University provides e-mail update on diversity initiatives

Georgetown’s Diversity Initiative working groups have made their verdicts—change should come to the Hilltop.

Last night, Provost James O’Donnell sent out an e-mail that listed the recommendations of the Academic, Student Life, Admissions and Recruitment working groups. This year, the three groups were tasked by President John DeGioia to “develop recommendations about how Georgetown can strength our approach to creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive undergraduate community.”

Out of all the suggestions, highlights include the establishment of an oft-debated diversity requirement, offering a major in African-American studies, a “Diversity Fellows” program, and a push to hire more minority faculty members.

Below, Vox has the complete rundown.

The Academic Working Group suggests:

  • Creating a diversity requirement “as part of the General Education requirements for all undergraduates.”
  • “[Increasing] the numbers of minority faculty throughout the University,” specifically targeting expansion within the departments of African-American studies, Hispanic/Latino studies, and Asian-American studies.
  • Establishing an African-American studies major, to be “followed by” the development of Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino programs.
  • A year-long colloquium that brings together “distinguished academics and intellectuals from within and outside our University to discuss and debate current best practices in the study of race, ethnicity, and culture.”
  • Focus on “inclusive teaching and learning” by promoting current academic programs and opportunity within the University, such as the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship

The Student Life Working Group suggests:

  • Creating a Diversity Fellows program that would offer paid positions to student who are interested in “leading diversity and inclusion efforts in key administrative departments and student initiatives.”
  • Expanding the “A Different Dialogue” program, which began in Spring 2010.
  • Building a “diversity portal” on the University’s web page to provide the Georgetown community about diversity-related events and information.

After the jump, read the Admission Working Group’s recommendations, plus the complete e-mail.

The Admissions and Recruitment Working Group suggests:

  • Working with students to enhance the diversity at events like GAAP and Hoya Saxa Weekend.
  • “Enhancing resources and efforts” to create a more diverse pool of accepted students.
  • Continue supporting “a new college prep program for students from Cristo Rey high schools,” which will begin this summer.

Below, Provost O’Donnell and Vice President Kilkenny’s e-mail, in full:

