In most of my classes, the majority of students are white. Of course, GW does have a strong international community, and many races make up our student body. But one doesn’t have to look hard to notice that, still, most students are white. And although racial and ethnic diversity is encouraged, it is not something GW or most other universities excel at.
When discussing diversity in higher education, affirmative action is bound to come up. There is a lot of debate surrounding affirmative action, with some thinking that it’s an efficient way to promote diversity in higher education while others think that it is unfair to white students. But in order to promote diversity, we must continue to support and advocate for affirmative action.
Recently, some diversity advocacy groups opposed President Trump’s attorney general nomination Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Al., because of his history of speaking out against affirmative action and equal opportunity for minorities. The groups list several examples in which Sessions opposed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s female and minority nominees – especially if they supported affirmative action. The groups suggest that as attorney general, Sessions may stop enforcing affirmative action policies at universities across the country.
Students and advocates who want universities to become more diverse need to be cognizant of potential changes to affirmative action policies. Even with affirmative action, most colleges – including GW – are still made up of majority white students, and affirmative action isn’t guaranteed with people like Sessions in power at a federal level.
Diversity in college provides students with an array of ideas and ideologies that teach them to have an open mind and accept those that are different from them. It forces students to question their own beliefs and values, because they compare what they think and do to what those who are different from them do.
Even though GW advocates for diversity, our student body isn’t all that diverse. More than 60 percent of the student body is white, while only 6.6 percent is African American, 9.4 percent is Hispanic and 11.3 percent is Asian. And GW isn’t as diverse as some of our peer schools, like Boston and New York universities. At both of these schools, white students make up about 38 percent of the student body.
As an immigrant, I value the opportunity for diversity at U.S. universities even more. In my native country Colombia, diversity at colleges is often limited to people from different regions of Colombia. In the U.S., however, we have the opportunity to be exposed to people from all around the world. This means that, unlike Colombia where most of the people come from one culture, we can meet people from an endless array of different cultures, religions and even continents.
Still, American colleges are not as diverse as they should be, considering all the different races and ethnicities of people who live in the U.S. To continue to make sure universities represent the overall diversity of our country, colleges need admissions policies that help minority students. That is why we cannot ignore affirmative action.
Of course, critics of affirmative action, like Sessions, have their reasons. Most critics believe that policies that create affirmative action for students from lower socioeconomic areas don’t help racial diversity, and other critics say that college admissions should be blind to students’ races and finances. While socioeconomic affirmative action might increase some diversity on college campuses, there’s no guarantee it will, and it furthers a stereotype that minorities always come from lower socioeconomic areas. And if we want to make campuses more diverse, we must help the specific populations that need it.
As students, it’s on us to be attentive to policies coming out of the presidential new administration – specifically from Sessions. We must be ready to petition and speak up if affirmative action is questioned or banned so we can continue to make our campus, and other campuses, more diverse in the years to come.
Laura Castro Lindarte, a junior double-majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.