Georgetown students and faculty debate diversity at Academic Working Group Forum
The Academic Working Group, one of the three working groups formed by President John DeGioia for the University’s Diversity Initiative, held an open forum Thursday evening to present the draft of its review of diversity in Georgetown academics, and its recommendations. Attending the forum were members of the working group, faculty, and students, some of whom had worked to help create the draft.
The draft report outlined areas where it felt the University failed to expose students academically to diversity and pluralism. It met some criticism from present faculty.
“Where Georgetown appears to fall short is in providing its students with a sense of the diversity… of contemporary U.S. society,” the report read.
Members of the working group said they had carefully examined Georgetown’s curriculum, which Eusebio Mujal-León, a co-chair of the working group, called “the central core of the university.”
One of the recommendations the working group presented in their report was the implementation of a diversity requirement, under which students would be required to take two “diversity requirement” classes, one examining issues pertaining to diversity on the national level, and other examining diversity issues on the international level. This requirement would be an “overlay requirement,” meaning it would not add to the number of courses students are required to take. Rather, certain classes that are already considered requirements by the university could also count towards filling the diversity requirement.
The proposal of a diversity requirement met some resistance among faculty.
“There are many more ways to encourage diversity on campus, to encourage sensitivity to issues… many ways of encouraging [that], but seeing the curriculum as the vehicle to do this, we open ourselves up to all kinds of problems,” Professor Charles King, from the government department, said.
Some faculty felt that the diversity requirement would constrict students’ academic freedom, while others wondered who would decide what classes fill the requirement, and how they would decide.
Other members of the faculty and several students voiced support for the diversity requirement, arguing that without the requirement little would change, and that students who most need exposure to the type of classes that would fill the diversity requirement would continue to opt out.
Leslie Hinkson, an assistant professor in the Sociology Department, said that there was little debate on issues of diversity in the classes she taught because the students who sought out the class tended to agree. She felt a diversity requirement would help bring student who wouldn’t normally participate in such discussions into the classroom, which would lead to more dynamic debate.
Taimur Case (COL ’10), president of the Black Student Alliance at Georgetown, also voiced support for the requirement.
“It’s kinda been my experience over the past four years that commitment to diversity isn’t in the classroom …. It seems as if diversity is only an option,” Case said.
The committee said that it could not agree on a definition for diversity, but suggested the creation of a committee composed of faculty and students that would review each class’s syllabus to determine whether it could fill the diversity requirement.
The working group also recommended strengthening ethnic studies programs and increasing the diversity of Georgetown’s faculty, specifically by hiring more faculty from underrepresented groups. One suggestion made was for the creation of a full major in African-American studies.
The committee said their draft would go through another town hall after which it would have to work its way through the executive faculty, the deans and the Provost before reaching the President.
Mujal-León said the committee was racing against the clock in some ways, and urged that some steps be taken soon.
“Otherwise we are going to remain in our ghettos and protective silos,” Mujal-León said.