Tag Archives: equity

Demanding equity and inclusion

mizz“Will having more chief diversity officers, as student protestors have asked, resolve tensions behind the wave of protests at campuses around the nation?” This is an insightful question, asked by Jackie Jones, in her article: “Demanding Inclusion” published in the Chronicle’s Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for March 18, 2016.

My simple answer to Jone’s question is: it depends!

According to Mary Frances Berry, former chair and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, student protestors on campuses across the country “…are looking for more black people, a reduction in overt racism, and micro- and macro-aggressive behavior.” Following a series of high-profile racial incidents at the University of Missouri, students demanded that the institution compose a 10-year strategic plan by May 1, 2016 to:

  • increase retention for marginalized students
  • sustain diversity curriculum and training
  • promote a more safe and inclusive campus

This is only one example of what is happening at U.S. colleges and universities. And the tensions only seem to be building across the country. Solving these dilemmas seems a very tall order for Chief Diversity Officers alone. And their ability to solve them depends on the authority afforded to their role and the influence they have in affecting many areas of an institution, such as:

  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Campus Climate
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Strategic Planning
  • Research
  • Institutional Advancement
  • Student Success
  • Staff/Faculty Performance Management
  • Intergroup Relations and Discourse
  • Procurement/Supplier Diversity

So what can we as leaders do about it? According to William B. Harvey, founding president emeritus of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, we need to support Chief Diversity Officers. He says, “The only way these positions can be successful is if they have the support of the university leadership and the staffing needed.” Harvey also says that we need to get senior faculty on board to address student concerns.

I agree with Harvey, but I’ll also push the issue further. It’s not just CDOs and senior faculty that can make a difference in fostering equity and inclusion. Each one of us has a responsibility to create inclusive campus climates, where diversity is valued.

Every time we hire new staff or faculty, we can pay closer attention to affirmative hiring efforts. As we welcome new staff and faculty to our campuses, we can make sure that everyone has an excellent orientation and onboarding experience. We can promote ways to create an inclusive curriculum and provide incentives to do that.

We can support diversity training and make sure that our leadership development programs have strong diversity components. We can model inclusivity in our decision making. We can build equity and inclusion efforts into our strategic planning. And we can hold ourselves accountable to the diversity goals we set.

For my part, I am working collaboratively with staff in Talent Management, Equity and Diversity,  Chief Human Resources officers, Affirmative Action Officers, and other leaders to produce training resources that help faculty and staff at our institutions hire affirmatively. It is one thing I can do to promote equity and inclusion.

What can you do?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

 

 

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This is real – this is hard!

Racial isolationDiversity – racism – pedagogy.

As leaders in higher education we are working in a system and on campuses that challenge our foundational beliefs and our expertise – and that is hard! I know I am struggling to balance my values and views of myself with the facts and figures that describe a system that is unequal and unjust. And the hope that our youth are leading us to a new inclusive world is not supported by facts – as the graphic highlights – we still live and teach in a very segregated culture. That reality hurts!

As I mentioned in my earlier post each of us needs to ask ourselves questions and figure out where to start our journey to shrink our “bubble of ignorance.” A starting point that I found valuable was this panel discussion presented by the University of Puget Sound’s Race and Pedagogy National Conference and public TV station KBTC focusing on Race and Pedagogy and reality our students face as they live their lives and attend our institutions. Race and Pedagogy.

I will be brief in this post and encourage you to take the extra time to watch the video. It doesn’t provide easy answers but it sets the stage for actions we each can take to create a more inclusive learning – and working – environment.

Todd Thorsgaard

#OscarSoWhite

Chris Rock Racist#OscarSoWhite, Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Atticus Finch and Go Set a Watchman, the Syrian refugee crisis, the achievement and opportunity gap, white privilege, David Duke, the list goes on and on …

At a personal, organizational and societal level we are all facing the reality of living in a diverse world. A world that treats people differently and provides different opportunities based on observable and unobservable traits, characteristics, cultures and genetics. It can feel overwhelming at times. As a leader I find myself asking, “what can I do to make a difference?”

Over the next month, we will be exploring ways to make a difference. We will be blogging about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leadership competency – Valuing Diversity. It is defined as:

  • demonstrating inclusivity in work processes and work teams
  • encouraging and promoting the diversification of our faculty, staff and student body
  • actively seeking out and inviting alternative viewpoints in planning, discussions and decision making

This is a volatile topic that exposes a wide variety of strong opinions and realities. Acknowledging and tackling challenging issues is an important aspect of leadership so we encourage you to dive in with us!

To get started I want to share two quotes that I heard at the MnSCU Student Affairs/Diversity and Equity conference last week. They reminded me of the personal and organizational accountability we all have to make changes.

“Equity is a practice, not a number or an outcome.”

“What can I do to shrink my bubble of ignorance.”

 I look forward to our dialogue and sharing of ideas as we address our leadership roles in valuing diversity.

