Annu Subramanian: Honest, not honorary, equality

If our school is really concerned about improving the multicultural atmosphere on campus then it is not doing enough, and the efforts it does take are not directed toward the real source of the issue.

And then we wonder why finding harmony in diversity on this campus remains so elusive.

This is largely because the attitude about race coursing through the campus’ bloodstream is well-intentioned but woefully misdirected. And that’s not the student body’s fault. That’s right, admin, I’m talking to you.

Before I continue, I should clarify a few points: 1) I do not believe that our school should find solace or grief in numbers alone. 2) Concerns regarding racial inequality at GW will not become outdated just because national demographics dictate that the U.S. will likely become a minority-majority country. 3) If you do not immediately see a troubling homogeneity in the racial makeup of our school, it’s time you put down the GW brochures and take a walk around campus.

To make this a school where all races and ethnicities feel welcome requires more than multicultural festivals and the notable but currently minimal efforts of the GW Council on Diversity and Inclusion. I talked about this with Paul Gorski, founder of EdChange, an organization that provides tools and consultation for educational institutions seeking to diversify their campuses.

“The people with the most power need the most development,” he said.

The first step to fostering a more bona fide sense of equality, he says, is to find the power brokers on campus – the administrators, faculty, professors and board members – and enact equality-focused policy and training. This includes rewriting university policies to include an explicit dedication to equity, requiring that professors revisit their curricula and teaching styles to remove implicitly racist methods and maintaining checks on the workings of the school through that lens.

Most schools are keen to create task forces and post stock photos of multicultural groups on their websites, but few are willing to perform a policy and curriculum review that requires a comprehensive dedication to racial equality.

If the school advocates for diversity at the infrastructural level, its efforts will be more authentic than any council or multicultural festival.

Naturally, the school must work to foster a sense of inclusiveness among members of the student body, but with all due respect to my fellow students, we are more disposable than the faculty. While we are cycled in and out of GW in four years, some professors and administrators spend decades here. Their influence on this campus lasts longer and, arguably, it more visibly dictates our University’s views on racial equity.

The University president’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion can spearhead these administrative reviews, but for that it needs the authority to hold the school accountable. The president’s council should team up with the Multicultural Student Services Center to move the MSSC from a programming office to a hub for interracial discussion and institutional progress. They can jointly administer surveys to the student body, provide data on racial demographics and host opportunities for students to share grievances or suggestions on how best to improve the atmosphere on campus.

A friend recently asked me why racial diversity on campus is so important. The answer is not how much better our school will appear nationally if we are more multicultural. The answer is not even that racial demographics in higher education should reflect national statistics.

A university is an ecosystem that thrives solely on the refraction of ideas. As such, a university should doggedly pursue every means it can to equip itself with as wide-ranging an array of voices as possible.

That’s why GW should make a more honest and less honorary effort to improve the multicultural atmosphere on campus. It’s a matter of keeping GW alive.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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