NEW TRENDS IN DIVERSITY LEADERSHIP AND INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE
Seth N. Asumah, Mechthild Nagel and Lewis Rosengarten
State University of New York, College at Cortland
Abstract: The process of reaching inclusive excellence, cultural competence and social justice in the academy has generated new questions for interlocutors of diversity studies and new meanings for diversity management. In recent years, more attention has been focused on one area in the academy that implements “diversity management”—Admissions offices. These units that serve as both diversity agents and gatekeepers for recruitment have come under scrutiny for failing to adopt a culturally competent or even “culturally intelligent” skill set for inclusive excellence. Furthermore, the complex approaches in reaching inclusive excellence in recruitment and retention that involve diversity management, which is ideally ubiquitous in the admissions process and curriculum development, need further reexamination on how diverse cultures have renegotiated change in the academy and the American polity.
This paper examines the best practice for inclusive college admissions, provides concrete examples of how to infuse diversity and inclusive excellence into the curriculum and professional services, and anchors standards in dealing with difficult dialogue in the classroom and professional service.
When those who have the power to name and socially construct reality choose not to see or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female, or speak with a different accent or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.
Conflicts over diversity and multiculturalism in higher education are localized symptoms of a broader renegotiation of full citizenship in the United States.
The United States’ polity is constantly changing from the original predominantly White, heteropatriarchal, hegemonic, Judeo-Christian, capitalist society to a more global entity with diversity and multiculturalism presenting new challenges to the emerging societal arrangements and how the general populace can negotiate the question of citizenship and the daunting tasks of providing equal opportunity, social justice, and autonomous socio-political participation. Global issues and forces of immigration, religious fanaticism, internecine warfare, police brutality, and adverse economic conditions have all contributed to the new challenges to the authority of the nation state and institutions of higher learning. The perceived inadequacy for institutions of higher learning to tackle many of the issues, which are concomitant with the politics of change and social justice in the United States, could be related to the ineptitude associated with diversity leadership and failure to follow best practices on our diverse campuses.
Paradoxically, diversity is here to stay, but democratic pluralism has not been appropriately designed to deal with the issues of history, geography and number of people that contribute to the strengthening of the United States’ national ethos, identity and culture. Today’s increasing diverse student body, faculty, staff, services, curriculums, and infrastructures, are among the major challenges facing administrators and faculty of higher education. As we elaborated in our recent anthology on diversity, higher education can sustain richer forms of learning, dynamic pedagogy and epistemology with integrity only if institutions of higher learning that profess moral and inclusive excellence are committed to diverse perspective and people of multicultural orientation
(Asumah and Nagel, 2014). Nevertheless, the sustainability of inclusive excellence in education is dependent upon the quality of diversity leadership over and above the corporate style diversity management, which is a linear approach to problem solving.
In this paper, we intend to interrogate the complexity involved in diversity management, in recruitment, retention and the process of inclusion. We analyze the agency of difficult dialogue that emerges in diversity management and leadership and associated benefits and pitfalls. We provide examples of some best practices and models for infusing diversity institutions into higher learning.
Diversity Management versus Diversity Leadership
Diversity is concerned with the variety created in society because of the indispensability of socio-political categories and constructs of race, ethnicity, class, gender, culture, religion, and differences in the socialization of women and men, including the differences that emerge from sexual orientation, age, disability and their intersectionalities. Diversity also emphasizes how differences in viewpoints enable society to make meaning for inclusion and social justice (AAC&U, 1998, ref. anon., 2002). Diversity is sustainable through individual and institutional efforts and it has to “be carefully and intentionally interrogated, as well as managed to reduce the concomitant tension on our college campuses and in society at large” (Nagel and Asumah, 2014, p. 349).
