Back in February, I said that I’d like to use this blog to reflect on our university’s mission, vision and values. Recent weeks have necessitated other messages, but it seems apropos to return to our values now. Specifically, I want to talk about inclusiveness.
Our vision statement names our intention to be “an inclusive community of scholars,” and inclusiveness is listed among our core values. At CMU, we define inclusion as: Full participation for all in every activity and venue of CMU. It means that every student, faculty and staff member, graduate, guest and visitor feel they can join in on the great things happening on our campus, and they will feel welcome to do so.
It means that at CMU, we want to foster a sense of belonging for every member of our campus community. This inclusion isn’t just a good idea or the right thing to do — it is necessary.
In her famous essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, ““Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.” Lorde embraced many identities, describing herself as Black, lesbian, feminist, poet, mother and warrior.
We all carry many identities. As an example, CMU’s nondiscrimination statement includes 24 dimensions of social identity such as age, color, gender identity, veteran status, familial status, and more. Yet we are all so much more. We also are friends, neighbors and colleagues. We are scholars. To become truly inclusive, we must be willing to accept every member of our community for their true selves, embracing all aspects of their identities, as well as our own.
It is not enough to work toward diversity on our campus if we are not simultaneously doing the work of becoming inclusive. Having a diverse body of people means nothing if some members of our community do not feel equally seen, heard, represented, welcome, included, respected and valued. If there are students, faculty, staff and others among us who feel like outsiders, or who feel isolated, we have not achieved true inclusiveness.
And I acknowledge that while we have made some wonderful steps forward, we have work yet to do in this area. Let’s begin with what we have achieved together.
Our university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, together with the Office of Institutional Diversity, has made tremendous headway in establishing policies and practices campuswide to increase inclusiveness. This includes small steps, such as ensuring we offer gender-inclusive restrooms and quality of life rooms on campus, as well as larger initiatives to add more opportunities for education, enrichment, training and engagement in programs that promote inclusion. I encourage everyone to review our Ongoing Efforts for Institutional Transformation page, and to spend some time reading about our initiatives.
There is much more to do, and we need everyone’s participation. This is not only an institutional responsibility – it is an individual one, too.
We must each look first to our own biases and behaviors. To be self-aware is the first step in a long journey to fully embrace inclusion. Every member of our senior leadership team is required to participate in implicit bias testing and training. I highly recommend this to everyone who is exploring ways to become a better ally. You can find a free implicit bias test at the Project Implicit website.
Then, educate yourself. There are some wonderful book titles, videos, websites and other resources being shared widely on social media right now. Take a moment to read, watch or listen to something new. The 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge has a great list of suggestions to get started.
Next, surround yourself with people who think, believe and act differently. Everyone deserves a seat at the table and the chance to be heard. When we all share our unique ideas and perspectives, we see the world through new lenses, think differently and find creative solutions for complex problems. I encourage you to ask questions that may redefine and challenge your own perceptions. I enjoy meeting with groups of students, staff and faculty and asking open ended questions to gain insights from others. Their insights add to my understanding and, with these new found ideas, I am able to reframe my own perceptions.
It has been proven, over and over again, that diverse teams are more effective than homogenous teams in almost every area of practice: efficiency, decision-making and innovation. We all benefit from hearing diverse voices and including everyone equally in our discussions.
This means we must listen carefully when others speak. Listen to their stories, ask them about their experiences. Knowledge does not come only from textbooks and lectures; it comes from conversations and the open exchange of ideas.
Finally, ask and act. Ask what you can do to create a more inclusive community for others, and seek opportunities to improve inclusiveness on our campus. Share your thoughts and suggestions. Participate in groups working for positive change. Be seen and be heard.
So, CMU, I’m listening and I want to hear from you. There are many ways to do this:
- Send an email to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Share your ideas for inclusion on this webform.
- Tag me, @cmichprez, in your Tweets.
We all want to achieve the vision of being an inclusive community of scholars, and it will require all of us, working collaboratively, to make it a reality.