Provost O’Donnell on the progress of Georgetown’s diversity working groups

As debate surrounding the proposals of the Academic Life Working Group picks up, Provost James O’Donnell, left, met with student press on Thursday to discuss the progress all three working working groups have made this school year.

“At the end of the day,” he said, the initiatives are about “helping Georgetown line up with its own best image of itself …. To get us where we want to be, and aren’t always as good as being as we ought to be.”

He and President John DeGioia, he said, accepted the recommendations of the Admissions and Recruitment Working Group. First and foremost, Georgetown is “really ramping up its campaign for more financial aid dollars.” One third of Georgetown’s ongoing Capital Campaign, he said, will go to create more need-based scholarships. The University is not yet publicizing how much it has taken in through the Capital Campaign but O’Donnell said, “It’s gonna be a bunch more than we took in last time.”

“Last time, we took in billion. So my official statement is, this one will be a billion and a bunch.”

The University can begin to implement some of the suggestions of the three working groups right away. He said that a desire diversity will be a part of the faculty hiring process for next school year. Others, however, will take more time and resources.

“Developing the African American Studies major probably requires a reallocation of resources or new resources, preferably news resources. Faculty hiring and curriculum changes can be added through existing resources, but we could always have more.”

When asked whether the University was still considering an Asian-American Studies program or Latino Studies program, he said, “I think that there’s just no question that we need to do better in African American Studies. That’s somewhere where we’re way behind our peer schools. Beyond that, it becomes a question of, how much effort do you put into further individual ethnic communities, or do you study ethnic communities theoretically? …. We are already better at thinking about, studying every single other part of the world except America …. We should be thinking about how our American studies about African American, Asian, Latino groups can draw on our larger understanding of the world.”

He and DeGioia have also put together the suggested advisory group to the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, he said, to provide feedback on the success of and ideas for admissions strategies that aim to create more diverse incoming classes of students. They will ask this group for a report sometime between July and December that will help them assess the success of the school’s policy in attracting a diverse student body. The report should help administrators review what yield looks like from the few areas that the admissions office travels to, and reveal how closely the matriculating pool of high school students mirrors the admitted pool of students in a year where Georgetown tried to encourage a more diverse group of prospective students to consider Georgetown.

“We spent some money to make sure that a few more kids who were early action candidates could get here for GAAP weekends,” he said. “For some reason, there’s no magic quite like getting students through those front gates. Do that, and they’re way more likely to come here for school.”

The admissions office is also thinking about how to change the way its website and Blue and Gray tours present themselves to make Georgetown more appealing to more diverse prospective students.

O’Donnell did not discuss the Student Life Working Group, which is mainly working with Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson. He did have a lot to say about the Academic Working Group, which has attracted a lot of attention for suggesting the University add diversity requirement into the curriculum.

“The discussion of a diversity requirement obviously attracted the most lively discussion, and I think the proposal might be slightly revised because of that,” he said. As an example of how the recommendation might be altered, later, he said, “There was discussion over whether the definition of diversity was coherent and clear enough, so we may have to rethink that.”

O’Donnell said that the Academic Working Group had progressed most slowly out of all three groups because the issues are the most complicated and involve the most input, where other groups’ recommendations, like the Admissions and Recruitment Working Group, can just be approved by himself and DeGioia. However, he said that he and other administrators hope to have the work on the Academic Working Group complete, so discussions can begin about how to implement them, including when to implement the potential new diversity requirement.

“As President DeGioia says, first, this needs to be owned by the faculty. Some part of the success of this is just letting the campus have the common experience of discussing this.” Later, he added, “There’s a formal process. At the same time, we are aware that making sure engaging as wide a group of people as we can in the formal process is important.”s

8 Comments on “Provost O’Donnell on the progress of Georgetown’s diversity working groups

  1. @Err…

    Hahaha. To be fair, though, the Asian Studies program is only a minor (or ‘certificate’, as they say), while he was speaking in the context of the diversity proposal for an African-American studies major.

  2. the working group proposed an ASIAN AMERICAN studies program…

    and Provost O’Donnell is in no way serious about diversity. he will do as little as possible to promote diversity and as much as possible to protect the establishment.

  3. “and Provost O’Donnell is in no way serious about diversity. he will do as little as possible to promote diversity and as much as possible to protect the establishment”

    Yep. That’s what it is. Showing some reticence about one particular method of promoting diversity means that he’s completing against promoting diversity. It’s kind of like how people who question the efficacy of, say, race-based affirmative action are completely against social equality.

    Such a nuanced reading of the issue. It’s a wonder why activists on this campus don’t win more adherents to their views. Of course, they can imagine just one reason: I am one of the few who actually care. Uncritical, isolating, and self-satisfying: it is the perfect explanation for the activist Hoya.

    Maybe it’s that Georgetown’s current course requirements are a loosely-regulated mishmash of both useful and useless courses, and many people are hesitant to change a system that is already watered-down so much that students can graduate with a B.A. in context-less esoterica. Maybe it’s that provost takes curriculum changes seriously and doesn’t want to rush into a decision. Maybe it’s that people feel this movement is a response to a political grievance, not an academic weakness – and if it IS an academic weakness, it’s not the most important one the University faces and shouldn’t be the focus of its time and resources. I can imagine a LOT of reasons why somebody would be skeptical about this effort, none of which require the self-righteousness of saying “well, that person isn’t serious about diversity!”

    Very little on the campus will change as long as everyone who doesn’t march on the president’s office is subjected to lectures and moralizing. An initiative may be started or an office opened, but the campus culture – which is what people deal with on a day-to-day basis – will lag far behind the institutional reforms. Great, so we have a diversity program at NSO. It doesn’t change the fact that Georgetown remains a segregated place. I don’t know if anyone has a solution for that more fundamental problem, and maybe it’s just easier to force institutional change, which offers the comfort of tangible results. But such changes do not strike at the core of the issue, and it’s not even obvious that they’re the best way to really change the campus. So maybe we can all take a deep breath and dispense with the moralizing and the bad-faith accusations.

  4. the working group proposed an ASIAN AMERICAN studies program…

    and Provost O’Donnell is in no way serious about diversity. he will do as little as possible to promote diversity and as much as possible to protect the establishment.

  5. Chill, yo. Students just 2 get need some f2f with POORs (people of other races). CUOTF (catch you on the flip)! JO’D

  6. @rfh
    Best serious Vox comment I’ve ever read. Correct on all points.

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