Georgetown has never been perfect when it comes to campus diversity, and earlier this week, GUSA’s Student Commission for Unity did something about it. The commission released a report on the topic in Gaston Hall on Tuesday. The report is the culmination of a year-long research project that surveyed over 1,300 undergraduates who offered their views of discrimination, segregation and institutional resources on the Hilltop.

The findings were sobering. Less than one-third of students were aware of the university’s Bias Related Incident Reporting System. Over three-quarters said they had witnessed discrimination by other students. Nearly half said they had ignored an instance of discrimination.

To address these disturbing results, the commission recommended several major initiatives pertaining to academics, institutional resources, the Student Activities Commission, the Office of Residence Life, recruiting and the freshman experience.

ost of these recommendations make sense. For instance, we agree that Georgetown should publicize the bias reporting system to more students – at New Student Orientation, via e-mail and at university-sponsored campus events. Housing should deliberately create racially diverse freshmen floors. SAC should fund joint events specifically geared toward dissimilar student groups. The Pluralism in Action program must engage freshmen for more than just two hours during NSO weekend.

Implementing these initiatives will facilitate greater dialogue among people of different backgrounds; they will cost little money; and they will burden students and administrators only modestly. We urge the relevant groups and administrators to enact them.

Some of the more controversial recommendations warrant consideration as well. The commission wants the university to hire and retain minority faculty members in greater numbers. This is a good idea – as long as the faculty in question are qualified.

The same goes for the student body. More rigorous recruitment of qualified minority students would bring diverse perspectives to campus and refresh community dialogue.

But some suggestions put forth in the SCU report cannot expect our support, specifically those that would unfairly encumber students.

One such recommendation would require all students to take two “Equity Through Diversity” courses; the plan essentially calls for the incorporation of a social justice theme into the syllabi of courses already included in the general education requirements. When it comes to academic requirements, students have enough headaches as it is; they don’t need more. These sorts of courses, even if they were cross-listed offerings, would not be embraced as opportunities – they would amount to nuisances.

Another proposal would require club presidents to attend diversity training. The average student group already struggles with inefficiency and marginal interest without having to schedule its own Diversity Day.

Proponents will argue that these requirements place no extra burden on students. They will say that students must be formally educated in diversity studies for progress to be made.

But these assurances don’t hold water. The report recommends new course requirements and more procedural obligations for student groups – these impositions aren’t negligible. Further academic demands, particularly predicated on abstract, long-term goals, are more likely to irritate than invigorate.

In the end, the study raises more questions than it answers. What, after all, is discrimination? Is there any real hope for eradicating it? Is it possible to effect long-term change when a complete turnover of the student body comes every four years?

At the very least, we applaud the SCU for asking these questions. Stimulating discussion is the first step toward effecting change.

Unfortunately, these questions have all been asked before without receiving tangible answers. To make the vision espoused in Tuesday’s report a reality, the SCU and university administrators must not force the issue. Artificial discourse cannot replace genuine learning.

A balance must be struck between the idealistic pursuit of harmonious diversity – oxymoron aside – and the practical concerns of students. When the time comes for GUSA to make final recommendations to the university on this subject, it would be worthwhile to keep these considerations in mind.

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