Is a truly equitable campus achievable?
A first step is understanding what we mean by “equitable campus” and how it relates to diversity and inclusion efforts. In our case, we are building on the three strategic pillars of diversity, inclusion and equity. When we talk about an equitable culture, we are really referring to a culture of equity versus a culture of equal opportunity.
Equity is very different from equality. Equality is a state in which everyone has the same amount of something (e.g., food, medicine, opportunity) no matter immediate need. While equality of opportunity may sound fair, it does not go far enough in ensuring that one gets what one actually needs. For example, equality of opportunity would ensure that both a six-foot-tall person and a four-foot-tall person got the same size ladder to see over a ten-foot-tall wall.
Equity on the other hand describes something that is deeper and more complex. Equity is more about ensuring that each of us gets what we need to succeed. This includes access to opportunity, networks, resources, and other support structures based on our needs and aspirations.
For Lehigh, an equitable culture would be an environment whereby one could not tell the difference in educational outcomes by race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, religion or socio-economic status. It would be an environment whereby we explicitly valued people with different attributes, backgrounds and experiences (diversity) to achieve the outcome we sought; an environment where everyone possesses an authentic and empowered sense of participation and a true sense of belonging (inclusion).
We must be intentional about the numerical representation of different types of people on campus. We must also support inclusion, which refers to the state of including others into the campus community.
The answer is yes, but achieving a truly equitable campus is dependent on our success in creating a truly diverse and inclusive community.