This spring’s was the third semester that I wasn’t able to register for Professor Emmett-Mattox’s course on “Class, Race & Gender.” Not surprisingly, this story seems to be more common every year, as many of Georgetown’s most popular courses, in several departments, are those in some area of ethnic studies.
Recently, numerous students and faculty members have requested the development of resources in several areas including African American, Asian American and Latino and Chicano studies. In response to this and the Unity Coalition report regarding diversity on campus, the Provost formed the Curricular Working Group on Diversity to discuss possibilities for broadening the current curriculum. Among the several concerns brought to the attention of the committee, from a diverse array of students, faculty and administrators, was the need to devote more attention to securing funds for these programs. I propose that we concentrate these efforts via the creation of an inter-disciplinary based Ethnic Studies Program.
It is important for Jack DeGioia, the University President-Elect, Dorothy Brown, the University Provost, and the Council of Deans to continue to hear from students and faculty the importance of prioritizing the search for funding for an endowed academic chair or director of an Ethnic Studies Program. If included as part of Georgetown’s fundraising campaign, we can start working to make this program a reality soon. Georgetown is a school that prides itself on the diversity of its student body. Shouldn’t we also work to broaden the diversity in the courses we offer?
We should not dismiss an Ethnic Studies Program as just a pipe dream of an idealistic world, because the foundations for this program already exist in Georgetown’s curriculum. Just this semester, nearly 20 courses were offered, such as “Race & Politics in American Music,” “Race & U.S. Popular Culture,” “Race, Ethnicity & Governance,” “Civil Rights: 1860-1960,” “Asian American Experiences,” and “Race, Class, Gender & Religion.” We should use these resources, and the faculty who already teach these courses, to create an interdisciplinary program in Ethnic Studies.
Nonetheless, we still need funding to hire a faculty member to administer this program and to recruit new faculty. Providing incentives for current faculty to fill in the gaps where there is the greatest deficiency among current course offerings is also important. Georgetown has an opportunity and a responsibility to offer its students the chance to pursue a major or minor in this discipline via a formalized program. There is already intense student interest in this area even without a formal program.
So then, what exactly is “Ethnic Studies?” Ethnic Studies is the study of the social, cultural and historical forces that have shaped the development of America’s diverse ethnic peoples and which continue to shape our future. Specifically, there should be a focus on groups that have historically been economically, educationally, politically, legally and socially disadvantaged. Through this process students would determine why these groups have not been fully integrated into the fabric of American society. This can be accomplished through disciplines as diverse as art, government, history, literature, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, theology and women’s studies, as Ethnic Studies is, for all practical purposes, an interdisciplinary program that would have to draw upon many departments to provide a systematic analysis of race and ethnicity in society.
Georgetown is far behind in the development of such a program, as Ethnic Studies Departments can be found at major universities throughout the country. This includes a variety of schools such as Stanford, Cornell, the Universities of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, Colorado State, Oregon State, University of Wisconsin and several others. Many of these schools do not contain student bodies that are nearly as diverse as ours, yet they still offer strong Ethnic Studies Programs.
Georgetown is a well-recognized leader in the study of international affairs and the inter-ethnic struggles within countries all over the world. When are we, as a community, going to accept the importance of devoting resources and attention to the academic examination of the racial and ethnic conflicts within our own country and in the streets and schools of our own neighborhoods? I implore those who are interested in Ethnic Studies to speak with faculty members and administrators involved in this debate to facilitate the fundraising for and creation of this or a similar program.