In the world, as well as in the workforce, it's an established fact that the best products, services, and environments are fostered in places that embrace diversity and inclusion. College campuses are no different. The benefits of diversity in college far outweigh any perceived hindrance critics of diversity would bring up. The list of these benefits are many, but a few that stand out include being able to recruit from a larger pool of candidates and subsequently a college can growth forecast and follow population trends to make sure enrollments numbers are met. It's also good public relations, some would say a badge of honor, to be known as a diverse institution. It's also beneficial for a college to be able to tap into the intellectual prowess and experiences that exists in people of all different types of backgrounds. Thinking longer term a diverse student body will equal a diverse Alumni base which is a benefit to institutional advancement.
Larger recruitment pool.
When it comes to student recruitment, colleges need to fish in the ocean not in a creek. Being able to cast a wider net will give the college the ability to reach its enrollment goals. A part of this approach is admission of all the different types of prospects of different backgrounds that's going to be available to the institution. It's a disservice from a sheer numbers perspective to have a monolithic focus. Would you rather thread a needle or walk through a wide open door. For admissions departments an increase in prospects is a definite benefit of diversity in college.
The Grass is Greener and More Fertile.
The last two census counts and numerous studies and surveys over those decades all point to the fact that the diversity of the population is expanding not contracting. As an extension of the first point it's to the advantage of admissions departments to go where the growth is -- where the grass is greener or more fertile. If you were a ranch hand and you had a choice between long fertile grass for your cows to graze or a landscape that was smaller and less fertile with only patches of grass which one would you choose? Common sense would dictate the former. This is no different, paying attention to population trends and using that data to make smart decisions about recruitment ensures that you're going with growth and not against it.
In our current social climate. Institutions, companies, individuals who are opposed to diversity or show tendencies to lack diversity are often ostracized publicly. One of the benefits of diversity in college is the institution can wear it as a badge of honor and be held in high regard among its peers and society at large. There are plenty of media outlets who would embrace a story of diversity and inclusion on campus and how it's been beneficial. After an extended period of these efforts it, becomes synonymous with the school's brand and in a self sustained cycle continues to help bolster recruitment and enrollment. Traditional and non-traditional students are highly conscious about challenges in society in regards to diversity and inclusion, showing that not only is this something that the university is sensitive to but it's also taken steps to bolster inclusion is very attractive to prospective students and great benefit of diversity in college.
You often hear people refer to a brain drain where an area or country's best and brightest leave for greener pastures. Justified or not this is a real threat to states, countries, municipalities and institutions like colleges. Embracing diversity on campus can help avoid a brain drain and draw people to your campus/area instead of them leaving. Also great ideas, innovations, new companies, cures for diseases etc. are discovered and founded by people of all different types of backgrounds. Having any exclusionary environment can only harm the institution in the long term as it limits its access to great minds and innovators of the future.
One of the Long term benefits of diversity in college is a diverse student body will eventually mean a diverse Alumni. Diversity among alumni is very beneficial for institutional advancement. Whether it be for the purpose of recruitment, fundraising, growing the endowment or tapping into a certified base of knowledge that has an affinity for the college and would go out of its way to help, a diverse alumni is a potent and important factor for the success of any institution.
A focus on diversifying or growing alumni, tapping into a pipeline of talent, PR, bettering the odds for recruitment/enrollment having a larger pool of prospects to choose are all benefits of diversity in college.
At nearly every college, university and now even the private schools in the country you'll find a position, if not department, dedicated to the job of diversity inclusion. While certainly, a hot trend, more diverse college campuses are the future as evidenced by the changing demographics.
RBC.com defines diversity as any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another while showing appreciations of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and religion.
Conversely, inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported and creating an environment and culture where each person can achieve his or her full potential.
When you think about it, these two concepts are quite contrary, opposites in fact. Can we highlight individuality while asking for togetherness? Here in lies the challenge with Diversity Inclusion. While on the surface a noble concept, but for many schools it's a Utopian environment that we can only aspire to. However, with the most diverse institutions realizing the greatest success, forward-thinking educators must look to diversify their student bodies, faculty, and staff. Here are six tools for attaining a more diverse college campus.
