than relying too singularly on diversity as a standalone concept. And some of this was about looking at our own world — including Georgetown — when we examine these issues rather than always looking elsewhere,” Elmendorf added.
Amanda Yen (CAS ’23), the student co-chair of the subcommittee, said that the current “Engaging Diversity” requirement aims to allow students to recognize different perspectives, but the requirement’s vague language makes it overly broad and confusing.
“A lot of people didn’t understand what the difference between domestic and global was,” Yen told The Hoya. “Because the language of the requirements itself was so vague and broad, it allowed a lot of different courses to count for the requirements.”
The “Engaging Diversity” requirement is intended to teach students about cultural diversity in both global and domestic contexts, according to the university’s website.
“The engaging diversity requirement will prepare students to be responsible, reflective, self-aware and respectful global citizens through recognizing the plurality of human experience and engaging with different cultures, beliefs, and ideas,” the website reads. “By fulfilling the requirement, students will be better able to appreciate and reflect upon how human diversity and human identities shape our experience and understanding of the world.”
Alex Goodale (CAS ’26) finished the “Engaging Diversity” requirement as a first-year student and said the courses that met the “Engaging Diversity” requirements did not cover concepts she would associate with diversity.
“When I think of diversity, I think of doing something to interact with different communities,” Goodale told The Hoya. “And some of the classes, English classes, it’s like you read a book by a Black author, if you read enough books by Black authors, it counts as ‘Engaging Diversity’ — but that’s not really engaging diversity.”
Yen said the two other courses for the pathways requirement will need to go through committee approval to count as pathways courses. Professors will need to demonstrate how the course curriculum meets three of the five pathways learning goals: inclusive scholarship, intersectional approaches to identity, historical legacies of inequality and their contemporary impacts, imagining justice, as well as national, regional and global comparisons.
“This requirement is interrogating structures of power, privilege and oppression rather than just recognizing the plurality of human experiences,” Yen said.
Elmendorf said the new requirement would allow Georgetown students to be more prepared to tackle issues of social justice by learning from each other and from the past.
“We need to get better at understanding one another, at facing difficult truths with openness and honesty, and at creating societal structures that support — not thwart — thriving,” Elmendorf wrote. “That is the core of social justice. This is an issue about the deepest values of the university, about reckoning with our past, and about being the best we can be in our future.”