Nice piece (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.add7259).
I am publishing a similar editorial, but more focused on our traditional classroom approach of equality (assuming all students are equal at the beginning and then defining fairness as treating them all the same) in the classroom vs an approach focused on equity (assuming students are at very different places and meeting them each where they are and having the flexibility to adjust to them), and to spend extensive energy simply caring. After 25 years in senior higher ed admin, I returned to teaching at an MSI. These students don't have an issue with inclusive language, at least in my courses (ecology/evolution)- I got to know most of the215 students I taught last year very well, but they have an amazing set of non-academic challenges (mental health, 40 hour/wk jobs, kids, parents to take care or, etc), and those challenges are similar across race, ethnic, gender, age, etc.
What they have told me they need most, & have appreciated about me, is they need faculty to care about them--to be interested in their challenges and to engage personally. It is not surprising--the quality of attention cast at them matters -- and when that quality is there, I discovered they reciprocate with far greater engagement in the course.
My own 215 student anecdote this past year, with more than half of the students classified as under-represented minorities, suggested to me that the simplest and most effective action to building classroom inclusivity is to sincerely care for each student, and meet them where they are personally and academically. It takes a lot more energy to engage with students and support them through academic and non-academic challenges than it does to focus on inclusive language, create DEI strategic plans, serve on DEI committees. or to lay out one's commitment to inclusivity in a syllabus, than it does to fully engage with students. In fact, I think there is no substitute for actually caring.
I spent 25 years as a university senior administrator. who spent a great proportion of my effort as dean and provost devoted to creating, implementing, and assessing university programs aimed at improving diversity, inclusiveness, and equity [DEI} Despite making these issues a high priority, including significant investments, progress at my institutions, and in higher education more generally, particularly in DEI, has been slow, at best. My thoughts about DEI consistently evolve- my father was a civil rights leader in the sixties, so these issues have been on my mind since I was 7 years old and I have had my own epiphanies through my life's journey. This past year changed me again and has focused me on the quality of attention I give to students.
I was on a search committee a few years ago. A DEI statement was required of each candidate. Candidates put a lot of effort in their statement. I was surprised that most discussed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as if they were the same thing. To me, diversity is about representation, and whether the representation in a faculty, staff or student population matches a standard, usually the representation in the population. Changing representation requires one set of actions.
Inclusion is an environment where all people feel welcome, This, to me, is the hardest of the three because it requires changing culture in and outside the institution. My discovery this year is that energy I put into caring and engaging with students was reciprocated by student often student telling me how welcome they felt in my class.
Equity, to me, is about providing support so that all people can reach their full potential. Unfortunately, our traditional way of teaching is based on equality- treating all students the same even if they come to class with under different circumstance. Teaching in an equitable classroom requires meeting each student where they are and helping them reach their full potential.