Management and leadership have similarities and differences. Both management and leadership utilize influence, collaboration with people, productivity, and attainment of goals. Nevertheless, both Kotter (1990) and Rost (1991) argue that management and leadership are very different constructs. Rost (1991) imbues his position in the management/leadership discourse by maintaining that management is unidirectional so far as authority relationships are concerned, whereas leadership is multidimensional (pp. 149-152). Northouse (2013) carefully notes that the “overriding function of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations, where the primary function of leadership is to produce change and movement” (pp. 13-14). Hitherto, these authors question the plethora of programs in corporate America and institutions of higher learning that are entrapped in the marketing language of “selling” diversity by thinking that “managing”—a transactional approach to achieving results, would suffice in any structured diverse entity.
Mor Barak (2014) characterizes diversity management as “the voluntary organizational actions that are designed to create greater inclusion of employees from various backgrounds into the formal and informal organizational structures through deliberate policies and programs (p. 218). This definition focuses primarily on private corporations and their “voluntary” actions or inactions in managing diversity. Yet, we, the authors of this article, strongly believe that for the workplace and colleges to be inclusive, diversity policies and actions must be intentional and deliberate and must transcend the voluntary boundaries of organizational and institutional structures. Olson and Martins (2012) define diversity management as the “utilization of human resources (HR) management practices to: (i) increase or maintain the variation in human capital …(ii) ensure that variation in human capital …does not hinder the achievement of organizational objectives… and (iii) ensure that variation in human capital …facilitates the achievement of organizational objectives” (pp. 1168-1187). This definition is not brief. Neither is it succinct, and, in addition, it relies only on traditional human resources management models for modern issues confronting institutions and organizations so far as diversity is concerned.
In our earlier work, we characterized diversity management as the recognition and provision of value to differences through effective methodology and implementation of inclusive policies—solving problems and overcoming difficult dialogues and obstacles (Nagel and Asumah, 2014, p. 310). Currently, we are transcending the limits of diversity management and we advocate diversity leadership. Diversity leadership is about redefining and rethinking problems in creative ways and the transformational approaches to overcoming difficult dialogues and raising human consciousness to implement goals and policies in order to reach inclusive excellence.
The call for diversity leadership involves a transformational approach to social change for inclusive excellence. The funnel of diversity leadership above challenges individuals in higher education to start the diversity enterprise with commitment to diversity and maintaining congruence in one’s utterances and deeds. Diversity leaders must talk the walk. If diversity and democracy have a symbiotic relationship, then one should not present diversity projects on our campuses as an options or winner-takes-it-all propositions. Commitment is one of the Seven C’s of leadership that is utilized in the social change model (SCM) of leadership. The other C’s for leadership are citizenship, collaboration, common purpose, controversy with civility, consciousness of self, and congruence (Komives, Wegner & Associates, 2009). Komives et al. inform our conceptual framework, thinking and actions that the individual’s sense of self is key to commitment (p. 64). Knowing the self and championing the essence of diversity with a common purpose in the academy strengthens the mission of the university—a place a universe leaners and teachers congregate and people are not excluded because of perceived norms.
Social groups’ values become crucial in diversity leadership, when members of the learning community work to transcend the dynamics and effects of prejudice, discrimination and unearned privilege. Collaboration through collective contributions from faculty, administrators and students and taking advantage of the power of diversity to reach a common goal of inclusive excellence buttresses the campus climate for transformative diversity leadership. When social groups on our campuses effectively collaborate on the leadership’s vision on diversity, true citizenship becomes inevitable. “Citizenship occurs when one becomes responsibly connected to the community/society in which one resides by actively working toward change to benefit others through care, service, social responsibility, and community involvement” (Komives, Wegner & Associates, 2009, p. 54).
