Student Life diversity working group drafts preliminary recommendations

The Student Life Working Group, one of the three diversity working groups that President John DeGioia established at an April 2009 town hall, is not quite ready to present all of the proposals it has for encouraging more diversity and tolerance in student life at Georgetown. But Joshua Guzman (SFS ’10), pictured right, who co-chairs the group with Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, said they have already come up with several things they’d like to include.

“We’re just trying to find a way that we can institutionalize all that work that students put into making Georgetown a safer place and a more diverse environment,” Guzman said. “In my opinion, there’s definitely a culture of apathy on campus and a lot of people just don’t care, but we definitely should start telling people to care about these issues.”

Last semester, the admission and recruitment working group revealed its suggestions for altering admissions so that it encourages a more diverse applicant pool. These included new scholarships aimed at increasing need-blind aid, diversifying tour guides, changing essay prompts, and many other ways Georgetown could increase enrollment by underrepresented minorities.

“Student life made it a priority to get as much input not only from students, but from staff involved. I think people were really engaged and active in these dialogues and conversation, and overall the feeling was very positive about the work that we’re doing.”

The working group is split into two subcommittees: the Institutional Change Subcommittee for long-term goals and the Student Programs/Organizations Subcommittee for short-term goals. Each subcommittee has provided three preliminary recommendations as a framework for what they hope to get accomplished.

The Institutional Change Subcommittee suggests the creation of a Diversity Fellows program. Members of this program would remain fellows throughout each year at Georgetown, and be responsible for proposing new initiatives and programming related to diversity. The program would get these student leaders involved with CMEA, the LGBTQ Resource Center, and the Women’s Center as a way to provide more cohesion among the various groups already working to improve diversity at Georgetown.

They also have their eyes on Georgetown University’s website. Guzman envisions making an impression on prospective students through an improved website.

“Right when a student is thinking about going to Georgetown, they get on the website and see this institution that supports diversity,” he said, describing what he would like to see. The newer version of the website would include a “diversity portal” on the front page. Links to several resource offices would be made available to students, along with a prominent display of Jesuit values.

The Institutional Change Subcommittee would also like the school to devote more resources to training the Residential Life Staff and encourage a more diverse group of students to become Residential Assistants.

The Student Programs/Organizations Subcommittee is a smaller subcommittee that Guzman says really tried to look at the “general narrative of diversity.”

They recommend a sustained dialogue program meant to engage students in conversations about issues they may face on campus.

“For instance … one about race,” Guzman said. “A group of students will sign up and say we’re interested in this dialogue program. Basically the whole point is to create a dialogue around these issues so that they can learn how to talk about it … The other one is on gender and sexual orientation.”

The committee is considering hiring an outside consultant to assess the community and determine the best way to launch a dialogue.

Other recommendations include a student “leadership in diversity” notation to recognize Georgetown students who actively promote diversity on campus, and a Campus Community Initiative to reinvigorate Jesuit values within the Georgetown community.

The final draft of proposals is not far off.

“We’ll probably be done hopefully before spring break if not by April, but I’m thinking it’ll be a lot sooner than that,” Guzman said. He added that although they are just finishing their first draft of proposals, their vision for the campus’s diversity initiative has already been clearly established. “We’re definitely working hard.”

5 Comments on “Student Life diversity working group drafts preliminary recommendations

  1. “In my opinion, there’s definitely a culture of apathy on campus and a lot of people just don’t care, but we definitely should start telling people to care about these issues.”

    Undoubtedly, making students care about some issues (other than the latest investment banking info session and free beer nights at Rhino) requires more than “institutional” changes.

    I hear Big Brother likes diversity.

  2. “Guzman said. “In my opinion, there’s definitely a culture of apathy on campus and a lot of people just don’t care, but we definitely should start telling people to care about these issues.””

    Telling people what they are supposed to care about is rarely an effective strategy and usually results in a “talking at them” approach. If the much-maligned “Joe & Jane Hoya” don’t feel any compelling need to care about diversity, then drilling “You should care about diversity (you dirty homophobic racist)” into them is probably not going to get them engaged.

    Ultimately, you’re going to have to figure out how to present the issue so that they come to see it as a goal with inherent value to them. That’s the problem with the paradigm as currently constructed – the majority hears “diversity” and they think of themselves as being excluded from whatever it represents. When that happens, they lose their stake in it as a mission and stop caring. Good luck figuring out how effect a paradigm shift – if you success, you’ll be the first.

  3. I see a lot of insisting that the white kids start to “care” about diversity. Is there any move to convince the minority students on campus to start getting involved in larger campus activities and to stop self-segregating?

  4. Couldn’t care less about diversity further than how affirmative action and effective affirmative action hurt me when I have superior merit.

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