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community,
On April 20, 2009, President John J. DeGioia announced steps to foster respect for diversity and inclusiveness within the campus community at a student town hall meeting.  President DeGioia charged Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny and Provost Jim O’Donnell with coordinating the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative.  The initiative is composed of three working groups, Academics, Admissions and Recruitment, and Student Life, whose goal is to develop recommendations about how Georgetown can strengthen our approach to creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive undergraduate community.
We are writing to provide you with an update on the work of the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative.  The co-chairs of each of the working groups have met with and submitted their recommendations to President DeGioia and Provost O’Donnell.  As we come to the end of this drafting phase and prepare to enter the phase of implementation, we are pleased to share the recommendations with the members of the Georgetown University community.
This working group has met regularly from May 2009 through April 2010, and addressed the student experience beyond the classroom.  Areas of focus have included life in our residence halls, student organizations and leadership development, new student orientation, and student culture in general.  The importance of a strong community, and of a unity that flows from our diversity, were central in the group’s work.  The working group was comprised of students, administrators, and faculty from across the Main Campus.  Recommendations involving changes at the institutional level were combined with those aimed at specific student programs and experiences.  The development of a more inclusive and respectful student culture was the overarching goal of this group’s recommendations, which include:
  • The development of a Diversity Fellows program – an opportunity for a group of students to take on paid positions coordinating and leading diversity and inclusion efforts in key administrative departments and student initiatives.
  • The continuation and expansion of A Different Dialogue – a program of professionally facilitated inter-group dialogues around such issues as race and sexual orientation – that were successfully piloted in Spring 2010.
  • A new diversity portal on the university web page, highlighting issues of diversity, community, and inclusion for prospective and current students as well as faculty and staff.  This portal should portray Georgetown’s values and commitments related to diversity, and should feature an events calendar and information on diversity-related student groups and programs.
This working group carried out its discussion at an intensive pace, energized by the opportunity to put into practice in the Spring 2010 semester new ideas and structures that would be immediately helpful as we recruit the Class of 2014.  Following an open forum in which draft recommendations were presented, the working group submitted its final recommendations to President DeGioia and Provost O’Donnell in December 2009.  President DeGioia and Provost O’Donnell accepted the recommendations and this working group has entered the implementation phase of its work.
The first step was the creation of a new advisory group on diversity for the Dean of Admissions.  Comprising students, faculty and staff, this group has focused on developing a new optional diversity-related question on the Admissions Application.  Other implementation steps this semester include the expansion of this year’s Hoya Saxa Weekend and the establishment this summer of a new college prep program for students from Cristo Rey high schools.  As they continue their work in the school year 2010-2011, they will continue working towards implementation of their other recommendations, which include:
  • enhancing resources and efforts to improve the yield of accepted students;
  • developing additional pipeline programs; and
  • working to support and enhance the ways that student-led efforts like GAAP, Blue & Gray, and Hoya Saxa Weekend respond to Georgetown’s goal of enhancing the diversity of our undergraduate community.
While the results of our recruitment efforts are not yet finalized, early data suggests that this year Georgetown was able to increase the diversity of the Class of 2014.
Georgetown is a university “founded on the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical, and spiritual understanding.”[1]  We reaffirm this mission and our commitment not only to diversity and pluralism among students, faculty and administration but also to the formation of inquisitive, thoughtful students who are “responsible and active participants in civic life, and [who] live generously in service to others.”[2] These are the great virtues of a liberal education, and they are our standards.  Yet on our campus, there have erupted troubling incidents of prejudice that have moved faculty and administration to respond so we live up to our best intentions of community and liberal education.  The convening of this Academic Working Group, along with the two other working groups, while occasioned by these incidents, is fundamentally designed to adapt our commitments to a changing nation and world.
The curriculum represents the core of the university.   It is the “blueprint” that reveals both a university’s trajectory and its ambition.  The curriculum tells us how an institution of higher learning wants to shape and give direction to intellectual inquiry within its walls.   Any discussion of changes to the curriculum invariably leads us to focus on the basic values and mission of an institution.   What is the purpose of a university?  How should members of the Georgetown University community uphold the principles of a liberal education?  How do we ensure that the university remains a place where learning — including vigorous and respectful debate — occurs?   In these times of globalization and growing interdependence, how should we prepare our students to be good and informed citizens?
We all agreed on how important it is for our university community to understand and confront questions of diversity. We did not reach consensus on a single interpretation of how diversity should be taught. Nor did we wish to impose a specific hierarchy of importance among various sources of identity and diversity. For these reasons the Working Group defined “diversity” as asymmetries of power regarding class, culture, ethnicity, gender, identity, and race (among others) that shape individual experiences and communal interactions.
As we listened and learned from one another throughout our many hours of discussion, it became clear that despite our differences, we agreed that Georgetown needs to do more to prepare its students so they can better understand the diversity of the world around them and serve as informed participants and leaders in our increasingly complex and interconnected world.  The remainder of this report frames and presents the recommendations of the Working Group.
The Working Group proposes recommendations in the following areas:
  • Faculty Recruitment and Hires: the Working Group urges the administration to increase the numbers of minority faculty throughout the University.  We also recommend expanding the number of faculty in African-American studies program and developing the Hispanic/Latino and Asian American studies programs.  These appointments should be embedded within those departments that reflect the disciplinary bent of the candidates.
  • University Colloquium on Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in the Era of Globalization: The Working Group also recommends that the President convene a year-long colloquium that would bring together distinguished academics and intellectuals from within and outside our University to discuss and debate current best practices in the study of race, ethnicity, and culture.
  • African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic/Latino Studies: Our first priority should be to move beyond the minor in African-American Studies and to establish as soon as is practicable a full major, even as we recognize that a significant investment will be required for this program to attain Georgetown’s standards of excellence. African-American studies should have priority for a number of reasons specified in the report, followed by the development of Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino Studies programs.
  • Establishment of a Diversity Requirement in All Four Schools: We recommend the establishment of a Diversity Requirement as part of the General Education requirements for all undergraduates.  This requirement is distinctive, based on Georgetown’s history and context as well as on the specific needs and concerns that we have identified.
  • Pedagogy: The University should increase its emphasis on inclusive teaching and learning, including more active communication about and promotion of existing programs and resources, most of which are associated with the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS).
Thank you for your contribution to this major initiative.  Working together, we can create a community that maximizes the blessings of diversity.
James O’Donnell
Rosemary Kilkenny
Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity
[1] Taken from Georgetown University’s mission statement, found at:
[2] Ibid.

This message was posted by Sonia Jacobson on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative as authorized by the Provost.

17 Comments on “University provides e-mail update on diversity initiatives

  1. “-Creating a Diversity Fellows program that would offer paid positions to student who are interested in “leading diversity and inclusion efforts in key administrative departments and student initiatives.” Paying students to show we’re not prejudiced.
    “-Expanding the “A Different Dialogue” program, which began in Spring 2010.” Putting students in front of large crowds to say we’re not prejudiced.
    “-Building a “diversity portal” on the University’s web page to provide the Georgetown community about diversity-related events and information.” Putting a bland, corporate style page on our already incomprehensible website to show people online we aren’t prejudiced.

    Throwing money and resources around isn’t going to make people more compassionate.

  2. If people really want to be accepted, then how about we don’t point out the differences? Shoving diversity down out throats will only make things worse. Diversity is just veiled racism.

  3. lol you guys are hilarious. enjoy your privileged, sheltered lives


  5. yeah, because sustained white privilege isn’t. ughhhhhhh, go read a book.

  6. Not that I’m calling for a diversity requirement, but your comment makes no sense; racists and those who are simply intolerant or ignorant recognize these differences regardless of whether you “point out the differences”. Last time I checked, ethnic studies programs exist at many top schools, and they aren’t classes where you learn about rap music, sushi, and tacos, but rather history and culturally relevant topics.

