It was gratifying to read the two stories in last week’s issue about Washington College’s new program, George’s Brigade (“Confronting Diversity on Campus,” and “Misconceptions Over George’s Brigade”). Making Washington College a more diverse place, in every way, is a challenge that faces all of us who are part of the campus community. Tya Pope, assistant director of intercultural affairs, was spot on when she said that diversity “is much bigger than having black and brown faces on campus and being able to see people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. … We’re talking about social-economic status, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability. There are so many components to making a campus diverse.”
The Bloomberg News report that prompted The Elm’s stories focused on George’s Brigade as a means of making it possible for more students of color to attend Washington College. While this is one hopeful result of the program, it is not the program’s sole purpose or goal. There is no racial component to admission through George’s Brigade. Anyone can apply, as long as they meet the academic and financial prerequisites. The goal of the program is to provide high-achieving, high-financial-need students—many of whom are first-generation students—an opportunity to attend Washington College tuition-free, as well as the opportunity to apply with others from their high school so that their transition to our small, rural campus is easier to handle. Their racial background has nothing to do with whether they are accepted into George’s Brigade.
I’d also like to echo the sentiments of The Elm writers and some of the students who were less than enthused about the headline that Bloomberg News chose to use for its story about George’s Brigade. Unfortunately, College Relations and Marketing had no input on the headline, and agree that it was written as “click bait” rather than as an accurate summation of the story and the program.
George’s Brigade is only one way the college is tackling this issue, and increasing diversity in the student body must also be matched by the same efforts in seeking new faculty and staff. This is a challenge that we, as a campus community, must take on together, in small ways and large, every single day. The Elm is to be commended for bringing attention to it and encouraging the conversation to grow and broaden as we move forward.
Wendy M. Clarke
Director of Media Relations