Still struggling to get many of the recommendations it issued in a 2009 report implemented by the university, the Student Commission for Unity is seeking to revitalize its presence on campus.
“Our fight is to make sure that the ideas, recommendations and documents from a few years ago do not go [uforgotten],” SCU President Ryan Wilson (COL ’12) said.
The seven-member commission aims to address the status of underrepresented racial groups on campus and in the admissions process, as well as the role of diversity among faculty members. It also advocates for the further development of academic programs such as women’s and gender studies and the possible creation of programs for Asian-American and Latino-American studies.
According to Wilson, the university administration needs to focus on diversity in its academics and treatment of faculty. He particularly suggested giving tenure to more minority professors and making diversity issues a bigger topic of conversation with prospective students.
“We have brought up diversity issues to Hoya Saxa Weekend, Blue & Gray Tour Guides and [the Georgetown Admissions Ambassadors Program] in order … to project the university’s mission to prospective students,” he said.
Brian Kesten (COL ’10) and Brian Cook (COL ’10) founded the SCU in April 2009 in the interest of researching the extent to which Georgetown was living up to its Jesuit mission through diversity initiatives. The students were responding to two alleged hate crimes against Georgetown students as well as what they believed to be The Hoya’s minimal coverage of a rally and vigil for the Jena Six, six black students from Louisiana who were tried for attempted murder in a case widely cited as an example of racial injustice.
The commission was originally a part of the Georgetown University Student Association because several of its founding members were also members of GUSA. While this initially eased the process of funding allocation, according to current SCU member and former GUSA Senator Stephanie Frenel (SFS ’12), the SCU and GUSA grew apart because the student government did little to help implement the SCU survey recommendations.
In spring 2009, the SCU officially split from GUSA.
During the 2008-2009 academic year, the SCU surveyed 1,339 Georgetown students about their perceptions of bias and diversity on campus. It released these findings and resulting recommendations to the university in January 2009.
Most recently, the SCU was largely responsible for helping develop the Main Campus Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, a series of working groups created in April 2009 to address diversity issues within admissions and recruitment, student life and academics at Georgetown. According to Frenel, the SCU has also contributed to the establishment of A Different Dialogue, a program focused on encouraging diversity through conversation, and The Doyle Initiative, an effort to include diversity in academic settings.
Wilson said that the SCU’s current work has been stalled because of a lack of response from the administration to the recommendations of the commission’s 2009 report.
Although the Diversity Initiative led to the hiring of more minority faculty and strengthened the diversity of the undergraduate applicant pool, Wilson felt that very few of the Admissions and the Recruitment Working Groups’ recommendations concerning the culture surrounding diversity in academics and admissions have been addressed.
These suggestions included the addition of an additional box on the admission applications that includes forms of gender expression outside of male and female and the provision of funding for students to attend multicultural college fairs and recruitment events as well as the National Campus Pride College Fairs. The report also advocated for providing a means of communication between the appropriate accepted students and current faculty, staff and undergraduates who work with underrepresented religious groups and services that address student disabilities.
“We have several diversity working groups on campus. What the SCU wants to do is implement the great work that has been produced,” Wilson said.