Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, February 21, 2019

Staff editorial: A response to AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence

Burwell takes a broad step forward in her strategy to improve the campus climate

Staff editorial: A response to AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence

President Sylvia Burwell released the administration’s plan for “inclusive excellence” Tuesday, taking her largest step as president toward addressing diversity and inclusion concerns.

Following a year that included bananas hung on the quad in May, Confederate flag posters in September and anti-immigration fliers in January, Burwell's strategy aims squarely on remedying the campus climate. The document includes plans to diversify both the faculty and the curriculum, build relationships between students and administrators and commit nearly $60 million towards diversity and inclusion efforts in the next academic year.  

The Eagle supports the administration’s effort to rectify these notable areas of concern. However, while our staff acknowledges the plan to be a step in the right direction, The Eagle believes there is much left to be desired from the outlined strategy.

According to the plan, Burwell aims to develop “affinity-based groups that foster deeper connection and build meaningful relationships” between campus community members, particularly those of “underrepresented minority groups.”

If you’re confused as to what an affinity-based group is supposed to be, they may be defined as a group of people who share a common interest. While building community is admirable, one of the ways to do this is to simply be present on campus. Even though administrators do reach out to student leadership, they should continue doing so whenever possible. They should hold weekly sessions in common areas, such as The Bridge, and listen to student concerns. Most often, availability is the best ability.

The AUx program, which is the focal point of Burwell’s plan to diversify the curriculum, is a fair starting point to an overdue process. While the course offers students an opportunity to explore diversity, it also forces students of color to educate their peers on issues they may not wish to speak on. Certainly, students of color are not responsible for the education of their classmates. One course cannot possibly change an entire campus.

For example, consider Georgetown University’s core requirements. Students are expected to complete at least two “engaging diversity” courses, which can be taken within a wide range of disciplines. For example, a student could take an African-American history course to fulfill the requirement. At AU, courses that would diversify the curriculum are sometimes canceled due to lack of enrollment. For example, an Asian-American literature course was cancelled for this semester.

Nonetheless, The Eagle looks forward to what becomes of Burwell’s plan for “inclusive excellence.” Our staff remains resolute in building a stronger, diverse home for students of all backgrounds.

For anyone searching for a means to express their unique voice on AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence, we strongly encourage contributing to our Identities section. Please email for more information.


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