Diversity Working Groups hold town hall meeting

On Thursday night, students from the Diversity working groups commissioned by President John DeGioia’s office gathered for a town hall meeting in Copley Formal Lounge.  Although the meeting was sparsely attended, a number of prominent administrators were present, and a wide range of ideas on diversity were presented.

For a more thorough examination of the working group’s progress, see Lily Kaiser’s article in the print edition of the Voice.

Vice President for Strategic Development Dan Porterfield explained that the groups had been working hard over the summer to draft concrete recommendations for Provost James O’Donnell and DeGioia.

“[The working groups examined] how can we increase the number of underrepresented groups in the undergraduate population … [and] how can we ensure that all students who are applying to Georgetown hear a clear and compelling message about the standards of citizenship, civic engagement, and respect present,” Porterfield said.

When the meeting was opened up to members of the audience, the discussion became more heated with one individual shouting loudly at the assembled members of the working groups.  A faculty member (who did not give her name) also supported the statements of the irate audience member and argued passionately that Georgetown needed to pursue greater recruitment of minority Professors.

“We’re weaving and creating stronger connections among students … that, as much as possible, breaks down some of the walls and divisions that we experience at our life together at Georgetown,” Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said.

Although the specific recommendations generated by the working groups remain to be seen, panelists spoke out strongly for programs geared toward recruiting minority students, the creation of minority studies programs, and stronger financial aid programs.

16 Comments on “Diversity Working Groups hold town hall meeting

  1. I can’t wait to see what comes from this. Should be comical for sure.

  2. “[P]rograms geared toward recruiting minority students” to do what? Come to the school? Or to get involved with the programs? Because if it’s the latter, then a program geared towards recruiting minorities to the program seems a bit circular.

    Also, black Georgetown students should try to get involved with some of the programs, clubs, organizations, etc. that already exist. That might help make the groups more diverse.

    All of this started w/ the Hoya. How many black students have taken up writing and editing positions? If it’s not “several,” then I ask: Who is in the Hoya office expressing minority views? Shouldn’t it actually be a minority student?

  3. Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon spoke on admissions a few years ago to the Washingtonian. http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/businesscareers/5442.html

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “We know it’s very hard to yield African-Americans. So schools can improve their yield by passing by the top 100 African-Americans in the applicant pool, where maybe you’d get about five or six to enroll, and admitting the third 100, where you’d get 75 percent. That’s what a lot of people do; they say they’re trying to “manage their enrollment.”

    Jack and I—we’re dinosaurs. We’re still in the old “dean of admissions” mentality where admissions is an activity of the faculty deciding who gets to come and study here. But that term—“enrollment management”—is going to come even to Georgetown and Virginia ultimately. “

  4. This group is doing incredibly important work. Joe C represents a lot of people on campus who feel they have the right to dehumanize minority, low income and LGBTQ students on campus for speaking up for the same rights and programs that our parents struggled for 40 years ago… because Georgetown NEVER changed! Why chastise people for standing up for themselves? If you really have a problem, try

    And Joe C – why is the onus always on minority students? Where are you at BSA meetings? MEChA meetings? At rallies, parties, discussions, study groups, or protests? Because there are NEVER more than one or two of the 4500 white students in a room full of people of color. Those one or two white students on campus actually make any effort to get to know minority students where they are comfortable, while the other 4498 white students just minimize their voices in the Hoya, in anonymous chat rooms or behind their backs. why is it only up to minority students to join historically white organizations? why do minority students always have to join white students and white groups, but never the other way around?

  5. Rick, the difference is that the “historically white organizations” you named are the way they are for historical reasons, rather than inherent ones. A student newspaper does not have to be lily-white; a comparable newspaper at a school with a much different racial and ethnic composition would probably be much different in terms of makeup.

