GW gives community option to identify as multi-racial

The University added a new category for multiracial students, faculty and staff to classify themselves as “two or more races” in University institutional data, moving into compliance with a new federal regulation.

University Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Lerman said the U.S. Department of Education’s new aggregate categories for reporting racial and ethnic data of students and staff went into effect for the 2010-2011 school year.

“GW is?complying with a federal mandate to collect race and ethnicity data in a specific way to allow for multiple race codes per person,” Lerman said.

Students and faculty were previously limited to classifying themselves as black, white, Hispanic, Asian or Native American, or could decline to identify.

Seventy-five undergraduates and 42 graduate students have identified themselves as two or more races since the policy’s implementation, a number Lerman expects to increase as more students enter GW with the new category in place.

No faculty members have currently identified themselves as multiracial as most were hired before this year, Lerman said, although he added the University expects to allow members of the community to re-identify themselves at some point.

“The University is planning to allow every student, faculty and staff to reclassify themselves. No specific date or time period has been set for the resurvey,” Lerman said.

The new category comes in the midst of a continuing effort to promote diversity on campus. A study last year found GW is less diverse than its market basket schools, with 56 percent of the student body identifying as white, compared with 43 and 45 percent at New York University and Boston University, respectively.

The Council on Diversity and Inclusion, created last year, is expected to present proposals to boost both areas on campus to University President Steven Knapp in May. Last month, the University announced the appointment of Dr. Terri Harris Reed, who will serve as GW’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion.

Lerman said he hopes the new category will paint a more representative picture of GW.

“It is more representative in the sense that some students might prefer to identify themselves as more than one race,” Lerman said. “We will be able to compare ourselves to other universities because they also have to be in compliance with this regulation.” u

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