Todd Thorsgaard

Embracing the edge

Scariest momentI still can feel the butterflies I felt as I drove to compete in my first triathlon. I knew where the race was, I had ridden my bike before, ran in my shoes, knew how to swim but I had never actually done a tri. It was new to me and I didn’t feel comfortable – at all. I was on a learning edge! Yet if I wanted to grow as an athlete I needed to embrace the scary feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next.

Leaders who want to be successful in our diverse and changing workplace also need to embrace their cultural or diversity learning edges. Daniel Pink, in his book Drive,  calls it your place of “productive discomfort.” We all lead from our own experiences and backgrounds. This means that our learning edges are different but that we all have an opportunity, and an obligation, to step into a new situation or explore a new perspective and learn more about different cultures, different histories, different experiences and different ways of thinking.

When we are on a learning edge it is easy to feel defensive, awkward, uncertain or confused. Be prepared for that feeling and continue to push yourself. That is where the true growth happens. Not only will you be developing your cultural competence, you will also be role modeling inclusion.

Some examples of learning edges are:

  • participate in cultural or community events that are not your own
  • get together with colleagues or students who are different than you, and spend most of the time listening
  • involve people with different backgrounds and different experiences when you are solving problems or making decisions
  • actively include discussions of diversity and inclusion in your meetings and work events, even if they are not “diversity” events

Where have you embraced your learning edge of diversity and what did you learn?

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

Joi and pain: lessons in life and leadership

Dr. Joi Lewis is a leader in higher education and an example of a change agent for social justice. She graciously agreed to share some of her passion and energy on leadership, diversity and inclusion. I hope you find her words as powerful as I have found my conversations with her!

I am honored to write about what I believe leaders in higher education should know about diversity, inclusion, and social justice. These issues are foundational to my life’s work and my core values.  As a Student Affairs practitioner-scholar and a social justice activist one thing I know for sure is that as human beings we were created to be in community and be connected with each other, the earth and the universe. I also know for sure that systems of oppression hurt all of us, regardless of our privileged or marginalized identities.

Storytelling is a great way to share the complicated nature of these issues and help us to embrace their contradictions. Our stories connect us and remind us of our humanity; they prompt us to build the muscle in our heart that allows us to forgive, heal and experience the hurtful feelings that oppression produces.  Here are some of my life lessons in: Life, Love and Leadership.

Lesson 1:  I will share an often hidden secret: we all have both privileged and marginalized identities but we are most practiced at organizing around the places where we are marginalized. We are keenly aware of the places where we get targeted. For example as a Black Woman, I am very aware of how my intersected identities of race and gender often set me up to get targeted.

Lesson 2: Even though I possess some identities that have historically been marginalized, I still have much more work to do around interrupting the places that I have privilege and run my oppressor patterns. The term “oppressor patterns” sounds so harsh; it is not an identity that we are eager to take on.  The lesson is that we all have oppressor patterns.

Lesson 3: The good news is that even though we all possess oppressor patterns we can use our “special powers” for good and employ our cultural capital to influence institutional decision making that brings greater equity to everyone. That is better than “super powers” and we all have the ability to do it. Decisions we make about budget, who gets promoted, what programs get supported, or what policies are adapted can be used to positively support more people.

Many years ago I attended a diversity workshop at Metro State. The topic was spirituality and the facilitator was Dr. Jamie Washington. There were about thirty folks at the workshop. I was one of only three persons of color in the room. Jamie asked us to raise our hands if we were Christian. I raised my hand. He then said for the rest of the workshop, which was scheduled for three hours, he only wanted those of us who raised our hands to speak from our identities as Christians. I quickly raised my hand again and said “No that will not work for me. I am black.” Jamie, who is also African-American, said to me, “I see that you are black, but for the next three hours I am not interested in that identity.”

I was furious! What did he mean, how could he expect that of me?  He was asking me to sit in my privilege for those three hours as a Christian and to think about all the privileges associated with the being a Christian (days off for the holidays that I celebrate, Christmas music playing in the malls as early as November, generally no work day on my regularly scheduled worship day of the week, The Bible in hotel rooms, etc.).  This gave me pause for the many things I had not considered. We discussed much deeper issues and folks shared examples of how they and their loved ones had been persecuted for not being Christian and their religious beliefs. I heard about the small things that I just don’t notice, like the way auto-type automatically capitalizes Christian, but does not capitalize Muslim.  This experience changed the way I looked at my multiple and intersecting identities. Although I do not think playing a game of oppression Olympics is useful, it is important to note that all of our identities matter.  It is important for me to do my work around places where I have privilege, not only personally, but also in my role as a leader. This work allows me to have compassion for others who may have a privileged identity that I do not possess and who are sometimes unaware of how their privilege may be running negatively in my direction.

Further, it is helpful to have this lens as leaders when we are making critical decisions that affect our staff and students. We must be aware of how our privilege may make it difficult for us to see how we may run our oppressor patterns towards others.

