Obama’s Former HHS Secretary to Dump $121 Million Into ‘Diversity Efforts’ at American University

A private university in Washington, D.C, is planning to spend $121 million in the next two years on diversity efforts.

President Sylvia Burwell of American University has released a 25-page-document titled AU’s “Plan for Inclusive Excellence” detailing how the university aims to be more diverse. Burwell also served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.  

In the new plan, freshmen will be required to take a mandatory full-year course called the American University Experience. The first semester will see students adjust to university life, covering themes such as “finding community”, “rights and responsibilities”, “diversity, bias, and privilege.”

The second semester looks at “race and social identity which include but are not limited to ethnicity, gender and sexual expression, class, disability, and religion – are often discussed in coded, contentious, or uncomfortable ways.”

Speaking to The Eagle OnlineBurwell called the massive effort “a step in the journey.”

“The plan has important elements to it, but I think it is important to recognise that this is a step in the journey that we are on to get a better place with regard to the issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Having a campus that reflects the inclusion of everyone on our campus with different identities, different points of view, bringing different things – that’s the strength of an academic institution.”

The plan aims to focus on five areas to reach their diversity goals:

  • Training, learning and development
  • Campus climate, culture and community
  • Systems, policies and procedures
  • Access and equity in hiring and promoting faculty and staff
  • Curriculum and instruction

Director of the AUx program Andrea Brenner feels students need to learn how to live with each other better.

“A huge part of American University is learning to live with a very diverse group of people […] Many of our students come from homogeneous backgrounds where they really haven’t dealt with diverse populations before, and so this was a way to respond to a demographically changing student body and have students learn to communicate with one another,” she said.

American University on Twitter

American University’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence will address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. We all have a role to play to make an #InclusiveAU. https://t.co/SgiaEFYvum https://t.co/JB5HQ24Cco

In an interview with the Eagle, Burwell hints that $121 million might not be enough in the noble quest of diversity. When asked if she thought the University is dedicating enough financial resources to inclusion, she replied:

“We’re talking about $121 million over a two year period. I think the question of, ‘Is it enough?’ I think part of what we want to do is do measurement and analysis and figure out the answer to that. I think we have analyzed what we’re doing and the work that we believe we need to do as a university and that’s what we’re budgeting against.”

You know what they say, give them an inch and they’ll take a $121 million.

Read American University’s final plan here

feature image via The Washington Times

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