The Academics Working Group prepares to release recommendations for Georgetown
Later this month, the Academics Working Group plans to release its first proposals for how Georgetown can improve diversity in its curriculum. The group, one of three diversity working groups formed by President DeGioia last spring after The Hoya‘s April Fools’ Issues prompted a broad discussion of diversity at Georgetown, is geared toward determining what Georgetown is lacking in its course offerings with regards to diversity. Stephanie Frenel (SFS ’12), who serves as a student representative to the faculty co-chairs of the group, said its recommendations will probably include recommendations for new course requirements.
The group has been working to examine how Georgetown’s curriculum offerings compare to peer schools’ and form suggestions for how Georgetown can improve their requirements in ethnic studies since the Spring of 2009. Over the summer, they compared the curriculum at Georgetown to that of schools with similar rankings to determine where Georgetown needed to enhance diversity in its course offerings.
The group is co-chaired by Veronica Salles Reese, the Director for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Professor Eusebio Mujal-Leon of the Government Department and began as small discussion groups among students that were loosely overseen by Provost James O’Donnell. Duyen Bui (SFS ’10), who acts as a facilitator for student discussions and Stephanie Frenel (SFS ’12), who serves as a student representative to the faculty co-chairs, were the two students mainly responsible for gathering student input on how to increase diversity in the curriculum.
The graphs above show the results of their research. Points were allotted to Georgetown and its peer institutions based on their course offerings. The University of Maryland-College Park was one of the institutions with a model curriculum for ethnic studies. They examined their top institutions like Harvard, Columbia, and Yale, finding that each has a much more diverse curriculum than Georgetown. As the graph shows, Georgetown is at the bottom compared to its peers, and is the only school that offers only a minor in African American studies with no general education requirements or majors in any of the three diversity areas.
Bui said that based on these findings, one question became obvious to the whole group: “If we’re one of the top international institutions, why are we so behind?”
Having laid out their data and ideas, they examined syllabi for different courses to determine what an ideal course in this curriculum would look like. Improvements, they decided, would include an improved African-America Studies program, and additional faculty for the Asian American and U.S.-Latino studies programs.
They anticipate that their preliminary draft of their suggestions will include what Frenel calls a “two-tiered diversity requirement.” The requirement would mandate that students must take one course related to international diversity, and one course related to domestic diversity. Once student took a course in one of the three programs, they would be cross-listed (for example, a student would be allowed to take a course in African-American literature as part of their English requirement and diversity requirement.” Currently, the working group is looking to put together a set of criteria a course would have to have in order to be qualify for the diversity requirement.
Among worries about the proposals’ acceptance, the group also has concerns about where it plans to acquire funds.
“Funding has always been one of the root issues in these proposals, but we push for the importance of the content,” Bui said, noting that where the working group would get the funds to hire new faculty and resources in the midst of widespread economic turmoil is an issue. “As long as we can be sure these can be made known to be important, then hopefully [the administration] can make diversity an initiative and hopefully the work that we’ve done so far will come to fruition.”
Still, Frenel believes the initiatives proposed by the working groups would add “a greater understanding of the world that we live in … especially for our location and where we are and these areas having such a large African American [population].”
Students have been working closely to be in contact with President DeGioia and the Capital Gains Campaign, a board made up of Georgetown alums who focus on areas of Georgetown campus that need fundraising, in order to raise money for their proposals. Last semester, co-signers and representatives sent President DeGioia a letter reminding him about his commitment to diversity and suggested that he continue furthering his actions in favor of a greater emphasis on their goals. Bui considered a response letter that he sent to them on October 27, 2009 as a sign that their desires are being heard and their needs will soon be met.
“I’ve been through these four years and I’m thankful for what Georgetown has given me,” Bui said. However, she added, “Better diversity in classes are necessary if Georgetown wants to be a leading institution.”