In our case, a university citizen is the one who combines the mission, policy, curriculum, and all student interests to the highest level with responsibility and commitment to diversity. Transformational change in the academy is the ultimate goal for diversity leadership. Yet, we are aware that social change is not an easily process and without controversy. Difficult dialogues have to be handled effectively for change to occur. The very fact that that diversity involves differences and similarities in the process of acquiring social justice means controversies will emerge on how to negotiate full citizenship for inclusive excellence to transpire. Difficult dialogues are irrefutably embedded in the democratic process. Yet, the historical contradiction in a country that cherishes democracy but has the inability to rid itself of the legacy of prejudice and discrimination, which produces the politics of exclusion, is troubling. Developing new ways of dealing with difficult dialogue in the polity beyond Ferguson, Missouri, where diversity mismanagement and lack of leadership caused that city and the United States to reexamine its national ethos and diversity leadership programs, should be placed on the apogee of the nation’s agenda. What then is difficult dialogue?
Dealing with Difficult Dialogue
Difficult classroom and workplace dialogues are discussions or policy discourses between individuals or groups involving race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion and any diversity categories. In these dialogues, differences over issues and problems are made public, challenged, or judged to be offensive, often with emotions. Young and Davis-Russell (2002) inform diversity interlocutors that, “When in a diverse group, people often avoid discussion of race, class, gender and sexual identity for fear of creating discomfort, embarrassment, or hostility” (p. 41). So, how can we make our campuses inclusive if very few people want to talk about the elephants on college campuses? Why do heteropatriarchal White hegemonic administrators find it discomforting to talk about diversity leadership and the pitfall of recruitment and retention of groups who have been historically excluded in the admissions process? Administrators and faculty alike are trained in their primary disciplines and are not equipped to confront discomforting and uncomfortable issues in their normal routines. However, the new normal of avoiding difficult dialogue on our campuses for the fear of being characterized has “trouble makers” or making, especially, White hetero-patriarchal hegemonic administrators uncomfortable, is unproductive at best and lethal to diversity at worst. We must confront difficult dialogue squarely in the academy.
Dealing with difficult dialogue requires a skill and constant practice in order to be productive in setting university agendas and goals. Young and Davis-Russell (2002, 2014) propounded four steps in dealing with difficult dialogue: (i) creating a climate of inquiry, (ii) focusing on cognitive inquiry, (iii) focusing on emotional inquiry, and (iv), developing skills of mindful listening (pp. 44-48). Discussions about diversity issues and leadership in higher education have shifted from a focus on excellence to inclusive excellence and from cultural sensitivity to cultural competence in our ever-expanding and diverse campuses. In democratic pluralistic societies, difficult dialogue is part of the process of agenda setting and policy formulation and implementation. Nevertheless, difficult dialogues can only be successful when interlocutors or opponents and proponents can effectively combine cognitive knowledge with emotional retorts—what is cerebral must be combined with what is visceral! Creating a climate of inquiry in the classroom, meeting places and workplaces by generating enthusiasm about asking non-threating questions about diversity or university policy, injecting self-reflections in the process, and modeling proper attitude for inquiry, prepares all parties involved to work toward a common purpose.
Academics and administrators can be submerged in intellectual exercises that could derail the underlying context of diversity discussions. Relying too much on research and theories that make up one’s discipline could at times render problem-solving on race, class, gender, religion and disability meaningless. Cognitive inquiry, as Young and Davis-Russell (2014) notes, is about “going beyond learning about theory and research findings … sociocultural factors [must be taken] into account” (p. 45). The actual socio-cultural situations of underrepresented groups that are at the point of investigation must become part of the process of cognitive inquiry for it to be successful. Emotional inquiry is essential to the effective interrogation of differences based on culture, race, gender, religion, sexual location, and/or class. Since emotional inquiry could be different from cognitive inquiry, it is important to acknowledge ahead of time in discussions that feelings are temporal, reactive and yet diversity issue can ignite deep feelings and emotions and there are times participants in a dialogue could be temperamentally tempestuous.