  7. Given the enormity of all these changes, I think we should have some sort of a student referendum, especially because of the issue’s sensitivity. Giving people the option to express their opinion without fear of public ridicule would be the best way to see if students actually want these reforms. If they do, I say go forward with them. But if it turns out that there is a vocal minority but a silent majority, I think we need to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate the direction of the University’s approach to diversity issues.

  8. I love the fact that just because some people have reservations about the means toward promoting tolerance, they must be closeted racists. There is a word for that: stereotyping.

  9. That is one of the most sensible and level-headed suggestions I have seen so far. Which means it has little chance of ever being followed.

  10. Has anyone come up with a way to make white students and black students interact more often in common, everyday environments (e.g., membership in the same student groups, participation in the same activities, etc.)?

    No? Alright. ::shrug:: ::walks away::

  11. “This requirement is distinctive, based on Georgetown’s history and context as well as on the specific needs and concerns that we have identified.”

    I’m curious as to what history they’re referring to here. Was it the fact that the University and Georgetown Jesuits sadly owned slaves? There are a bunch of Jesuit high schools (Xavier in New York, or St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia, for example) which were built using money from slave sales? Because if we’re going to appeal to Georgetown’s history of race relations and “student needs” for this requirement, I’d also like to see a universal requirement installed informing students about Georgetown’s Jesuit-Catholic identity. This, I think, would be far more a propos, and it seems to me to be a bit higher on the priority list than a “diversity” layover requirement, as students are by and large woefully ignorant of what it means for us to be a Jesuit and Catholic unviersity. In line with the ratio stuidorum, the early Jesuit document which outlines the purpose of Jesuit education, we should at least all have a common theology curriculum; we should all be reading a core canon of Western theological texts. Such a requirement strikes me as far more in sync with the tradition of Jesuit education and Georgetown’s history than this overlay requirement. I think it would have the potential to transform our culture and foster a near-universal greater love for the school. As always, the problem is money and resources.

    All that being said, a diversity overlay requirement doesn’t sound like the end of the world to me. I do think, however, that diversity for diversity’s sake is a bit disingenuous to the current state of affairs at Georgetown. When I first came here 4 years ago, I heard that Georgetown was the 16th least diverse school in the country, both racially and economically. To be quite frank, the primary way in which Georgetown is failing its Catholic identity is failing to provide students from low-income backgrounds educations here. In the 1970s, Mexican Jesuits abandoned their schools, none of which served the poor, all of which catered to the upper classes. In 20 years, the majority of Catholics in the United States will be Latino immigrants; this is a wonderful opportunity for Georgetown to pick up its slack. Given that for every 9 guys dying in the Society of Jesus, there’s one guy entering, the Jesuits are going to have to refocus their energies in the coming years.

    Let’s be honest here, what these folks are really aiming for is social justice. Might there be a way to tweak the “diversity” requirement into a “social justice” requirement? That would be far more characteristic of a Jesuit education, and it would be far easier to find courses in all departments that would satisfy the requirement.

  12. I dont think we should be trying to “make” black students and white students interact with one another.
    >>>Are you suggesting that we should assign people clubs as they enter school? “Hey you, black kid, you’re a writer for the Hoya now. Dont like it. Tough.”

    :: or is it more like this ::

    “To the Voice, I’m sorry your request for funding has been denied. You are not diverse enough – good luck next year.”

  13. @ @Tim,

    No, I’m not a fan of either of those options. “Make” may have been too strong a word. But I do think that as long as the black kids have BSA, Hispanic kids have their club, Filipinos have their club, etc., etc., etc., the campus will always remain divided.

    And no, I’m not saying those organizations should be done away with. I have no problem with people being proud of or celebrating shared heritage/culture. But I think that someone who spends their extracurricular time exclusively working and socializing within those groups is doing a disservice to himself/herself, and the Georgetown community as a whole, because that’s one fewer person who can contribute to the “diversity” of the ALL-INCLUSIVE Georgetown organizations.

  14. what are examples of these all inclusive Georgetown organizations that you speak of? GAAP, IRC, NSO, The Corp, etc are cultural groups….they have the same type of students that identify and celebrate a shared heritage and culture. Bottom line those organizations do not appear to be open to students that come from less stereotypical backgrounds. Why don’t white kids join the cultural groups? The purpose of them is to introduce those interested in the culture to other viewpoints….something the kids in the “all inclusive” organizations probably need to do.

  15. The Corp needs to show interest in another culture? Is your argument that minorities don’t join non-ethnic clubs because there aren’t minorities already in them? How would you go about changing this? Assigning the campus clubs a quota of blacks/Hispanics/Asians? That sounds terrible.

  16. @Ryan

    NSO is run by a Pakistani, IRC is almost majority-minority…know what the hell you’re talking about before you say something.

  17. Pingback: Vox Populi » DeGioia gives update on diversity, inclusiveness initiatives

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