ELLIOT: Ditch the Diversity Requirement

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Georgetown students are subject to a variety of graduation requirements, encompassing a wide breadth of the university’s course catalog. Yet, academic guidelines like the diversity requirement do not add to the value of a true liberal arts education.

The diversity requirement was created to “prepare students to be responsible, reflective, self-aware, and respectful global citizens.” To accomplish this, the University requires students to take two courses that engage domestic and global diversity issues.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with engaging diversity. Students come from different geographic, cultural, ethnic and spiritual backgrounds, and these differences should be explored and celebrated.

Despite popular belief to the contrary, Georgetown is diverse. Its student body comes from across the United States and from all around the world. Students span countless ethnic and language groups and promote their cultures through clubs, activities and other events. It is almost impossible to go one day on the Hilltop without engaging with someone who is different from you.

Yet, mandating a diversity requirement takes away from the experience of engagement, making diversity a chore rather than something that is encountered naturally.

This mandate raises some larger questions about the University’s role in the process. Who is deciding which courses constitute diversity? Why do some courses not make the cut? Diversity is largely subjective, and each individual needs a different form of diversity exposure.

Today, diversity is often defined solely on the basis of race or religion. This type of thinking has created an environment where our society uses these outward forms of diversity to assume things about an individual. Whether it’s a political identification or privilege, focusing solely on external diversity leads to stereotypes.

When discussing issues of diversity, students should realize this fact: it is impossible to achieve true diversity. Instead, students are subject to what the University deems is diverse without any regard to an individual’s own experience.

Georgetown students already engage with a diverse set of ideas and cultures through the existing requirement framework. Through the exploration of theology, the humanities and other liberal arts electives, students are exposed to different ways of thinking about and approaching the world.

What does a diversity requirement accomplish if Georgetown’s mission is already to promote a well-rounded education and globally-aware citizen?

Instead of worrying about diversity, Georgetown should expand its commitment to the liberal arts and allow students to explore a wider range of courses. To do this, the University should eliminate the diversity requirement and, in its place, encourage students to take a stronger core of liberal arts courses.

This approach will have a greater educational impact than that of the diversity requirement. Expanding the liberal arts core will foster student interest and, thus, promote an environment where true learning can take place.

The point of college and, more specifically, a liberal arts education is to engage in the deepest questions and most foundational ideas. It a process of learning and seeking understanding. The mandated diversity requirement does not expand horizons. It unnecessarily limits this process.

Rather than imposing uniform diversity requirements, Georgetown should pursue a more robust liberal arts curriculum that gives students the freedom to engage deeper questions and personal interests. Diversity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and it should not be treated as such.

2 COMMENTS

  1. According to ACTA’s What Will They Learn website, Georgetown scores a “C” in mandating certain fundamental “core” subject areas for their students to study. Instead of expanding the range of available distribution requirement courses, Georgetown should create a bona fide, philosophically integrated core of courses that EVERYONE must take, regardless of major, centered around the Western Canon that covers all of ACTA’s seven subject areas. Courses dealing with “diversity” would all remain elective. This would be THE best way to improve Georgetown’s curriculum. I refer you to the core of the University of Dallas as an example: http://www.udallas.edu/constantin/core-curriculum/classes.php

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