Students gathered to discuss the need for a structured diversity course requirement on campus in a conversation hosted by Leaders in Education about Diversity and the Philodemic Society in the Black House on Tuesday. Students continued their discussion on the diversity course requirement at a town hall hosted yesterday by the Georgetown University Student Association Multicultural Council and the Last Campaign for Academic Reform.
The diversity requirement, which will be voted on by the Main Campus Executive Faculty on March 27, will mandate all students to enroll in two courses that are currently part of the core requirements, but will have an additional component in the syllabi about issues of power and privilege.
At the discussion on Tuesday, incoming GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16) said that integrating the diversity requirement with current courses decreases the possible cost to the university.
“Ultimately it just seems like it’s no cost to the university. Nothing new is going to be created from it,” Rohan said. But it just makes sense in that a lot of the classes that the diversity requirement is going to fit is classes where you would expect these issues to come up in the class anyway. … It’s almost like a correction on a lot of the syllabi in that if they aren’t tackling these issues that the diversity requirement requires that they tackle, then they’ve been screwing up up to this point.”
Some students expressed the importance of the diversity requirement in shaping the identities and values of the university as a whole.
“Another reason I think the diversity requirement is so important is because when you take a tour at Georgetown, they tell you about Problem of God and that becomes an expectation. When you come here you know our identity and what we stand for,” Reed Howard (SFS ’17) said. “So to have Georgetown say that as a university we are committed to creating individuals who know about diversity and having that become an anchored identity and have people come to this university expecting to engage in these uncomfortable conversations I think is so important.”
By making this requirement more structured, some students hoped that it could bring together more widespread dialogue than that currently being held, which involves only students who are most interested in these issues.
“My hope is that if this diversity requirement is implemented is that we can take these type of discussions and take them outside the Black House, because a lot of people here right now are here because we have an interest in diversity and multiculturalism and the fact of the matter is that we need to spread that throughout campus to bridge the gaps between people,” Steven Xie (COL ’18) said.
Another attendee, Luke Brown (COL ’17), expressed similar hopes that the requirement would prevent discussion from being limited to a small circle of students on campus.
“[If] you don’t have this requirement, I’m afraid that you’ll have the same small group of students who are happy to engage in these types of conversations and so many members of the student body who don’t,” Brown said.
Some students also believe that the requirement would help make campus conversations related to diversity, such as race issues, become more well-informed.
“Something that really concerns me is political correctness and that’s the thing that this conversation really comes back to, ‘I don’t want to say the wrong thing or offend the wrong person even if my intent isn’t there and isn’t malicious,’” Olivia Holmes (COL ’16) said. “And I think if we have classes that inform students on these issues, you never really have to worry about being politically incorrect because you will be informed.”
Philodemic Society President Michael Whelan said that the lack of formal education on diversity issues currently leads to a lack of awareness in current events related to race issues such as the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in August.
“You go up to the average Georgetown student and I think, unlike a lot of colleges across the country, you can ask them ‘What’s your opinion on Vladimir Putin?’ or ‘What’s your opinion on all of these sort of complex international issues or fracking?’” Whelan said. “And I feel like if you know about those issues but then don’t know about [Michael Brown], then there’s a disconnect there.”
To Rohan, this disconnect comes directly from the inability of students to enter into the conversation with any formal instruction on these issues.
“I think it’s the perfect example of why we need a diversity requirement. People are more apt to talk about what they can critically analyze and think about in a nuanced way,” Rohan said.