(For the full report click here).
The topics of race, diversity and inclusion have been brought to the forefront of conversations at the George Washington University (GW) following an offensive and racially inflammatory social media posting. The incident caused immeasurable hurt to members of our community, particularly our African-American students, and also led to a wave of conversations – some in public forums with hundreds of people, some in small group settings and many in one-on-one interactions among students, staff and faculty – not only about the specific instance but also about the countless instances in which members of our GW community experience racism on and off campus during the course of their daily lives. It became clear that bold action, both short- and long-term, was needed to begin to address racism and other forms of bias and discrimination in our GW community.
We know our capacity to uphold academic excellence, to solve our greatest problems and to serve others can only be enhanced by a diverse and truly inclusive campus community. This requires our collective awareness, engagement and, most importantly, action. Over the past several weeks, university leaders have collaborated with students, staff and faculty members on project teams to develop a comprehensive action plan as laid out by President Thomas LeBlanc on Feb. 7, 2018. The actions outlined in this plan are underway or will commence immediately. These are the first step in our journey to create a more inclusive and diverse GW and to meet our larger strategic goals of improving the student experience and the institutional culture. We want to harness the energy that has been generated by this painful moment to move with purpose and a sense of urgency toward ensuring all students, staff and faculty members truly feel welcome and valued on this campus.
GW is committed to developing policies and programs to create an inclusive campus climate that supports an optimal learning and working environment for students, faculty and staff. Each action outlined in this plan is related to one of nine goals:
1. Make diversity training mandatory for all incoming students in fall 2018.
2. Require diversity training for residential life staff, RAs, Colonial Inauguration leaders, admissions staff, tour guides and other staff members who work closely with students.
3. Update the student code of conduct to address non-sex based harassment and discrimination.
4. Update the university’s equal opportunity policy to include definitions and procedures to address forms of harassment beyond sexual harassment.
5. Establish a bias incident reporting system to track and address verbal harassment and other forms of unwelcome conduct motivated by hatred based on race, color, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin or any other factor. Anonymous reporting will be a feature of this new reporting system.
6. Establish a GW Race in America speaker series.
7. Regarding the imminent search for a dean of the student experience, make documented leadership skills in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion a required core competency of the position.
8. Require diversity training for all recruitment chairs and new member educators within the Greek community.
9. Identify opportunities for on-campus Greek housing.
All participants attending the community meeting led by President LeBlanc on Feb. 27, 2018, were sent a follow-up email inviting them to visit the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement’s website to share additional ideas and concerns as well as to volunteer for one of the working groups charged with addressing the identified goals. This invitation was also shared more broadly with various campus constituencies. As a result, more than 85 students, staff and faculty members committed to creating the following action plan, and to championing the ongoing efforts around the nine goals. We are grateful for the outpouring of interest and the time and energy that these team members have spent over the past several weeks to chart a path forward.
This process has illuminated numerous other initiatives already in the works. Some of GW’s schools have appointed chief diversity officers or diversity committees, and all schools are actively developing strategic approaches to diversity and inclusion. For example, the School of Nursing has institutionalized its approach to diversity, equity and inclusion through a robust series of actions. The School of Medicine and Health Sciences continues down a road they have been on for a number of years to build a stronger community through diversity and inclusion. The Committee on Inclusive Classrooms has been meeting since fall 2017 to create a set of resources for faculty on creating inclusive classrooms. The group will compile articles, papers, presentations and other materials for a website dedicated to supporting GW faculty who are interested in ensuring full engagement of all our students in the classroom. And GW’s annual Diversity Summit brings hundreds of students, staff, faculty members and alumni together to learn from and about each other.
These are only a few examples that remind us that our work to fight racism and other forms of discrimination and bias at GW must be approached from many angles, and that no one document, initiative or accomplishment is enough.
Thus, while this action plan is a direct response to a specific incident on campus, it is only one step of many more to come in the months and years ahead. We are committed to comprehensive, intentional change and improvement; ongoing efforts are required from all members of the GW community to make the university the kind of pre-eminent institution to which we aspire, one where all of us are valued, respected and embraced for who we are and the perspectives and experiences we bring.
OFFICE FOR DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
OFFICE OF THE PROVOST
812 20th Street NW
Washington, DC 20052