    BSA, MEChA, etc., on the other hand, are inherently going to be composed primarily of members of their titular minority. It wouldn’t be the Black Students Association anymore if the vast majority of its members weren’t black; that would defeat the very purpose of the group’s existence! The very reasons for the groups’ existence – to allow students of a particular minority to come together and produce a more audible voice through that university – becomes diluted if there are too many outsiders. This besides the fact that the very names of the groups send a message: why would a non-black student join the Black Student Association? It says right there in the name that it’s not for them!

    The other problem is that groups like BSA, MEChA, etc. are largely focused – as is their right – on matters of race, ethnicity, etc. Minorities cannot truly become integrated into all structures of the university experience unless they achieve representation across a full range of organizations and areas of university life. Having a few dozen white kids join the ethnic interest groups isn’t going to do anything to achieve this diversification.

    To extrapolate this out to the broader university level: many universities, in order to “diversify” their faculty, go the easy route of simply adding women’s and African-American studies programs, since it is guaranteed that the faculty in those programs will be women and minorities (this is not to denigrate those fields, which have made many valuable contributions). But TRUE diversification is only achieved when representation exists not just in a few “token” departments that end up serving as academic ghettoes, but across the whole spectrum.

    But, as Charlie Deacon said, that is hard work. It’s much easier to fill up on the professors in those fields that are in larger supply (the third hundred, as it were) than working to attract the still-too-small number of top minority performers in other fields. And I don’t just mean celebrity-types like Michael Eric Dyson, although anything is better than nothing.

  6. Rick James,
    I’m not Joe C, but I’ll respond anyway because I think you’re talking to me. Why should a white kid join the Black Student Alliance? Or the NAACP? These things have a decidedly racial component and white students simply don’t fit in. Most, if not all, white students agree w/ the cause of the NAACP, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to get white students to join groups with “Black” and “Colored People” in the name. Whereas “The Hoya” sounds pretty open and inclusive to me. It sounds like it is inviting to all Hoyas.

    Are there any groups on campus that are not explicitly defined by a racial mission but which have primarily black student membership? I’m really asking, because if there are, then I would say “Yes, white students should be more proactive in getting involved there as well.” But as long as minority groups define themselves by race and the “white groups” have no limitations on who can apply and participate, I do think the onus is on minority students to step outside that bubble. White students honestly don’t feel like they can step into it, nor can they, probably. (Is the BSA really going to be receptive if suddenly 20 white kids come plodding into the next meeting with nothing at all to contribute to the group’s objectives? I doubt it. At this point, I think the Hoya would be thrilled if 20 BSA members said “I want to get involved.”)

  7. “Are there any groups on campus that are not explicitly defined by a racial mission but which have primarily black student membership?”

    The basketball team! Although JTIII is working on it – now that we’ve got Nikita, Ryan, and Stepka, we’re up to 3 whiteys. If only Omar hadn’t left…

    More seriously, I think a few of the performance groups – Groove Theory, maybe Step Team – are about as close as you’re going to get. Groove Theory is probably the most integrated group on campus, from a racial standpoint. Protestant Ministry also has heavy minority representation, for obvious reasons.

  8. Rick,

    I sincerely apologize for seeming to belittle this cause.

    My comments about this turning out to be comical is not in reference to the validity of these efforts. I agree that Georgetown needs more interaction between diverse groups of students. This starts both on campus and by increasing the yield of minority students. One factor that is clearly hurting both minority and white students is Georgetown’s weak financial aid packages, as compared with our peer institutions.

    The reason I said that this would turn out to be comical is the previous history the Georgetown administration has had with dealing with this issue and other similar issues (see LGBTQ issues from 1-2 years ago). The administration’s standard operating procedure has been 1) see a problem 2) ignore a problem for as long as possible 3) seem surprised when the university community becomes enraged by the problem 4) overreacting to that problem. That’s why it is comical.