What can you do to use yourself as instrument:

  1. Build authentic relationships across differences.
  2. Pursue opportunities to place yourself in situations where you are not in the privileged group or the majority.
  3. Read books and articles that will stretch you.
  4. Embrace discomfort, this will spread the discomfort and lighten the load for those who may feel marginalized.
  5. Do take this work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.
  6. Never stop learning.
  7. Make it a point to connect with someone who has a different social identity than you (race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, national origin, etc.)
  8. Take risks.
  9. Be curious.
  10. Have Fun!

Finally, know that this work is a process not a destination. You will make mistakes, get disappointed, have hurt feelings, laugh, cry, get angry, laugh, get upset, laugh and smile, mess-up, laugh again. Just keep at it. Repairing our humanity is worth it. Our institutions, our students and our communities are depending on it.

I am enjoying this journey of Joi and Pain; please join me as we move forward.

Onward, Joi

Dr. Joi Lewis

Rapping and leadership

Recently I spent time with a colleague who works in diversity and inclusion. I asked her what practical advice she would offer to leaders in higher education who want to enhance their cultural competencies. It was powerful for me that her starting point is community building through trust and commitment between people, similar to our leadership competency of relationship building and trust. She shared the work of Jamie Washington, PhD., Washington Consulting Group who lists two foundations for building a diverse community.

  1. Communities are built through building relationships of trust and commitment
  2. We are all doing the best we can (most of the time)

Then we moved on to talk about a specific tool for developing effective dialogue skills that leaders can use with their teams to create an inclusive work space. RAPS (Relating, Asking, Panning and Sharing) was developed by Dr. Kathy Obear, Alliance for Change Consulting, as a way to help leaders open up dialogue and to facilitate inclusion. Examples and ideas include:

RELATE to the person or their comment/behavior

  • I relate to what you’re saying, I…
  • I have felt the same way…did something similar….
  • I remember a time when I…
  • How do others relate to that comment?
  • Who can relate?
  • What you’re saying seems to relate to what so-and-so just said

ASK about the specifics behind the person’s comment or behavior

  • Could you say more about that…Tell me more…
  • Can you give us an example of what you’re saying…
  • Help me understand what you meant by that?
  • What do you mean when you say…
  • What were you hoping to communicate with that comment?
  • Can you help me understand what your intent was when you said/did…
  • Can you give me some background on this situation…
  • How were you impacted when….
  • What were you feeling when…
  • What’s your perspective about…

PAN the environment and yourself; look for the whole picture and describe what you notice

  • I’m noticing I’m feeling…anyone else?
  • I notice a dynamic in our group…
  • I noticed how quiet everyone just got…I’m wondering what is going on for folks?
  • You seem to feel passionately about that…
  • It seems some people were impacted by that statement, am I right?
  • I’ve been noticing that people get interrupted and talked over as they try to share…
  • This response is unusual for you….I’m wondering what else is going on for you?
  • It seems my comment/behavior had an impact on you…
  • You seemed to have shut down…
  • The energy in the discussion seemed to shift after…

SHARE about yourself ~ self-disclose a story, example; your feelings or reactions

  • When I hear you say that I think/feel….
  • Just last week I…
  • I remember when I…
  • I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable…
  • I assume you meant that as a joke, but here’s the impact it had on me…
  • The dilemma I’m in is….

Where can you add a little Rapping to your leadership style?

Todd Thorsgaard

Fight or flight?

Which do I choose? How do I react when I encounter my own biases or the biases of others? What do I do when I am aware of prejudicial behaviors in the work setting? Like other members of the human race, I fight or I flee. Because of my strong feelings on racial humor I may fight and be confrontational when I encounter it. In situations related to cultural or religious differences, my own uncertainty and discomfort can lead me to avoid the issue and hope it goes away. In the long run I am not acting as a role model for inclusion by being confrontational and I am not making a true difference by avoiding! As leaders in higher education, I believe we need to expand our tool box of responses and add a third option, being a proactive “change agent.”

When I am a change agent I am proactively taking steps to promote inclusive behaviors, rather than reacting to situations. I am not on the lookout for unacceptable behaviors to confront or shying away from uncomfortable situations. I am purposely choosing to learn more, share more and take action in a supportive way. I have learned that when I confront a colleague or team member it usually leads to anger or retreat and a short term response. If I am able to give feedback in a more respectful manner we may be able to open up a dialogue and discover options for growth and change, in both of us!

I still find myself wanting to react and confront ideas or actions I disagree with or avoid those “certain sticky” issues related to diversity. It takes work but when I focus on being a role model as a change agent I know I am making difference. I try to:

  • Listen more than talk
  • Reach out and learn more about diverse cultures, backgrounds, perspectives
  • Ask questions to challenge assumptions
  • Include the input and ideas of everyone
  • Remain open-minded
  • Take action to address inappropriate behavior, in a supportive and respectful way
  • Negotiate alternatives to address conflicts
  • Demonstrate inclusive behaviors in my day-to-day actions and language

What causes you to be a fighter or an avoider? Where do you have an opportunity to become a change agent for diversity and inclusion?

Todd Thorsgaard