The majority of students at Georgetown feel there is a self-segregation problem on campus, according to a recent survey conducted by GUSA’s Student Commission for Unity.

The Student Commission for Unity was launched last November by Brian Kesten (COL ’10), a student association senator. After controversy brewed last September over THE HOYA’s minimal coverage of an on-campus rally and vigil in support of the Jena Six students from Jena, La., Kesten joined forces with several other students to look more seriously at what he believed to be underlying racial tensions on the Georgetown campus.

“There was a mood on campus that wasn’t welcoming to non-dominant social groups or those students who aren’t `Joe and Jane Hoya,'” Kesten, the chairman of the commission, said.

This atmosphere, according to Kesten, had been growing on campus for quite a while, leaving a self-segregating mentality behind.

Kesten said his hope and vision for the commission was for it to provide a basic forum through which many of these issues could finally be discussed.

“People were not [able] to have this conversation because they were afraid [to] speak out,” he said.

After its formation in November, the commission held two open forums for members of the Georgetown community, which were co-sponsored by over 30 student organizations and which presented the opportunity for many to speak publicly about the challenges facing the university.

The commission then decided to add a research dimension to their aim of tackling diversity issues at Georgetown by conducting polls and collecting large amounts of data.

The surveys considered students’ ethnic, religious and social backgrounds, and polled their feelings on issues of discrimination based on gender, school, class year, educational background, race and religion.

According to a survey conducted in April, “76.2 percent of Hoyas believe Georgetown has a self-segregation problem.”

In addition, 52.6 percent of white students reported they never felt uncomfortable at Georgetown because of their identity, compared to 24 percent of black students, 34.3 percent of Hispanic students, 28.7 percent of Asian students, 33.3 percent of South Asian students, 36.1 percent of Middle Eastern students and 37.8 percent of students in the “other” category, states the report.

The survey, which polled over 1,500 students, according to the commission’s blog, also reports that 48.6 percent of students who have witnessed an incident of discrimination ignored the situation.

With these results in hand, Kesten’s commission is now looking at every element of campus life at Georgetown as they attempt t

As an approved research project that was overseen by the Office of Planning and Institutional Research, the commission hopes to have their research published.

This, Kesten said, could have a far-reaching and transformative impact on campus life.

“[This] takes the power into the students’ hands to change Georgetown. It gives students the opportunity to be part of something that is bigger than themselves and that will shape their community,” he said.

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