Why Invest in Diversity Infusion?
In an effort not to get too far ahead of ourselves, let's discuss why diversity is important and why your campus should invest in it. Contrary to commonly held belief, we do not live in a post-racial society devoid of racial bias. We are even less removed from the fight for equality on issues surrounding gender, sexuality, and religion. Even those without malicious intent are guilty of blind spots. These unintended biases that affect our behavior or block our awareness of others' challenges mandate that diversity must be an intentional process and in fact rarely occurs organically.
As institutions of higher learning, it's important that we ourselves take stock of the lessons of the recent social and political climate. It's proven that we, as global citizens, have failed to listen to one another. Diversity in our schools may assist efforts to do so by developing wide-ranging viewpoints and ideas within our society. There is value in diverse environments, shared experiences and perspectives. These differences only enhance education and bring out the best for the future. Above all, a commitment to multiculturalism creates a clear competitive advantage over the competition that is reluctant to do so. By providing programs and curriculum that encourage the success and retention of diverse faculty and students, you can attract, retain and develop more talent and have better stories to tell.
What's more, this approach, by a measure of numbers, allows you to draw from the largest possible pool of talent. At the leadership levels, diverse environments drive innovation, improved and more globally informed decision-making and help institutions to become more ingrained and relevant citizens in the communities in which they reside. By increasing measures of accountability, you can demonstrate that diversity is a top/ down commitment which empowers faculty and staff and develops better leaders.
The Tools of Diversity Infusion
Now that we know why diversity is important, let's discuss how we accomplish it.
Having a diversity inclusion department is great, but if there is no buy-in and support from the administration, they'll just be collecting a check. The administration and board of directors must understand that a diverse student body, faculty and staff is not only the right thing to do but will help improve the bottom line.
Your diversity infusion strategy must start with how you recruit students and hire employees. Develop a hiring strategy to make your faculty, more diversified. Start with your existing students and current employees. Ask them for referrals. Consider hosting a focus group to gain insights on your blind spots and to develop best practices on how to best recruit diverse talent. Of course, hiring an agency with experience in the multicultural arena is also a great step (wink, wink!)
Unfortunately, when you don't have a sound strategy, it can lead to a one-dimensional approach to diversity. Attracting multicultural students and staff is great but if you have no plan for them when they arise, you can expect most won't stay. This is even more tragic than not recruiting them at all.
Your campus culture must promote inclusiveness. While many groups may have felt unwelcome in the past, it's important to leverage communication tools and marketing that is inclusive and intentionally demonstrates that intolerance will no longer be accepted.
While the Harvey Weinstein revelation and subsequent sexual harassment fallout have opened our eyes to a world of men abusing power, it's also forced organizations everywhere to be introspective and examine policies. This is a great opportunity for comprehensive training and reform. Developing a diverse learning environment requires that diverse students, the most vulnerable among us, feel comfortable and included in the culture in order to be successful. Invest in staff and faculty training that addresses topics such as:
- blind spots
- resistance to change and diversity,
- sensitivities to identity terms
- making assumptions
- and microaggressions
While easier said than done, the key is to remain committed. Diversity doesn't happen overnight and can't happen unless there's a systemic shift in thinking and culture and it starts from the top. Regardless of your efforts, there will be students and even faculty and staff that are reluctant to your more concerted commitment toward diversity. It's important to stay the course. Remember, you've open the doors and welcomed a new community. Closing the doors behind them is dangerous. Understand this is a long-term commitment and one that will reap benefits and rewards in the end.
It started with the revelation that Harvey Weinstein was using his power and influence to sexually harass woman
and the whole House of Cards
folded when actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis C.K. admitted to sexual harassment and other impropriety. Accusers have come forward in numbers too many to count and the #MeToo
hashtag has empowered women (and men) across the globe to speak up and out against the rich and powerful that have used their positions as a license for inappropriate behavior.
