On the same day GW hosted the White House Conference on Hate Crimes, students representing a wide cross-section of backgrounds and beliefs discussed diversity on campus during the third Issues Awareness Night.
Monday night’s forum was held to create a better understanding of diversity at GW and to foster a dialogue between student leaders, said Debra Davis, associate director of the University Counseling Center.
Nearly 50 students attended the three-hour forum, which was led by a team of student facilitators and University administrators.
Leaders of almost a dozen student groups examined the level of diversity at GW and discussed the possible presence of segregated diversity among student groups on campus.
“The program was successful because it built relationships (between student groups) and made resources available,” said Adam Siple, one of the coordinators of the event.
Siple said the event was a good starting point for future discussions among a wide array of student groups and could act as a springboard for student leaders to take action on their own.
Although much of the discussion was more theoretical than practical, several tangible solutions were suggested.
Junior Randy Lizardo, a member of the Philippine Cultural Society, suggested the creation of an ethnic studies major as one way to increase diversity at GW and facilitate interaction between student groups.
Lizardo said a new major could fill the void that he said exists because GW does not offer cultural studies majors like women’s and Africana studies.
Jesse Strauss, chair of the Student Association Senate’s Student Life Committee, supported the idea and said it could encompass a number of different minority groups.
“The process of evolution has begun and we’ve made the first step,” Strauss said.
Some students also suggested that University administrators improve their efforts to support diversity.
“GW has sugar coated the problem of diversity,” senior Doug Miner said.
Miner said he thinks the University should initiate more programs to integrate the diverse factions on campus.
A discussion of segregated diversity was one of the most charged debates of the evening. Some participants argued that segregated diversity is not always detrimental.
“In order to relate to others you have to learn about yourself first,” Lizardo said.
He said segregation is not necessarily always negative because learning about one’s culture is one of the best ways to learn about oneself.
Students at the forum said they were not trying to dissolve the cultural groups that exist at GW, but to increase the interaction between different groups.
They said forums like Issues Awareness Night may end some segregation while allowing students to maintain individuality.
Strauss said the SA may recommend that the administration examine changing some ethnic studies minors to majors and adjusting the cultural studies requirement for some schools.