Faculty Senate Resolutions Look to Combat Discrimination
Nick Timiraos, Hoya (Georgetown University), Apr. 16
Georgetown’s Faculty Senate passed three resolutions yesterday that responded to recent allegations of racial intolerance in the university community.
The Faculty Senate passed one resolution that called for diversity training at the New Faculty Orientation for tenured faculty and adjunct and visiting professors, an educational pamphlet about cultural sensitivity and the implementation of measures to allow students to discuss insensitivity at department meetings and to file a complaint with a department chair or dean.
Veronica Root (MSB '05), president of the Black Student Alliance, addressed the faculty governing body about several incidents where students felt uncomfortable in the classroom.
Root described some specific incidents, including one where her professor polled the class about ways to gain admission to Georgetown and one student replied that being a minority helped applicants, drawing laughter from the class and the professor.
“This began to affect my learning environment, and really hasn’t been comfortable for me since then,” Root said. She also said that a friend of hers had been called on to speak for all black students at Georgetown, pointing to the incident as another instance of insensitivity.
Tiffany White (COL '05), president of Georgetown’s chapter of NAACP, and Cherise Williams (COL '05) expressed frustration over the lack of clarity in filing a complaint over an instance of insensitivity. Williams is a HOYA staff writer.
The discussion throughout the meeting centered on methods to address remarks like the one Root highlighted about a joke made during a class. Ensuring that professors know how to appropriately respond to similar incidents in the future, Root said, would help reduce the belittlement she said she had suffered.
Tempers flared at one point when Mark Danielson, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Georgetown University Medical School, suggested that the statement made in Root’s class raised a valid point about affirmative action in college admissions, and that the student could have also suggested that family legacy or wealth could also help gain admission. While Danielson said that it might have been out of line for students and the professor to laugh, he urged the Faculty Senate to consider that Georgetown does support affirmative action in admissions.
But other faculty members disagreed with Danielson, including History Professor David Goldfrank.
“That kind of racial slur is absolutely disgusting,” he said. “There’s something really wrong that no one in the classroom thought to speak up.”
Root said she was pleased that other campus departments have responded positively to students’ concerns, citing the Department of Public Safety, which will begin educating officers about ways for students to file hate speech complaints.
Faculty Senate President Wayne Davis reported that the provost’s office had already begun working on ways to address insensitivity in the classroom.
The Faculty Senate also passed a resolution that will ask departments and the provost’s office to consider placing a question on faculty evaluations that addresses professors’ respect for students throughout the course.
The senate had disagreed over the appropriateness of such a resolution, with some senators concerned that a question about cultural sensitivity would allow students who disliked the professor on other grounds an unfair chance to attack that professor.
But the resolution was reworded to allow for a broader interpretation, instead asking students to rate the professors’ respect for students, and passed 16-12.
The Faculty Senate passed a unanimous third resolution that requests academic departments to report back to the body later in the year so that more conclusive steps can be taken.