  9. All –

    I think yall are missing an important piece – why do you think those organizations exist in the first place?? Not so long ago, the groups that are “historically white” were explicit in there racial preference, excluding minority students and advocating “separate but equal.” Not that long ago. And the attitudes that divide our campus/nation reproduce. At what point do you expect white students to no longer promote hostile environments, especially when the students populating our campus come from the most segregated segments of our society (wealthy white people vs. underprivileged minority students, of which there are thousands of the former and maybe dozens of the later at Georgetown), and expect minority students to feel included in the Hoya, which persists, seemingly intentionally, in marginalizing minority voices. And of course, you put the onus on minority students, NEVER white students to confront the problem, except maybe suffer some diversity training about how to tolerate minority students. That sounds an awful lot like nothing has changed.

    Tim – first of all, race was and is ascribed to minority students, not the other way around. White is normal, everyone else is “other.” The bubble that you speak of may look like some cushy clique to you, but don’t forget that it only exists because those minority students (whether black, latino or asian) were forced into oppressive ghettos (in society as evident at Georgetown). Second, I would love to know from what experience you think the BSA wouldn’t be receptive to 20 white people visiting. Would that be confused? Yes, shocked even. But definitely hospitable. You should try it. And don’t expect 20 black kids to join the Hoya until they can put together a generation of objective journalism and demonstrate solidarity with their own community. Until then, the sentiment that minority and multiracial students are less intellectually capable, as expressed throughout the Hoya’s April Fools veiled in satire and articulated in weekly opinion columns, please try to be proactive and stop trying to control people or tell them to get over the barriers you insist on ignoring, and thus perpetuate.

    Yes, this is exceptionally difficult work, especially when the campus is largely disengaged with the process either because they don’t care or don’t believe change is possible. I myself grapple in the latter category. But nothing ever got any better by not trying. If the right people are on these groups, and DeGioia/O’Donnell are listening, maybe we have a chance. After all, we have never done anything this expansive on campus in so many areas with so many decision makers on board.

  10. “I think yall are missing an important piece – why do you think those organizations exist in the first place?? Not so long ago, the groups that are “historically white” were explicit in there racial preference, excluding minority students and advocating “separate but equal.” Not that long ago.”

    Um, I call complete and 100% bullshit. There was NEVER, at ANY TIME in Georgetown’s history, racial segregation of student groups. To suggest that there were is absolutely wrong and absolutely irresponsible.

    Georgetown has admitted African and West Indies students from the beginning of the 20th century, though the first African-Americans didn’t enroll until after WWII.

    Let’s get our facts right before going off on ridiculous assertions as some attempt to justify the current situation.

  11. John Jeffords, I thought your point about faculty diversity was very interesting, I appreciate getting the chance to read that. I had never really thought about faculty diversity in that way before.

    First in response to Tim’s question on groups that are disproportionately minority without having “minority” in the title, my first reaction is the gospel choir, the gospel service, GU Brothers for Christ, and GU sisters for Christ, (all of which, by the way, have very overlapping circles of membership). I would argue that this isn’t as indicative of a big problem as it might be for other groups, since I suspect the number of Hoyas coming in who come from a background they’d be comfortable identifying as “gospel,” is also disproportionately minority. That being said, I do recognize the situation is far from ideal, and I feel the office of campus ministry is making an honest effort to change the status quo, and that the groups themselves are more than open to white members. (I myself was part of one of the above for some time, for the record.)

    Rick James,
    First, I find it odd that you seem to think people cowards for posting anonymously, while you yourself take up a fictional moniker.

    Second, and more importantly, I think you are too caught up in the past. You seem to be arguing that because there was overt discrimination by whites in the past, then white students today must be racist, even if they claim otherwise. I really think that’s ridiculous. You ask “At what point do you expect white students to no longer promote hostile environments.” I expect that to be the case today. Right now. If that’s not the case, I want specific examples, and it needs to be reported and dealt with immediately.

    You state the Hoya marginalizes minority voices. Can you give an example of a time when this happened? When the Hoya had an opportunity to voice the viewpoint of the minority, but instead chose a less newsworthy or less well articulated viewpoint from the majority?

