In 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd rejuvenated the Black Lives Matter movement and called attention to the unequal treatment of Black people—and in particular, Black men—by police. Implications from this renewed focus on equity and fairness have spilled over into virtually every sector of American life.
Postsecondary institutions have reexamined their policies and commitment to diversity as students across college campuses voice discontent and act against the diversity status quo that has been largely ineffective at ensuring equity and inclusion. This historic and critical moment has presented itself for meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) planning in higher education.
SCUP defines diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) planning in higher education is planning that outlines how a college or university will:
There are a number of traditional models for implementing DEI within an organization, including:
Demographic shifts where the American population is becoming increasingly diverse necessitates inclusive practices in society, businesses, and educational entities such as colleges and universities. That increase in diversity presents opportunities and benefits for how we learn and the environment in which we learn.
DEI planning doesn’t just benefit the college and university—it benefits society as a whole. It fosters a sense of civic learning while preparing individuals to live in an increasingly global world, thus reducing racism and prejudice.2
Smith (2009) offers a framework for addressing diversity derived from both historical and current trends in higher education that includes:
Such efforts “provide a way of understanding what institutional capacity for diversity might mean and what it might look like.”3
Strategic DEI planning should incorporate several elements, including but not limited to:
There are multiple ways to approach or structure your DEI plan, including:
Commitment on DEI starts at the top; however, it is everyone’s responsibility. Institutions may hire senior-level administrators to coordinate institutional efforts. Ideally, they are equipped with the necessary staffing, resources, and support to carry out meaningful change and progress towards DEI.
The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) is the premier organization for chief diversity officers in higher education whose vision is “to lead higher education toward inclusive excellence through institutional transformation” (NADOHE website). It has put together a Standards of Professional Practice for Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education 2.0 to offer guidance for those dedicated professionals and institutions to go about the work of DEI.
Ongoing development is critical for any professional. To expand awareness and acquire additional knowledge and ideas about DEI work, consider attending the following professional development opportunities through these organizations:
Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Annual Conference
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) Multicultural Institute
National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) Annual Conference
National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Annual Conference
DEI work is never final. There will always be a need to reassess and adapt. It is recommended that institutions consider adopting regular assessment methods for collecting ongoing data about diversity and institutional climate. This will aid in the understanding of where the organization is on DEI.
Institutions tend to boast about their academic rankings and the quality of education they deliver. Good educational quality is DEI. DEI Planning is the hallmark and central piece to what we do in higher education: educating and preparing students for a global world.
At the same time, it is impossible to achieve progress if DEI planning is treated as a siloed or special activity. Every facet of the institution should and must have a DEI component to it. Having otherwise would be malpractice—to the student, the institution, and our world.