With several vacant leadership positions, GW should prioritize hiring diverse candidates

Voters across the country flocked to the polls this fall to choose who would represent them in some of the most powerful political seats in the country. With those votes, the American people elected the most diverse Congress in its history to represent the country on Capitol Hill.

But in Foggy Bottom, students are represented by a president, provost and Board of Trustees chairman who are all white men. The University currently has six vice president and dean positions open – so now is the time to shift the demographics and diversify key roles by hiring talented and qualified people of color and women to lead the University.

Three top leaders left GW last month alone. Matt Manfra, the senior associate vice president for alumni relations and Ann McCorvey, the deputy executive vice president and treasurer, announced their resignations and Jeffrey Akman, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, stepped down last month, joining three deans who have left their posts since University President Thomas LeBlanc took over in 2017. While many positions are in transition and turnover is difficult for any institution to handle, this fits into a trend that leaders change direction when a new president takes over. GW now has the opportunity to diversify the leadership of key administrative offices and schools like the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Professional Studies.

Students have spoken out about GW’s lack of diversity on various occasions over the past year. The campus became embroiled in controversy when a racist Snapchat post spread around campus at the start of Black History Month and the conversation continued through the year. The post became the subject of town halls and a Student Association Senate meeting, sparked a new diversity training for incoming students and was a cornerstone of conversation during SA elections in the spring. In the fall, students reignited a charge to rename the Marvin Center because it is named after Cloyd Heck Marvin, a former University president who supported segregation.

In recent years the University has made efforts to diversify the student body by employing a test-optional policy and enrolling an undergraduate population that is the most diverse in at least a decade, with minority students making up 47.8 percent of undergraduates. But if new students come to a campus led almost entirely by people who do not look like them, it is unlikely they will feel welcome here.

Of GW’s 14 schools and 19 administrative positions, there are currently six white women and five men and women of color who are vice presidents or deans. While this number is encouraging, if administrators want to create a truly inclusive campus, we need an increasingly diverse set of individuals to lead these students.

While GW is not the least diverse of its peer schools, the University is not at the most diverse either. The University’s 12 peer schools are split with half the schools filling half or more of their positions with diverse candidates. GW falls in the middle with slightly less than half its administrators and deans currently filled by women or people of color.

GW falls in line with its peers in diverse leadership, but it can improve further by continuing to choose the most talented candidates for these posts while exercising an awareness of the need for greater administrative diversity. If the administration seeks to practice what they preach, decision-makers should prioritize filling open positions with women and people of color who are often underrepresented in leadership positions at institutions across the country.

While it is easy for universities to offer simplistic statements in support of diversity, it is much easier said than done. Administrators must continue to employ diverse leaders that reflect the institution they lead and the values of diversity they hold.

With several vacant leadership positions, it’s time for GW to continue to show its commitment to diversity by hiring a slate of qualified leaders from minority groups to lead the University into the next decade.

Zachary Nosanchuk, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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