    You state that minority students are “forced into oppressive ghettos (in society as evident at Georgetown).” That is utterly ridiculous. Please name for me one time when *anyone* was *forced* to do *anything*.

  12. I understand why white people would make those arguments, I really think I do. I don’t think anyone who was a part of the minority community would ever diminish other people’s experiences to the extent that yall are. I FOR ONE, HAVE EXPERIENCED THOSE THINGS. My friends have. I could post a dozen Hoya articles from the past 3 years, no problem. Read the Jena Six coverage in 2007, The april fools articles from the past two years, or any article by Jeff Long or D. Pierce Nixon, as prominently featured weekly without any countering viewpoint. Or the generally poor coverage of any event in the minority community since I’ve been here. Getting the dates wrong for Ramadan, turning the work of the student commission for unity into a controversial effort despite being research based. Students don’t get mad when there are major incidents because they are isolated and break students from their insulated “ghettos” with a racist reality, but express frustration publicly and privately because there isn’t an outlet for many students in our reality. And don’t give me the same nonesense that its on the minority students to make a difference. The distrust and the hurt reproduces with every new generation of Hoyas, and each new class gets a myriad of reasons confirming the sentiments of the upperclassmen without fail. of course.

    I don’t mean to get caught up in history – but the fact is history reproduces itself and helps explain the present. If a Georgetown education hasn’t taught you that its failed miserably. Please, try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine that what I’ve said is true. I can only speak for myself and my friends, and I can tell you that what I’ve expressed is an honest expression of my experiences and those of my community. Then try to imagine how that could ever happen. Because it does, it is real, and denying it is a major part of the problem.

  13. Rick,

    You cite a lot of troubling instances from the last few years. However, I think there’s a fundamental disconnect between how you interpret those instances and how “we,” by which I mean some of the non-minority readers and posters on this blog for whom I am now arrogantly claiming to speak, see those instances.

    The Jena Six coverage is debatable. Arguably a much larger and more vocal gathering of students getting together to discuss a prominent University issue (alcohol policy) deserved more coverage in a campus newspaper than the Jena Six rally, which was not as directly University-related and had fewer attendees. Both received coverage, it’s just a matter of which should have been the lead. Even if you disagree with this premise, there’s no doubt in my mind that the difference in coverage had much more to do with a lack of awareness of the Jena Six matter and a bias towards more obviously campus-related news than any conscious or even unconscious racial motivation. I was there in the newsroom when that whole situation went down and I speak from firsthand experience — there was nothing racist about it.

    The April Fool’s articles were in terribly bad taste and were examples of sad attempts at satire failing in the most disastrous way, but again I don’t think that they were motivated by any conscious or unconscious racial motivation. They just served to mock campus news, which ranged from GUSA election meltdowns, to DeGioia absenteeism, to the race conversations campus has prominently had. Don’t get me wrong, they were inappropriate and racist on their face, but were they intended as racist? I don’t think so. They were an error. No less offensive, but still different.

    Jeff and Pierce’s work is controversial and meant to be so, but is often misinterpreted by the minority community according to Jeff and Pierce’s intentions. One of Pierce’s articles argued, basically, that frank discussion of race is stymied since any mention of race is met with charges of racism — that was its only point — and it was met with charges of racism! Another was that it’s historically inaccurate for Georgetown to truly claim Patrick Healy as this country’s first major black university president, since at the time his African-American ancestry was neither known nor acknowledged by anyone, and he was not visibly black. I’ve heard lots of black students make this argument, but when Pierce, who is a historical purist, made this argument, suddenly it was racist. I could buy that it was unintentionally insensitive, but calling it racist is going way too far. None of Jeff or Pierce’s articles were ever racist, and seeing them as racist really requires a massive stretch of interpretation and a paranoid mind.

