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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Staff editorial: On DEI, GW’s actions speak louder than words

What’s in a word? When it comes to DEI — or diversity, equity and inclusion — the answer is a lot.

Whether fostering community or pursuing high rankings in academics and research, the values of diversity, equity and inclusion are integral to universities’ goals. At GW, DEI encompasses sweeping principles that “all members” of the University community are supposed to advance.

But if GW is committed to diversity and inclusion, it’s not putting those principles into practice. DEI can and should be more than an academic exercise: There are practical means to improve and expand the experiences of all who call GW home.

For example, take the University’s land acknowledgment. GW’s campus is located on “ancestral homelands of the Piscataway, Anacostan, and Nacotchtank Peoples” and a place “where Black people were enslaved, forced to work for free, and abused.”

However well-meaning these statements are, they acknowledge the University’s past without charting a course for its present: Black and Native American students made up 10.3 percent and 0.1 percent of enrolled students last year, respectively. Land acknowledgments alone can’t change these figures, nor do they create opportunities for students to learn about different cultures and perspectives from their peers — opportunities that should last longer than one month.

Deploying the language of DEI doesn’t ensure the University is actually diverse, equitable and inclusive. When GW surveyed undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff for its 2022 Diversity Climate Survey, half of respondents said they experienced some form of negative treatment based on their identity in the past five years.

The survey makes the problems facing the University clear: Members of our community are being mistreated simply because of who they are. Students are worried about affording GW’s more than $80,000 cost of attendance, and faculty and staff are concerned about their pay and benefits.

“I firmly believe that we can only reach our full potential as a comprehensive global research university if our aspirations are defined by inclusive excellence,” Provost Chris Bracey said when officials discussed the results of the survey in March last year.

The University can keep aspiring all it wants, but it has to act. Assuming much hasn’t changed in the two years since the survey, and factoring in a tense fall semester, those problems have likely worsened. And it’ll take more than renaming the University Student Center or selecting a new moniker to address them.

Despite a solid consensus that diversity matters at GW, that shared value of difference hasn’t translated to the University as an institution. From students to faculty to staff, we are ready to work and learn with people whose experiences and perspectives differ from our own. But “DEI” at GW has become an empty promise. We hear the term everywhere, but we hardly see it in action.

Who can afford to be a GW student? Who can advance through the ranks of faculty and staff positions? For those answers to be “everyone” and “anyone,” the University will need to match its principles with policies that lower the cost of attendance, reach out to new groups of prospective students, create clear pathways to tenure or promotions and much more.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are vital to the University’s work. If these are GW’s values, it must practice what it preaches.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta and Opinions Editor Ethan Benn based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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