The process of effective dialogue, discussion, conversation, and collaboration on admissions and retention projects depends on mindful listening. This skill, mindful listening, comprises of two channels—listening to the self and listening to the other. Included in this skill is placing ones attention on the other person, being nonjudgmental, paraphrasing statements, engaging in gentle interrogation and noticing the other person in the conversation. Most often, people who maintain hegemonic power in the academy are too arrogant or unprepared to listen to subordinates on diversity issues; they refrain from mindful listening which, in turn, produces acrimonious situation and policy myopia in the academy. The road to inclusive excellence and diversity leadership is undulating; however, it is attainable by maintaining stewardship of the intersection of diversity and democracy. Our vision and mission for inclusive excellence must always embrace the active, intentional, and transformational commitment to diversity, specifically in people, the curriculum, the community, and policies striving to use all our resources to provide the best possible learning and working environment. Inclusive excellence, an idea greater than the self, social change and diversity leadership supported by the best practices in the academy would benefit education for the common good.
Navigating Hidden Double Binds and Double Standards
We now turn to some roadblocks to fulfilling the diversity goals outlined so far, focusing on access to higher education and retention of faculty and students of color. Too often, lofty mission statements about inclusion (of underrepresented groups) and concomitant practices diverge fundamentally. Analyzing this rift, we detect a blame game that adheres to the script of the birdcage scenario, famously penned by feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye:
Cages. Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere.
Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon. (1983, p. 4)
Furthermore, Frye explains why a double bind is oppressive: “One of the most characteristic and ubiquitous features of the world as experienced by oppressed people is the double bind situations in which options are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty, censure or deprivation” (1983, pp. 2)?
Frye’s model powerfully explains the epistemic gap between ideal and practice. It is easy enough to stay mired within the microscopic lens when fear of the unknown, complacency, or unconscious bias are the fallback positions of admissions officers and tenure-&-promotion committee members. Admissions is particularly risk-adverse, despite demographic changes and declining high school graduating classes. None of the actors imagine themselves as “oppressive,” but the entanglement of hidden, shared cultural assumptions of a (historically White) institution needs to be named, disentangled and transformed, if the university wishes to promote a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Stephanie A. Fryberg and Ernesto J. Martínez’s recent book shines a critical light on the presentation of data with respect to hiring and retention practices of faculty of color. “What does it mean for universities to claim progress with respect to diversifying faculty ranks when 73 percent of faculty of color hold non-tenure-track or adjunct faculty positions that do not provide job security (American Federation of Teachers, 2010)?” (2014, p. 5). We answer that such claims of progress in diversifying the faculty hides in plain sight the fact that a myopic perspective is more comforting to gatekeepers at historically White institutions than an honest look at the macroscopic picture of understanding the diverse pressures faculty of color face vis-à-vis tenure-track level positions, especially at elite colleges or research universities.
In the case of tenure-track faculty of color, Fryberg and Martínez describe the presence of three interrelated narratives:
- “Striving, but Falling Short”
- “Inching toward Progress”
- “Service Is (Not) Necessary”
They caution: “While these narratives … are in no way meant to be discrete or comprehensive, they function as part of the uncharted and elusive geography that junior faculty of color must navigate in order to inhabit the university successfully. These narratives exist in tandem, at times overlapping and at times in conflict” (p. 8). In other words, these narratives buttress the birdcage scenario of oppression in so far as navigating within the constraints of the cage is all but a limiting experience that demands superhuman emotional labor to sustain one’s well-being for six long years. Having access to union representation and a strong peer-mentoring network, inside and beyond the institution, may assist in strengthening coping practices and overcome the felt experience of isolation. Yet, re-enforcing mechanism of a double-bind (you are damned if you do service, and you are damned if you don’t) and of double-standards with respect to a narrow model of success which is used to measure certain intellectual work and to disqualify the challenging work of “doing diversity.” The authors note that “[e]ither way, junior faculty of color are left with mixed messages and double standards, while the university gets to claim diversity as a core value” (Ibid.).
