University Releases Action Plan in Response to Recent Discussions on Race after Social Media Incident

Among updates, officials outline approach to new student and faculty diversity training, bias reporting system, hire of diversity and inclusion training director.

April 11, 2018

Thomas LeBlanc and Students

President Thomas LeBlanc addresses students at a town hall on race in February. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By Kurtis Hiatt

The George Washington University on Wednesday released a report that provides more detail on how the university will implement the actions officials committed to taking in the wake of a racist social media post that circulated online earlier this year.

Since the incident, many university community members, particularly black students, have voiced concern about racism, bias and inclusion at GW, coming together for meetings and discussions with other students, faculty, staff and administrators to share their experiences and offer suggestions to improve the racial climate on campus.

“We have heard very clearly that we need to do more to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment on our campuses,” said President Thomas LeBlanc, who in February hosted a town hall discussion with students. “With the release of this action plan, we are fulfilling the promise we made to show how we will begin to do this. We also are holding our community accountable to the steps we must take to build the university we aspire to be. I know that we will continue to have the support and active engagement we have seen the last few months from our students, faculty and staff.”

The report shows that since February the university has made progress on its principal action items. Among the updates in the report:

  • A working group of staff and students has met to determine the approach to mandatory diversity training for incoming students for fall 2018. The program, which will serve as a pilot, will include skits and discussion during Colonial Inauguration, online diversity training on GW’s community values and expectations as well as a speaker and small group discussions with trained student, staff and faculty facilitators during the fall semester. The university will use feedback from this pilot program to create a plan for more robust training for the 2019-20 academic year.
  • In the coming months, the university will recruit and hire a diversity and inclusion training director who will be responsible for developing a more systemic and institutionalized approach to training and workshops addressing diversity, cultural competence, intercultural communications, anti-racism, unconscious bias, equity and other topics.
  • The university will implement diversity training as a part of new faculty orientation.
  • A project team is assembled and working to implement an anonymous bias incident reporting system in advance of the 2018-19 academic year.
  • The university conducted a survey of all members of Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) sororities and fraternities to determine interest in living in a common space in Munson Hall for the 2018-19 academic year. Because students had already identified housing options, the university is now working to identify space for MGC organizations in District House for the 2019-20 academic year. Staff members also are reviewing affinity-housing policy to ensure MGC organizations are able to apply.
  • A committee comprising students from diverse backgrounds will meet with finalists for the open dean of the student experience position and will provide feedback to the search committee. University officials have said GW would actively pursue diverse candidates for this position who have demonstrated leadership skills in diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Administrators formed a committee of students, faculty and staff to provide direction for the Race in America speaker series, which began earlier this month during the 2018 Diversity Summit. The committee will help select speakers and topics and determine frequency, timing and location of the events.
  • Students from Greek organizations are developing a training plan for diversity and inclusion for fall 2018 with support from staff in the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Center for Student Engagement. Programs developed will include topics such as unconscious bias.
  • GW’s student code of conduct and the university’s equal opportunity policy are undergoing revisions to include non-sex based harassment and discrimination. Both should be completed by the fall.

The plan released Wednesday was developed specifically to respond to the concerns the university has heard during the past few months and is not a comprehensive summary of all of the university’s efforts to support diversity and inclusion on its campuses, said Caroline Laguerre-Brown, vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement.

GW’s various schools and colleges, for example, develop and implement their own diversity plans. And within the university’s various strategic initiatives, teams also will be working on complementary programming, initiatives and other community-building efforts.

“These actions are the first steps in our journey to create a more inclusive GW,” Ms. Laguerre-Brown said. “We are harnessing the energy that has been generated by this painful moment to move with purpose and a sense of urgency toward ensuring all students, faculty and staff feel welcome and valued on this campus.”

Read the full report here.