A Major Necessity

Thanks to the efforts of the African American Studies Program and the Provost’s Committee for Diversity, Georgetown students may have the option to major in African American studies in the near future. The proposal has the support of many Georgetown students and boasts an intrinsic value important to any institution of higher learning. It has shown that Georgetown is ready to seriously address questions of power and privilege. The community is eager to engage different ways of knowing, unsatisfied with its intellectual starvation and conscious of its confinement to the status quo concept of truth.

Several students engaged in the African American Studies Program, which currently offers a minor option, began circulating a petition to demonstrate Georgetown students’ support for the major proposal. As of publication, the event has upward of 215 signatories from a diverse array of backgrounds. These participants span class years, including alumni, and come from a breadth of majors, from marketing to culture and politics.

This wide appeal indicates that the African American studies major proposal is neither radical nor naive. Rather, the proposal promises to meet Georgetown’s desire for intellectual curiosity and inclusivity. Georgetown students are hungry for a whole truth that has not yet been sufficiently articulated in available course offerings.

The Main Campus Executive Faculty voted to add a diversity requirement to the core curriculum in April. Georgetown students had entertained the idea of such a requirement for several years, with leaders of campus movements like #BBGU — Being Black at Georgetown University — and Dangerous Black Kids of Georgetown University calling for the change in 2013. Drafting and passing the diversity requirement proposal took several semesters of tireless and inspired effort on the part of students as well as faculty. If the push to establish this major meets similar challenges, those pushing for the major must hold the administration accountable for follow-through as the proposal is negotiated and hopefully implemented.

The proposal should move through the university bureaucracy unimpeded, with all parties focusing on next steps and prioritizing follow-through.

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One Comment

  1. You can’t use a petition with 215 signatures to represent the entire student population. Those 215 signatures represent around 1/4 of a percent of Georgetown’s undergraduate population – not exactly representative. Even if you assume “upwards of 215″ means four times that amount, you are still only at 1% of undergrads, but adding in alums (who apparently also signed it) reduces that number again.

    Not to mention the fact that a petition is self-selecting by nature – no one would sign it who didn’t want an African American Studies program – so you aren’t taking the opposite perspective into account. And since it’s such a touchy topic, people who are against it are much less likely to speak out about their opinions, letting the proponents for the program drown them out.

    I’m not arguing for or against the proposal right now – just want to make sure people actually understand what the numbers mean.

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