In the days that followed the publication of a cartoon in the Georgetown Voice depicting then-GUSA presidential candidate Chris Wadibia (COL ’16) being beaten by other candidates, sudents filled St. William’s Chapel at a town hall organized by the Black Leadership Forum this past Sunday. There, students testified to their own experiences with racism and reinforced the imperative to educate.
This may have been best exemplified by the attendance of Dylan Cutler (COL ’16), the cartoonist, who stood among his peers and unequivocally apologized, stating that his work came not from a place of malice but poor judgment.
While the declaration does not justify the genesis of the cartoon, and the numerous editorial failures that resulted in its publication, Cutler’s self-reflection was appreciated, and points the university and its student body toward a path of growth instead of punishment.
Nearly every speaker at the town hall rallied around the hypocrisy that, while the university mandates that students take certain core curricula classes — beyond the university-wide theology, philosophy, and humanities and writing classes required of all incoming freshmen, individual schools’ vague and asymmetric general education requirements mean most students usually take courses such as “Principles of Microeconomics” and “Introduction to International Relations;” there is no “Introduction to Race Relations” or diversity-based requirement.
While courses dedicated to race and ethnic studies — primarily in the sociology department — can fulfill certain requirements, students are not currently obligated to take one. Such a course is necessary for a desperately needed increase in awareness of race on campus — and nationally, in light of current events.
The need for a diversity requirement, one just as ingrained into the Georgetown curricula as “Problem of God” and “Introduction to Ethics,” is an imperative. This is not a radical idea, but rather one that has already been in place at many of our peer institutions, including the University of Chicago and Cornell University, for many years.
While several students, organized on social media as “The Last Campaign for Academic Reform,” have been hard at work on this issue for years now — it is time for the entire university community to get behind this effort.
A solution cannot be reached without the support of students, faculty and administrators. While the town hall hosted a self-selecting group of campus leaders, the onus is on our entire community to educate ourselves and prevent incidents like these from occurring in the future.
One of the most pressing things missing from our current approach is dialogue. This is not for lack of an involved, knowledgeable and well-spoken student body. Every day we see Georgetown students rally behind immigration rights, environmental issues and on-campus housing.
In contrast, the absence of widespread student activism on race issues is jarring, but stems from a lack of knowledge of the issues at hand.
Students should be just as well-versed in our nation’s history as pertaining to race as they are in current affairs, and just as capable of being concerned with these milestones as they are in ticking off the Dow’s closing numbers.
We are not perfect. From poorly worded headlines to an offensive 2008 April Fool’s issue, The Hoya recognizes that we too have something to gain from increased education.
Without the benefit of hindsight, editorial decisions, such as those that led to the publication of the cartoon, are not clear-cut, but responsibility cannot be pushed away or dismissed due to a lack of knowledge about these important issues. Campus media plays a key role in the dissemination of information, and is thus charged with doing so responsibly.
A Georgetown degree confers a number of things — the inculcation of and respect for Jesuit values, a global education and social justice. A diversity requirement has the potential to confer something more — the ability to conduct dialogue on difference in a way that conveys respect and knowledge of our shared experiences.