A core demand of diversity leadership, as opposed to diversity management, is to evaluate and validate the work of faculty of color as change agents in terms of inclusive academic excellence standards. The caged bird is indeed free to leave the cage and soar in community-engagement praxis, which will “count” towards valuable research, elevating the academy as a place that is accountable to its diverse residents. Historian Darlene Clark Hine exemplifies this “breakout”: during the 1970s, she was the only tenured female African American historian professor in the entire state of Indiana. A community member encouraged her to start focusing her research on Black women in Indiana, and Professor Hine agreed. This work lead to pioneering work unearthing Black women’s contributions, and she is a recipient of the 2013 National Humanities Medalist Award (Williams, 2014).
Increasing the number of faculty of color has a direct relation to the level of commitment to admitting, retaining, and graduating students of color. Successful diverse students become professors; without attention to this dynamic, the available pool will remain small. This, added to the systemic difficulties of being hired, conspires to doom diversity in the college setting. At a time, when about 700,000 people nationwide get released from prison, and some 2.3 million people are incarcerated on any given day, it is important that colleges and universities as well as our unions start paying attention on a population permanently locked out of higher education. The few who try to enter get stymied by threatening forms—the common application. The Center for Community Alternatives (2010), based in New York, has documented that over sixty percent of academic institutions screen applicants for prior criminal history. If it is discovered that an applicant failed to disclose, some colleges rescind the admissions offer. CCA also notes that the universities which do not collect criminal history data, do not report any compromised safety standard on their campuses.
The double bind is clearly in effect here: returning citizens are told to engage in higher education only to find locked entrances. One’s convict status is (not yet) a protected class. Over seventy million Americans have criminal histories, which prevents them from securing easy access to housing, education, and jobs (Vallas & Dietrich, 2014). Thus, the protestant work ethic rings hollow for somebody who experiences legal discrimination.
Prison reform activists have successfully lobbied around the country to “ban the box” for college and employment applications. In those cities and colleges, applicants do not have to check a box on a form, and background checks are done only when an offer is made. Some states have passed “second chance” legislation to permanently seal criminal records. New York state’s senate has proposed The Fair Access to Education Act (S6437, May 2014) which would remove the criminal history box from all college applications in New York so that applicants with a prior criminal history record could be considered on a fair and equal basis. This proposed legislation is “intended to enhance public safety, greater racial fairness, and the economic and social well-being of all New Yorkers by removing needless barriers to higher education faced by people with past criminal justice involvement.” The proposed law actually is honest in describing the racist reality of mass incarceration. If passed, the State University of New York system, possibly the largest university system in the world with 64 campuses, would be mandated to open its doors to the state’s diverse population. By contrast, City University of New York does not discriminate against formerly incarcerated applicants. Upholding the merit and power of “inclusive excellence,” we hope to see a shift in admissions strategic targeting of populations and doing their part in disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Indeed, as we go to press, we learn that the Obama Administration has taken note and surprisingly, SUNY has joined CUNY in Obama’s leadership circle to rally for a ban of the box of the common application (The White House, 2016). It remains to be seen how soon SUNY will open its doors to applicants who deserve a second chance, according to prison justice activists.
Securing a Place at the Table: Admitting and Supporting Diverse Students
Providing access to higher education, and admitting and supporting successful students are essential components of diversity leadership at White institutions. There are numerous instances of good intentions, but diverse interests remain underserved, often unknowingly. For example, having lowered expectations and standards of students from diverse or challenging economic backgrounds is intended as offering a break or a chance, but unfortunately ensures lower achievement (Miller et al., 2005, p. iii).
An institution of higher learning can overcome such obstacles. There often exists offices, departments, and committees dedicated to diversity issues including multicultural councils, a diversity office, Africana Studies, and the Educational Opportunity Program. Despite these, there must be administrative “buy in” to respect, support and listen to these groups’ recommendations and to continually accept the possibility that college officials may be unaware of the full dimensional reality of life on campus as experienced by diverse students.
