Monday, February 24, 2020

Reading Relevant to Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statements (by Prof. Dawn Sumner)

Dawn Sumner, a colleague and friend of mine who is a Professor at UC Davis, sent me this document she has written up on readings of relevance to DEI statements and I thought it would be useful broadly and offered to post it here.  See below:

Reading Relevant to Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statements
By Dawn Sumner

Summary: the state of knowledge on diversity, equity and inclusion in universities, with all their intricacies: “An Inclusive Academy – Achieving Diversity and Excellence” by Stewart and Valian. This is a long read at something over 400 pages. It is very good and presents the issues with nuance and discussions of what unknown.  The library provides free digital access:

Chapter 5 is specifically about faculty hiring. It includes a good list of design principles for avoiding bias in hiring. Diversity statements are mentioned as one aspect. It also explains the context for why there is such a huge drop between the available pool of underrepresented candidates and those who actually apply to faculty jobs at UCD.

Morality and Diversity:This article describes 3 moral approaches to diversity, including the intrinsic conflict between 2 of them that reflect the debate we are currently having over DEI statements. The third (new) approach is to focus on the virtues/skills that someone needs to have to do their job well and the values of the organization to shape fair practices that promote excellence.

What’s in DEI Statements?Some of the arguments against requiring DEI statements relate to their contents. Here are some analyses of what's in real statements from applicants. (Note that I saw on twitter tonight some complaints about plagiarized DEI statements - so it is certainly true that there are problems.)
To me, the combination of using a virtues-and-values–focused framework for considering diversity, placed in the context of understanding how academic processes are discriminatory with an understanding of what’s communicated in diversity statements shows: 1) the potential value of DEI statements; and 2) how they should be used appropriately to help inform the process of finding colleagues who possess the skills (virtues) to promote our values (as we express them).

DEI statements can help us find the best colleagues. Misusing them can be very damaging. We need to work on setting appropriate standards for how to effectively use DEI statements to level the playing field, promote equity, and ensure excellence.

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