Officials release plan to improve campus racial climate after racist Snapchat incident

Officials released new details about plans to improve the campus racial climate,including hiring a diversity and inclusion training director and implementing several phases of freshman diversity training, in a report released Wednesday.

In the 12-page report, officials expanded on University President Thomas LeBlanc’s nine initiatives announced about a week after a racist Snapchat went viral and sparked larger conversations about a lack of diversity and inclusion on campus. Officials said at the time that the University would release a full diversity report within 45 days.

“With the release of this action plan, we are fulfilling the promise we made to show how we will begin to do this,” LeBlanc said in the release. “We also are holding our community accountable to the steps we must take to build the University we aspire to be.”

The report details how officials will implement mandatory freshman diversity training this summer. The training will be held in three parts including skits and discussions about inclusion during summer orientation, online diversity training and small group discussions during the fall semester. The format this summer will be a pilot program that students and officials will use to create “a robust training” for the following academic year, according to the report.

The report lays out plans to hire a diversity and inclusion director, who will work with the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and the new office of enrollment and the student experience announced in January.

Officials said they are also evaluating the feasibility of adding unconscious bias training modules to new employee orientation, which will be revampedd this summer. The University also plans to update the equal opportunity policy and student code of conduct to include new language to address “forms of harassment beyond sexual harassment” – a measure previously announced – which will be implemented by the beginning of next academic year, according to the report.

Administrators also assembled a project team to finalize an online anonymous platform to report incidents of bias on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The report specifically addressed changes to make Greek life more inclusive, after LeBlanc said in February that the Snapchat incident would lead to a more thorough evaluation of the role of Greek organizations on GW’s campus.

Greek life leaders are working with the Multicultural Student Services Center to develop diversity training for recruitment chairs and new member educators, which will be implemented this fall, according to the report.

Officials also said they are exploring housing options in District House for Multicultural Greek Council sororities and fraternities for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The report was released exactly 45 business days after LeBlanc’s announced the diversity measures – which included mandating diversity training for staff, student leaders and incoming freshmen and beginning a “GW Race in America” speaker series.

In February town halls, black students told administrators, including LeBlanc, that racism was not a new issue on campus and called for more systemic action in the wake of the Snapchat incident. The Student Association Senate also passed a resolution shortly following the Snapchat incident calling for the removal of GW’s chapter of Alpha Phi, whose members were pictured in the post.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost of diversity, equity and community engagement, said the report is not a comprehensive list of all the University’s diversity efforts but will help address concerns students have raised in the past months.

“These actions are the first steps in our journey to create a more inclusive GW,” Laguerre-Brown said in the release. “We are harnessing the energy that has been generated by this painful moment to move with purpose and a sense of urgency toward ensuring all students, faculty and staff feel welcome and valued on this campus.”

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