At diversity open forum, new SCU Chair gets food for thought

The turnout was terrible, but the content was great.

That was Admissions and Recruitment Working Group Co-Chair Ryan Wilson’s (COL ’12) assessment of today’s open meeting about the recommendations that his working group released last week.

Just ten people attended, most of whom were already involved in the working group’s endeavors, but a few outsiders provided helpful critiques of the working group’s draft of recommendations to the University. (The draft includes suggestions such as adding a diversity-oriented option to the Georgetown application’s essay question and diversifying campus groups like Blue and Gray and GAAP).

Katerina Kulagina (GRD ’09), for example, the Associate Director of Admissions for the MSB’s Executive Degree Programs, asked about diversity of Georgetown’s own undergraduate admissions staff. Senior Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jaime Briseno replied that of the 15 or so people working in admissions, he and Assistant Director Kamilah Holder (SFS ’02) were the only two non-white staff members.

Although Briseno and Holder said they agreed that the admissions staff should be more diverse, they pointed out that turnover for admissions officers is very high (typically, people keep the job for only two or three years), so it’s hard to control the ethnic makeup of the staff from year to year. And being a racial minority doesn’t necessarily help admissions officers recruit students of color.

“Just because you’ve got a black kid from New York City, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to connect to you on that level,” Holder said. “They might want to talk to you about their love of foreign languages and linguistics.”

The conversation then broadened to who else looks at a prospective student’s application, and whether that group should be more inclusive. The current students who read prospective students’ applications come out of each school’s Academic Council. Brian Kesten (COL ’10) noted that at least on the College’s Academic Council, students tend to be pretty homogeneous. There was widespread agreement in the room that more minority students and faculty should be encouraged to serve on the admissions committee.

The final feedback came from Dennis Williams, Associate Dean of Students and Director of CMEA.

“I would like to see something in the recommendations that goes to accountability,” Williams said. “How do we know we’ve accomplished the things we’re setting out to do? I’ve got a file full of committee reports and working groups I’ve worked on in the past few years. We have two main goals we’re looking at and there are ways to measure success of both of those things.”

To measure the success of the working group’s recommendations, Williams suggested conducting an “attitudinal survey,” like the broad survey SCUnity conducted last year, and measuring the diversity of the student body about five years down the road.

Whether any of these critiques will turn into official recommendations is uncertain, but Wilson, who was also named chair of SCUnity last week, certainly has a lot of food for thought over winter break.

One Comment on “At diversity open forum, new SCU Chair gets food for thought

  1. When does this end?
    Which admissions staff members that don’t contribute to diversity get fired?
    How does this not become some kind of -ism game when the validity of groups is based on the perceived makeup of its members.
    This looks like a game to keep some people with certain views on campus happy. When are these same people going to claim that the basketball teams are homogenous? This is all almost too silly to be a serious endeavour.
    If everyone just acted like a civilized person, we wouldn’t need all of this ridiculousness. But ridiculousness is not an answer to an imperfect situation.

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