To understand GW’s diversity problem, look no further than the white boys in suits

Jonah Lewis, a sophomore majoring in political science and sociology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Sometimes I’m not sure why I am political science major.

Don’t get me wrong, there are few places better to study the subject than GW. Even if you somehow avoid the barrage of emails about congressional internships and national rankings, it is clear that our school is one of the most politically active in the nation. Maybe even too clear.

A day in the life of a political science major seems almost cartoonish. Classes are mostly in large Elliott School of International Affairs lecture halls or small Monroe Hall classrooms. Either way, the room is always dotted with a disproportionately large number of white boys in suits and ties.

If you can recover from the surprise of students our own age in formal attire at 8 a.m., sitting through a political science class is often an exercise in grimacing through monologues from your classmates. Nearly everyone has had an internship, and most are painfully unafraid to talk about it. Discussion invariably drifts to useless anecdotes about congressmen, a bad joke about healthcare.gov and that time someone met Joe Biden.

All of this comes from some strange obsession not with policy, but with politics as usual in the District. In the first few minutes of a political science class just this past week, I saw one student point to himself and say “president” and then to his friend and say “vice president.”

It was a joke, of course, but our collective obsession with government – we must have the most Obama cutouts per capita of any major U.S. university – shows that our campus climate is one that prides itself on a borderline-obsessive understanding of traditional party politics.

Interestingly, these pre-presidential friends sitting in a School of Media and Public Affairs classroom — like all of the presidents before this century and most of their suit-wearing peers in that classroom — were white and male.

Now, I don’t regret majoring in political science. Still, you’d think that in a city that is only 35 percent white, there would be a little more diversity in these classrooms. But at GW, that isn’t the case: Only 7.2 percent of students identify as black, and 7.3 percent as Hispanic.

The stark whiteness in so many of my classes is especially glaring after University President Steven Knapp announced a plan this week to increase college access for low-income and minority students.

There just was a whole White House summit on why this important. But walk four blocks away, you could sit in any of my classes and see it matters too.

My classes reflect the ideologies and demographics of the past political structure. They don’t amplify the voices and experiences of new possibilities in political knowledge.

And to be honest, I’m not sure my own white male presence adds much to the discourse of a field that already looks too much like me.

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