These efforts begin with the admissions process and with the nature of the contact prospective students have with a college. As it is with admitted students, trust and support must also be established early on with the prospective student. Here numerous instances are revealed of a well-intentioned approach, but with unintended consequences. Admissions may view its main mission as avoiding under enrollment; any consideration they regard as threatening those numbers is discounted. As a result, they may place no priority in the admissions and financial aid eligibility process on students who are most at risk and most diverse. EOPs diversity numbers, for instance, can thereby move dramatically in the opposite direction of diversification, as that consideration is trumped by filling a class.
The following case magnifies the birdcage metaphor of oppression. Students and families who are first generation, who may not speak English as their primary language and who know little of how to interact with Admissions and respond to their questions, are slowed down, hampered by, and eventually closed out of the process. One student this year submitted a social services form filled out in Spanish. These forms usually automatically qualify a student financially, but it was rejected for not being in English. When finally translated, it was too late in the process as white students, some of whom were not first generation, were already admitted, closing out the available spots. These concerns transmit to continuing students who do not have families positioned to offer assistance and advice, who are not well versed in producing college papers, conducting research, standardized test taking, etc. Regarding standardized tests such as the SAT and its relation to family income, Jon Boeckenstedt (2014) writes, “colleges boast when their applicants have higher SAT scores, yet high scores are exactly what low-income students tend to lack.” These tests belie an inherent bias, in their formulation, in who does well on them, and how they continue to be used as an indicator of potential college achievement. Successful opportunity programs can demonstrate how this is disproven repeatedly.
Consideration must be made for students who demonstrate strong potential through hard work, but who have attended schools that have rendered them radically under prepared for college. It isn’t simply the case that if admitting remarkably under prepared students, Admissions has done their job of providing “opportunity.” This has the opposite effect. With little potential or ongoing comprehensive support, far too many diverse students struggle, incur loans and ultimately are disqualified with no expectation of a college degree or a job worthy of assisting in paying off this debt. Admissions must be a partner recognizing that the difficult work of diversity leadership begins well before students are admitted and continues long after. They must be compelled to work with the campus professionals who have as a main mission and expertise in supporting the diversification of the campus and improving the retention and graduation rates for diverse students.
Academic Advising and Support of Diverse Students: Best Practices
Diverse students, who demonstrate academic promise, must be motivated and inspired in what for many is a novel and sometimes baffling environment and context. Retention and graduation within four years are important goals and it is also the case that high achievement — not simply “pushing students through” — is a crucial goal. High achievement must be emphasized as a central aspect and the faculty and staff’s role in student advising is a central facet of that mission. Without this focus, diverse students may “confirm” the already lowered expectations and outcomes wrongly associated with them. In the words of Claude M. Steele, these can be considered “identity contingencies” which affect performance (Steele, 2010, p. 3).
Advisors must work closely with students during the admissions decision-making process and summer and fall registration. Advisors thus develop close working relationships with students. Staying in touch with applicants as they complete their files is essential. Working with the guidance counselors throughout the state also raises the probability of good student matches for a particular college and ultimately success. Guidance counselors will already know the emphasis placed on academic achievement and the specific programs offered, and will be eager to recommend particular students for the opportunity. Because many diverse students have done well in relatively underfunded high schools, an inaccurate picture of their preparation may emerge. Some schools indeed “receive little funding” and “unequal funding creates unequal education” (Scott, 2012, p. 131). Advisors and support personnel must understand this and provide assistance that comprehensibly offsets having been underserved.
