Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives nationwide have grasped college campuses, businesses and organizations evoking a demand for change.
DEI focuses on the societal acceptance of different minorities, most popularly races, genders, religions and sexual orientations.
I am concerned higher education prioritizes surface-level, performative DEI efforts rather than effective, long-lasting change within communities. Coordinators and educators have been hired among faculty and staff to push for greater change.
IU has committed a significant amount of resources to DEI efforts, with the university hiring a staff dedicated to DEI initiatives. Not to diminish the university’s need for change, but change cannot be bought.
Do we really need someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars telling us how we should change for the better? I challenge whether appointing a specific leader of a given DEI movement takes away from group engagement. My expectation for someone given the title of “vice president” is that they provide an agenda, and we listen.
The vice president is likely a single-hire position, and I could definitely not single-handedly lead an expansive movement with objectives such as DEI. Nor would I want to. This is a group project, different from those in the academic classroom. DEI requires equal participation and representation in order to achieve peak acceptance, where we do not run into any hiccups of racism or inequality.
People fear DEI because they do not want to be shamed for doing it incorrectly. Society is quick to judge. When you say something that sounds uneducated, people let you know. If you are not a member of the minority group you are trying to advocate for, people might feel uncomfortable buying into the message you are trying to convey.
DEI initiatives must convey that some effort is better than no effort at all. Change does not happen without participation, and I am hopeful this is happening within other DEI campaigns around the country.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are powerful words, important enough to build a movement to shatter non-inclusive wording or long-lasting stereotypes. We can attempt to change something for the better, yet there may never become a time when all parties are satisfied.
Regardless, DEI should be prioritized in student organizations as it has shown importance and because inclusion makes people feel more welcome to participate. For example, the heteronormative culture of certain white spaces threatens imminent growth.
It's time to forgo the idea that only certain people can specialize in DEI. Diversity, equity and inclusion is not about who implements change. The created initiatives should focus more on community growth, leveling the playing field for all involved.
I would be ignorant saying I knew what change was needed for DEI. However, a more inclusive community increases engagement among societal members. New approaches in educational DEI efforts pose minimal risk and can increase outreach to those who have not connected with prior educational efforts, such as following a designated leader, for diversity, equity and inclusion.
John Hultquist (he/him) is a junior studying community health with a double minor in urban planning and community development and nutrition.