Strengthening GW’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

January 29, 2021

To the George Washington University Community:

GW is proud to be a university with a diverse and vibrant community of scholars. It is through the unique perspectives of our students, faculty, and staff that we broaden our views and deepen our understanding of the world, allowing us to have a truly positive impact on society.  In supporting our community, we have a responsibility to ensure all feel welcome and can learn, teach, and work to their fullest potential.  This requires both a strong institutional commitment and the active, ongoing engagement of our entire community.

In recent years, we have made strides in reinforcing and advancing our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through enhanced policies, programs, scholarships, and grants.  While we will continue to make progress on our existing efforts, there is much more work to be done.  In the wake of incidents of racist violence and systemic injustices across the country, our students, faculty, and staff have come together to share their personal experiences, research, and recommendations to improve our efforts.  In order to supplement these conversations and to gain additional insight, we will commission a comprehensive third-party diversity audit, the first in our university’s history.

This independent evaluation will be a critical step in informing our efforts moving forward.  Based on the findings of the audit, the university will develop a diversity action plan that includes goals, action items, and regular assessments to track our progress both on campus and within the broader D.C. area.  This audit follows a recent recommendation from the Black Student Union, and it will assess diversity in all its forms on our campuses.  We will begin the search for an external firm to lead the audit in the coming weeks, with the expectation that we would complete the audit by late spring.  We will share regular updates with the community during this process.

While the audit is underway, we understand the importance and urgency of continuing to make progress in areas we already know require our attention, including faculty diversity, financial aid, and police engagement.

  • First, students and faculty have made it clear that our faculty body must become more diverse in order to reflect the broad diversity of our students. The Faculty Senate’s resolution on diversity, equity, and inclusion emphasized this need, as have conversations with our students. We will work with the Faculty Senate and the deans to develop and implement practices that strengthen opportunities for diverse candidates through the hiring process. These practices will include diversity requirements in the hiring pool, search committees, and interviewers. We also will urge the faculty to re-emphasize and recommit to bias training, which already has begun.
     
  • Second, we are moving forward in our review of financial aid policies and their impact on students with the greatest need.  We have heard from many students that they cannot feel included in the face of constant financial pressures.  Under the direction of Vice Provost of Enrollment and Student Success Jay Goff, we will review our current financial aid policies to determine whether they are working as intended for students with the greatest need. Based on this review, we will develop a comprehensive report with recommendations to guide our actions.
     
  • Third, we will continue to enhance the improving relationship between the GW Police Department and the GW community, especially with students of color.  This is aided by GWPD’s progress, under the leadership of Chief James Tate, toward increased community engagement; transparency and accountability through public reporting and the use of body cameras; more rigorous officer training standards; and stronger partnerships with students, including through the Safety and Security Student Advisory Board.

We want to thank the many members of our engaged community who are contributing to these efforts, especially our faculty, staff, and student leaders.  Our continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical to our university’s future and the impact of our teaching and research on the world.  We must be unwavering in moving, together as one community, in the direction of progress—ensuring all members of our community have the support they need to learn and to lead.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. LeBlanc
President
 

M. Brian Blake
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs