Diversity is central to providing an inclusive community on campus that can enrich classes and educational opportunities. While GW celebrates its most diverse undergraduate student population in at least a decade, we still have a long way to go.
GW falls far behind the national average for enrollment rates of black and Hispanic students. GW also lacks socioeconomic diversity, with a similar trend of falling below the national average of students coming from low-income backgrounds. To prosper as an educational institution, the University needs to increase diversity in terms of both racial background and income.
The disparity in racial and ethnic diversity at GW adversely affects our success as an institution. The national undergraduate student enrollment average for black students is 15 percent, but only 7.1 percent of undergraduate students at GW identify as black. Having a black student population less than half of the national average demonstrates a need for diversity. This is especially true because black students have also already expressed how unwelcome they feel on campus at an institution with more than 50 percent of the student population identifying as white.
GW’s Hispanic undergraduate population is at 10.3 percent in comparison to the 17 percent national average.
The University has low numbers of racial minorities and that can affect the strength of GW’s classrooms. By increasing diversity among students, GW can enrich its educational experience by allowing for discussions to include varying perspectives and beliefs. Students will be more challenged in their beliefs and will develop new perspectives and ideas while also gaining an understanding of the struggles those with different backgrounds face, making them better citizens. This evidently can also allow for cooperation and collaboration that can extend beyond the classroom and into the workforce.
While racial and ethnic diversity remains a problem at GW, the lack of socioeconomic diversity exacerbates this large disparity at GW more so than most institutions. The median parental income of students at GW is the 26th highest in the nation – at $182,000.
A contributing factor to this disparity could be that GW is not need-blind in its admissions process, allowing admissions officers to weigh applicants based on their financial needs. The limited number of students coming from low-income backgrounds in combination with a high proportion of students coming from wealthier households highlights the University’s lack of economic diversity. This lack of economic diversity has inevitably perpetuated a structural and systematic problem with increasing ethnic diversity on campus.
GW has made the effort to increase its diversity through its test-optional admissions policy among other initiatives, but the statistics prove there is still a long way to go to effectively promote diversity.
GW also initiated mandatory diversity training programs for incoming freshmen last year but has not extended this training to other students or faculty.
In addition to providing diversity training to faculty, GW should also make a concerted effort to increase diversity among faculty and staff on campus to further open up discussions and educational opportunities. The diversity of GW’s faculty has remained stagnant since 2013 despite an increased focus on making its staff more diverse. But if students have professors they can relate to and connect with, they will have a more positive educational experience at GW.
By making these changes, GW will be able to better expand diversity on campus going forward. Our minor success in becoming more diverse in comparison to the historical trends on our campus is a step in the right direction, but they can become larger successes that GW can truly pride itself on with a continued focus and additional steps.
Taleen Khleifat, a sophomore double-majoring in international affairs and philosophy, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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This article appeared in the December 10, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.