While the fight for women's rights isn't a new one, the groundswell reached a tipping point with Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape first leaked and later reached a fever pitch with the Women's March after his
inauguration in January. What was historically a tempered discussion about suffrage, and more recently abortion has become the premier international topic of conversation centered around diversity. Women across the globe have been speaking out against inequality ranging from equal pay to sexual harassment. These concerns aren't unique to celebrity however and college campuses have become ground zero for all parties to share an opinion. Although our institutions of higher learning should be fertile ground for all healthy discussion, much like our National discourse, lines have been drawn and sides have been dug in on their positions resulting in tempers flaring into conflict. Issues from safety to liability exposure and 1st Amendment rights are all variables to be accounted for. Here are four keys to hosting healthy discussions about Women's Equality and campus diversity at your school.
Set the Ground Rules
While many students won't understand why certain activities are disallowed, it's important to outline them clearly. Because most American colleges and universities and their foundations are or not-for-profit, entities they must follow strict rules and regulations. For instance, they may not formally endorse any issue or candidate. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states
that these institutions “may not participate in, or intervene in…any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Outline these restrictions clearly so when student groups are told an activity is in restricted, they understand it is because it violates a regulation, not because you're suppressing their rights.
Whether It's Safe or Brave, Identify and Designate a Space
As colleges and universities around the country continue to be leaders in the diversity of thought, there has become a growing sensitivity to Brave and Safe Spaces.
Safe Spaces are those that allow students to feel safe to belong and be comfortable in who they are without judgment based on gender, orientation or religion. Conversely, Brave Spaces
allow for open discourse about important topics that affect the world around us. While they sound similar, they can be contradictory. For instance, students that feel unaccepted may be threatened by open debate about their very existence.
It's important to consider the culture of your campus and be cognizant of the needs of the student body. Clearly, identifying the geography where spaces exist and the times and ground rules to which they are to be used. It's even a good idea to draw physical lines. Be sensitive to all the viewpoints on the campus and be open to suggestions and change. Because diversity requires collaborative input, you may experience blind spots in your own judgment when designating space that students will enlighten you to. Be receptive and willing to accommodate within reason. Identify an arbitrator who students can bring concerns to in hopes of providing resolutions that are culturally sensitive.
As we've seen with the #metoo movement, what is on the surface, rarely is indicative of what true motivations are. Harvey Weinstein has often been celebrated as a champion of diversity and major backer of progressive politics. While money is important, to truly celebrate differences, institutions must prescribe a systemic commitment to it. If you're still abiding by the thinking that Asian night in the cafeteria is going to do the trick, then this message is for you.
Celebrating diversity means not only being welcoming of a multicultural student body, but an equally diverse faculty, and most especially, college leadership. It means recognizing the need to have an expansive curriculum that reflects the growing needs of the student populous beyond the traditional core requirements. It means providing an equal platform to the voiceless and creating an environment that is devoid of preferential treatment and disparity of any kind.
This can be a particularly challenging thing, especially for older institutions without a history of such. The old way of doing things, while easier, may no longer be acceptable. It's important in these times to regularly conduct self-evaluations of your efforts to be inclusive and celebratory of differences. Be transparent with the results and communicate a commitment to eliminating any disparities.
Embrace Diversity in Your Marketing
The easiest way to welcome diversity is to ask for it. Very often, institutions of higher learning are married to the ways of the past, steeped in generations of tradition. While this is a great thing, it's also important to recognize that you are an
institute that is advancing with times and markets it as such. Consider messaging that, not only features diverse students, but speaks to their unique challenges. Highlight student differences and consider segmented messaging that targets specific
cultural groups. Be sure to highlight any improvements the campus has made to assist in making the
environment a safe one and combative of cultural bias and sexual
assault. Consider partnerships with the surrounding community to assist in creating a welcoming environment for students, faculty, and staff of all kinds.
We are now at least a generation removed from the times when the academic curriculum was the basis upon which all college decisions are made. It's important to realize that cultural sensitivity is a major factor as well. By moving towards a more inclusive environment we as institutions of higher learning can begin to be the change in issues of Woman's rights, equality and diversity that we hope to see and as evidenced by recent events, needs to happen.