The Georgetown University Student Association Senate approved six out of the Student Commission for Unity’s eight proposals designed to address what the commission sees as the University’s diversity problem.
The GUSA-approved proposals include developing new one-credit courses as an optional addition to the “Equity through Diversity” curriculum, marketing the Bias Reporting System more effectively, mandating diversity training for Student Activity Commission club presidents, expanding diversity training for Resident Assistants, and increasing diversity education for freshman.
The proposals that GUSA voted against were the institution of a two-course “social justice-oriented” core curriculum requirement for all four schools and the allocation of SAC funds to encourage different clubs to find common ground through programming.
The core curriculum requirement proposal received 12 of the 13 votes needed to pass, with 10 Senators opposed and two abstaining. Several Senators spoke out against the proposal, including Matt Wagner (SFS ‘11), who thought the requirement would be a burden to students.
“Requiring that [core curriculum requirements] cross-list with diversity issues specifically makes core requirements harder to cross-list with major requirements,” Wagner said. “I think that’s an important point … for students who are trying to graduate early or students who are majoring in the physical sciences.”
Supporters of the proposal argued that a new requirement is necessary to give students the opportunity to contemplate diversity issues. According to Kiran Ghandi (COL ‘11), the root of the problems SCU brought to light is that “people don’t want to deal with diversity issues. … Institutionalization is necessary.”
The other proposal that failed, which called for SAC to allocate funds in a manner that fosters collaboration between dissimilar clubs, was criticized by Senators for being “vague,” “not feasible,” and unnecessary, on the grounds that clubs often naturally decide to work together.
The most controversial of SCU’s proposals, which would mandate placing students in freshmen dorms according to a 4-to-1 white-to-minority ratio, will be officially rescinded by the SCU on Sunday, according to SCU’s chairman, Brian Kesten (COL ‘10), and was thus not voted on by GUSA. Kesten cited an “obvious legal problem” as the reason for the retraction.
Kesten said he felt the debate played out along racial lines.
“There’s no question that students who have experienced problems on campus understand [that actions need to be taken to foster diversity],” he said. “That students who have experienced it are more likely to be sympathetic to this issue certainly plays out in GUSA. The role of race seems to be at least subconsciously involved.”
Most Senators said they felt positive about the meeting’s outcome.
“The meeting was probably one of the most composed and respectable meetings GUSA has had,” GUSA Speaker of the Senate Reggie Greer (COL ’09) said. “I really appreciate the behavior of the Senate, especially because this is such a sensitive issue. This is the first student commission, and voting on these proposals shows how far the Senate has come.”
Some, however, expressed concern over the commission’s independence. They criticized Kesten for meeting with administrators before the report had been approved by GUSA. According to Kesten, members of the SCU have met with over 60 administrators and faculty over the past year.
“The SCU has been a part of GUSA since [SCU’s] formation,” Kesten said. “Putting the SCU in GUSA is a good example of what students can do for their university. It lends credibility and legitimacy to an organization that desperately needs something to brag about.”