Student organizations must prioritize diversity amid enrollment cuts

Officials released internal models late last semester showing that reducing the undergraduate student body will decrease diversity. Faculty have already expressed concerns about the impact of the cut on humanities and social sciences, but when we are talking about diversity, student organizations – The Hatchet included – will take the biggest hit.

The University has made strides to foster a more diverse and inclusive student body over the past couple of years, hiring a diversity and inclusion education director, creating mandatory diversity trainings for first-year students and sending admissions officers to recruit applicants from urban and low-income school districts. But these efforts cannot curb the impending impact of an enrollment reduction on the undergraduate student body. Student leaders should make diversity and inclusion just as much of a priority as some administrators have – even if other administrators are at fault for reducing diversity.

Lack of diversity can harm a students’ feeling of inclusion on campus, especially in light of racist and anti-Semitic instances last semester. Both events underlined a campus culture in which minority groups feel unsafe, and reducing diversity will not ameliorate the situation. Students look to the more than 400 organizations to find community on campus, whether it be through a fraternity and sorority, sports team or community service organization. Student organizations have a responsibility to understand the value of diversity and inclusion and ensure underrepresented communities feel welcome in their groups.

This effort includes The Hatchet. We may not be able to measure the diversity of other student organizations around campus, but we can take a look at ourselves. We conducted a survey of The Hatchet’s 41-person staff, which includes editors and research assistants, and asked them to respond to questions regarding their race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, religion and financial aid standing with the University.

This survey revealed that the majority of Hatchet staff – 65.9 percent – is white, while 14.6 percent are two or more races, 7.3 percent are East Asian, 4.9 percent are Hispanic or Latinx, 2.4 percent are South Asian, 2.4 percent are Southeast Asian and 2.4 percent are Middle Eastern or Arab. The bulk of Hatchet staff also identify as straight, while 14.6 percent identify as bisexual, 7.3 percent as gay and 2.4 percent identify as queer – 4.9 percent of staff elected not to answer the question pertaining to sexual orientation. In addition, 36.6 percent of Hatchet staff receive need-based financial aid from GW.

Our diversity – or lack thereof – in areas like race and ethnicity and sexual orientation affects the stories we find and cover. A more diverse staff could show expanded coverage to underrepresented communities and a greater willingness for all students to want to take part in the paper in some capacity. We are going to keep trying to diversify our staff, make everyone included and represented in our paper – especially as we prepare for the diversity of the student body to decrease.

The Hatchet and student organizations altogether should not let GW’s lack of diversity prevent us from working to foster more inclusive environments for all students. Other student organizations on campus should also take steps to evaluate their own diversity and work to improve. We could all foster discussions on unconscious biases and push members to participate in events at the Multicultural Student Services Center. We should also reevaluate the diversity of their leadership because it is easier to feel welcome in an organization in which the leadership is representative of a community to which an individual may belong.

Lack of diversity has an adverse effect on student organizations by creating an exclusionary environment, limiting viewpoints and potentially creating an environment in which problematic behavior goes unchecked. All student organizations would benefit from increased diversity, and the University’s commitment to cut enrollment means that student organizations need to make an immediate effort.

Diversity is more than a buzzword to be thrown around when talking about making people feel included. On our staff, diversity is a factor in the stories we find and the way we can report on them, and other student organizations could be affected in similar ways. As we all move forward in trying to right our wrongs and represent our community better, the University and other organizations need to move with us to make our campus a truly diverse and inclusive place.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and contributing opinions editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of copy editor Natalie Prieb, managing director Leah Potter, design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.

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