Moving From Diversity to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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par·a·digm shift  
An important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way

By: Katie McCullough

The University of Iowa has undergone a paradigm shift; a change in how diversity is viewed on campus.

Instead of talking about diversity by itself, the University of Iowa is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and relying on these concepts to help build a stronger campus community.

What is meant by the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion?” The UI currently uses the following working definitions of these concepts as it moves toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment in which every student, faculty member, and staff member can thrive.

DIVERSITY refers to all aspects of human difference, social identities, and social group differences, including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religion/spirituality, age, (dis)ability, military/veteran status, political perspective, and associational preferences.

EQUITY refers to fair and just practices and policies that ensure all campus community members can thrive. Equity is different than equality in that equality implies treating everyone as if their experiences are exactly the same. Being equitable means acknowledging and addressing structural inequalities—historic and current—which advantage some and disadvantage others. Equal treatment results in equity only if everyone starts with equal access to opportunities.

INCLUSION refers to a campus community where all members are and feel respected, have a sense of belonging, and are able to participate and achieve to their potential. While diversity is essential, it is not sufficient. An institution can be both diverse and noninclusive at the same time, thus a sustained practice of creating inclusive environments is necessary for success.

So why the shift?

It is understood that it is one thing to talk about DEI issues and quite another to take action on these issues on our campus and in our community, and the UI is committed to a robust exchange of ideas centered on a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. Diversity is achieved only where there is equity and thrives only where there is inclusion; thus the focus is not on diversity alone.

There is a rich community of people on our campus whose passions lie with DEI, and who will be working diligently to implement the DEI Action Plan for the campus. This plan will use strategies and critical tasks that will move us collectively towards the UI’s strategic goals.

The diversity of the UI’s students, faculty, and staff helps fulfill their mission to explore, discover, create, and engage. Thus, they are committed to supporting every Hawkeye’s pursuit of excellence. As it enhances the breadth and depth of their perspectives, they purposefully prepare for our future. The university’s ability to foster an equitable and inclusive environment for all who join the UI family will determine the collective success of the campus.