Transitioning to a new cultural environment is an essential consideration. Advisors should be aware of ESL or bilingual needs. Many of our students may speak another language, but may not have any formal training in that language. A student from Ecuador may not be able to place accents in Spanish, for example. This student’s knowledge of English grammar will be similarly incomplete, so s/he will need extra attention. In Miller’s study of Skidmore College’s highly successful Opportunity Programs, he observes that “the extensive amount of time that the [required] Summer Institute allocates to mandatory tutoring is very unusual” (Miller et al, 2012, p. 21). Sometimes our students will be recent arrivals from another country, and they may have taken many of their high school classes in their original language, not in English. As Mona Scott argues based on her research, diverse students are more likely to succeed if they see themselves represented in the faculty and staff, alone providing a compelling reason for the administration’s diversification. “Studies have shown there is a correlation between African American students and learning at Historically Black Colleges [HBCUs] with African American teachers” (Scott, 2012, p. 126). Students attending college in rural environments may also experience adjustment needs as they emerge from urban locations. Staff and faculty, who are also reflective of cultures more typically appearing in those settings, can be invaluable to these students.
Advisors and faculty must understand that students may have had limited exposure to ideas and experiences outside their own cultures that carry an expectation of “common cultural knowledge.” This experience can limit students’ potential to develop their own individuality and acquire personal interests that can lead to academic and career goals. Students can be further hindered because their families are unable to offer college-oriented advice. Thus, our students who do not have academic role models, and will not have had lengthy conversations about college life and its demands, will be challenged each time they return home by friends and even family members who believe they are “abandoning” their roots. This may appear as at odds with the goal of advisors promoting increasing independence. By acknowledging this push-and-pull dynamic of supporting the drive for autonomy and the need for belonging, potential conflicts and pitfalls are circumnavigated. Support personal, advisors, and faculty should also remain available to graduates, to discuss post-graduate plans, write letters of recommendation for graduate school, law school, and new jobs. Along with Career Services, advisors should help alumni understand the process of applying for the right job. Once that career is set, some alumni may need assistance in clarifying their decisions or in imagining themselves in their new, successful roles. Graduates are also encouraged to participate in the undergraduate process as mentors and speakers.
Equality and Equity: Moving beyond Diversity Management
Diverse students are the equals of any student in intellectual capacity and potential. Their needs may be different. In considering the application of Functionalist Theory, Conflict Theory and Critical Race Theory in an effort to explain inequities, Scott asserts that Critical Race Theory explains the educational gaps as due to schools maintaining “society’s current system of socioeconomic stratification” thus encouraging “society’s domination of non-white learners” (Scott, 2012, p. 130). Due to the variety of factors outlined above, these students may feel reluctance to compete with students they feel are on a higher intellectual plane or who have been better prepared for college. Diverse students must therefore be encouraged to participate fully in class. By inspiring the students’ confidence, students must come to recognize that they will have unique and valuable perspectives to offer in class discussion and that they may very well ask the questions no one else will ask. This reverses the effect of “stereotype threat” as identified by Claude M. Steele (Scott, 2012, p. 176). College holds out the promise, sometimes unrealized, that students can challenge assumptions and beliefs, that academic challenge and rigorous debate is part of the learning process for all students. Without their diverse voices and success, a campus will suffer in that essential mission.
This paper has noted some of the Sisyphean struggles people of color face while trying to join the academy or holding on to student or full-time faculty positions. Diversity strategic plans tend to get a short shrift and are barely implemented in maximizing ways when a university is facing budget cuts. Indeed, diversity efforts tend to be cut first when academic programs are under attack, including Africana Studies and Opportunity Programs. Oftentimes, they are “threaded” throughout the Strategic Plan (such as the Power of SUNY), which may obfuscate implimentation of concrete goals and who might be responsible for them. The motto here is “if we are all responsible for diversification of the academy, then, possibly, none of us are responsible.” The burden is placed upon faculty of color who lead diversity efforts or Africana or Ethnic Studies programs to plead in vain for cluster diversity hires or ambitious degree programs. Chief diversity officers may feel unable to begin difficult dialogues with managers who are accustomed to manage diversity but not a diversity leadership model that presents creative and realistic goals and outcomes for the entire campus community. Are all of us academic stakeholders ready to hold accountable our university leadership to the lofty diversity mission, vision, and values?
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