When Micere Keels wrote Campus Counterspaces: Black and Latinx Students’ Search for Community at Historically White Universities, she wanted to go beyond campuses’ public statements and policies. She writes that “most diversity policies revolve around tolerance – the acceptance of an allowable amount of variation – and aim to help historically marginalized students adjust in ways that leave the institution’s culture largely unchallenged and unchanged.” In short, she wanted to move beyond rhetoric and into tangible results.
To help achieve that goal, she has supplemented her book with a report that makes the lessons actionable. There she explains that “All members of the campus community need support developing the skills that create and sustain an inclusive institution. The overwhelming majority of college students grow up in racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically segregated communities and attended largely segregated schools. Therefore, they come to college with few skills for creating an inclusive community. Students also often enter classrooms that are taught by faculty who grew up with even less exposure to diversity, and who established their careers during times when higher education expected little of them regarding contributing to creating an inclusive campus context.”
The following excerpt lays out 11 actions that will help create a more inclusive campus. The full report is available online.
1. Diversity, tolerance, and inclusion included in all institutional initiatives, rather than being primarily stand-alone initiatives, whenever possible.
Students, and others, are very aware of when there is a gap between a high level of statements and brochures promoting and valuing diversity and the actual level of student and faculty diversity, and also not matched by policies and practices that facilitate interactional diversity. Metric: Is each diversity, tolerance, and inclusion goal connected with identified action items and measurable metrics?
2. Diversity, tolerance, and inclusion cannot primarily occur at the level of institutional statements.
The advancement of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion should be integrated into all steps along the student recruitment, persistence, and graduation pathway, and along the faculty and staff recruitment, retention, and promotion pathway. Metric: How much does diversity decline at each successive level of the pipeline from recruitment to graduation/promotion?
3. Diversity cannot primarily exist at the level of student enrollment.
Faculty create and deliver the curriculum, and as such have substantial control over the inclusivity of the learning environment. Additionally, students regularly interact with and seek support from administrators who have substantial control over whether the campus is experienced as welcoming and supportive. Metric: What is the diversity gap between the composition of the student body, faculty, administrative staff, and administrative leaders?
4. Allocation of time and resources to develop an institutional culture in which administrators and faculty participate in trainings, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities to build their cultural competency.
Especially when there is a large diversity gap between students, faculty, and administrators, there needs to be “ongoing and developmentally sequenced” learning opportunities to build cultural competency of both administrators and faculty. Metric: Is there a range of learning opportunities that go beyond awareness building? Is there funding for those at all levels (senior leaders, faculty, and staff) to initiate learning opportunities? Is there diverse participation in learning opportunities?
5. Promotion and tenure policies include recognition for contributions to diversity and inclusion.
Many faculty view diversity and inclusion work as tangential to the requirements for tenure and promotion, and time spent contributing to advancing these aspects of the campus can be detrimental to the promotion of faculty from historically marginalized groups if their engagement in those activities is not recognized and counted. Metric: Are there competitive campus funding opportunities for faculty to develop and lead inclusion initiatives, and is contributing to campus inclusion formally listed and counted among the factors that contribute to promotion and tenure?
6. Allocation of time and resources to develop an institutional culture in which new and continuing students participate in “ongoing and developmentally sequenced” trainings, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities to build their cultural competency.
It is important for students to receive course credit and certifications for recognition of their participation in diversity, tolerance, and inclusion training. Additionally, some of the institution’s most prestigious learning opportunities should be connected with inclusion initiatives. Metric: Is there a range of learning opportunities that go beyond awareness building? Is there funding for students to initiate learning opportunities? Is there diverse participation in learning opportunities?
7. Diversity, tolerance, and inclusion training included in all institutionally funded co-curricular and extra-curricular programming, whenever possible.
Funding for programming should be tied to participation in inclusion training for student leaders, and level of diversity of student participation in programming. Metric: Is there equitable distribution of funding for student programs based on level of diversity of student participation, and student leadership participation in inclusion training?
8. Equitable student representation and participation on decision-making councils and committees on matters involving student life, regardless of whether there is an explicit connection with inclusion.
Ensuring equitable student representation on decision-making councils and committees should not be limited to ones that focus on issues of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion. Metric: What is the level of diversity of student representation on decision-making councils and committees?
9. Allocation of time and resources to develop an institutional culture in which formal counterspaces such as the meetings of the Minority Student STEM Advancement Program and informal counterspaces such as the Queer & Asian student group are valued aspects of the institution.
Access to counterspaces promotes minority student college persistence and their psychological, emotional, and cultural-wellbeing, thereby lessening the psychological costs of college. Metric: Do students from historically marginalized groups report, on campus climate surveys, that there are formal and informal organizations, meetings, and spaces where they feel a strong sense of campus belonging?
10. Administrative staff provide culturally competent, “intrusive” student advising.
Student orientation, advising, and monitoring practices should be differentiated using evidence-based factors that link student characteristics with the likelihood of challenges with campus adjustment, course selection, and persistence through to degree attainment. Metric: What are the student characteristics that are associated with subgroup differences in success at a given institution, and how has student support been differentiated to meet students’ needs?
11. Student access to culturally competent mental health care and therapeutic coping support.
Students from historically marginalized groups experience adjustment disorders and stressors associated with cultural conflicts and with racial, ethnic, and other identity-based marginalization that require the support of therapists who are equipped to provide culturally competent care. Metric: What are the diversity gaps among the mental health staff, and what are the diversity gaps in student utilization of and satisfaction with care?