    Lack of coverage of minority community events probably stems from a lack of awareness due to a lack of outreach on behalf of the minority community to the papers, and not racism. As someone who has worked with clubs to get their events covered, I can tell you that it’s something you have to work at. No group gets covered without soliciting coverage through marketing and relationship-building with Hoya authors and editors. Even so, I don’t think cultural events for racial minorities are proportionately less covered than other groups. Jews (14%), for example, represent about twice the proportion of blacks (7%), Hispanics (6%) or Asians (9%) on campus, but I don’t think that Jewish community events are especially well covered, despite there being many Jews in the Hoya staff. What minority events are you claiming aren’t covered? And what’s your argument that they should be considered newsworthy rather than just among the hundreds of events taking place on campus every week?

    Getting the dates wrong for Ramadan is a factual error. I’m Jewish and I get the dates wrong for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur practically every year… I hope I’m not secretly a self-loathing anti-Semite. The dates move with the lunar calendar; it’s sloppy reporting, but not racist.

    Your attempt to whitewash the SCU is also telling, since you’re engaged in much more truth-bending than the Hoya ever was. Saying it’s “research-based” does not mean it’s not controversial, as you claim. Research is USUALLY controversial. Still, even accepting that the SCU is “research-based,” their methods, accusations that their research had an agenda and was not truly objective, are all reasonable sources of debate and controversy. Having read and taken the SCU survey, I can attest personally to the viability of that debate. Still, the REAL controversy over SCU, though, was not over the research but over its application. The #1 “controversy” was over the RECOMMENDATIONS, such as mandatory diversity training and having racial quotas for dorms. I’m sorry but none of SCU’s “research-based” findings (with which I’m intimately familiar) dealt with questions like dorm quotas and mandatory diversity training. Saying that they did some research doesn’t in any way suggest that they shouldn’t be regarded as controversial.

    I agree with you on one point, though, that it shouldn’t just be minority students’ responsibility to reach out. White kids have got to do it too. But look at the last forty years: white attitudes have changed drastically (this is not debatable among reasonable people), but if you’re any indication then black attitudes haven’t changed at all. At the worst, white bigotry has mostly been replaced by lack of awareness that is not laudable but for the major improvement it represents over actual racism. Whites have come a very long way, but you seem to insist on not giving them credit for it by continuing to read racism into everything, when it’s usually not there — it’s just students being idiots. I know the authors of every article you mention as well as Brian, the SCU, and many of the other actors in your theories. I can tell you none of the Hoya’s writers were racist in their intent — categorically. Inappropriate and ignorant, unfunny and failed attempts at humor, and lack of awareness, shouldn’t be confused with racism. And the lack of perfection on the part of the majority shouldn’t be an excuse for the minority to abdicate its responsibilities to counter self-segregation, which is much more effectively countered by the self than by outsiders.

  14. Please. I’m a minority and all this diversity talk is crap. We take these isolated, questionable occurrences of “racism” and decide to blow money on combating a nonexistent issue. The Hoya prints some stupid April fools issue, and we have a sit-in like we’re fighting a 1950s civil rights battle. Jena Six doesn’t get headline coverage and immediately it’s racism – not the fact that the vast majority of Georgetown wouldn’t even read an article on Jena Six. White kids don’t show up to black student association meetings and there’s no way it could be because that’s an incredibly uncomfortable environment for whites. The BSA should understand – the white kid that does show up is inherently a minority in your club. The horror!

    Let’s just be honest. Minority groups self-segregate and are completely comfortable doing that. If you’re a minority and you want to interact with Georgetown students outside your race, it’s not that complicated. Most of our “racial” problem is just social ineptitude. Y’all are no different than a clique of kids playing world of Warcraft all day and bitching about not getting laid – maybe if you stopped hanging out exclusively with your minority crews and started making other friends, you’d meet the 99% of georgetown that doesn’t care what race you are.

  15. Minority,

    Extremely well said! The most insightful comment yet.

  16. Pingback: Vox Populi » Vox Talks: Diversity

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