Blog Post #3: Diversity, equity, and inclusion. Is this a regime?

This week I saw in the news the case of Dr. Dorian S. Abbot. Dr. Abbot is an associate professor in the Department of Geophysical Science at The University of Chicago.

I mostly just wanted to do my science and not have anyone yell at me, and I thought that if I kept my mouth shut the problem would eventually go away…
Dorian S. Abbot

This individual has openly criticized and opposed diversity initiatives in the past. Recently he was supposed to give a lecture about the potential life on other planets at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, because of his views and opinions about the diversity programs in higher education, MIT canceled the lecture.

Abbot says that diversity and inclusion “treat members as a group and not as individuals” and that he has “noticed an increasing number of issues and viewpoints become impossible to discuss on campus.” Also, he argued in an opinion paper that DEI is a regime that, in recent years, has controlled the research and teaching agendas in most High Ed Institutions across the country.

From: How ‘Diversity’ Turned Tyrannical; WSJ

This is a controversial topic. However, in my opinion, what this individual is doing reflects the null acknowledgment of the privileges that specific individuals hold in higher education. Also, he dismisses the importance of diversity and inclusion programs.

You can find some of the articles I reviewed at the end of my post. I would love to hear your opinion about this!

Sources:

https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-different-kind-of-campus-speaker-controversy

https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/mit-abandons-its-mission-and-me

https://www.wsj.com/articles/diversity-tyrannical-equity-inclusion-college-marginalized-race-11634739677

https://www.newsweek.com/diversity-problem-campus-opinion-1618419

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Blog Post #3: Special Collections at VT

As someone who has always enjoyed going to historical sites on vacations, I found the special collections class presentation to be very interesting. The unique grammar and spelling are intriguing. The penmanship is also pretty to look at in the letters. However, the part that applies to this class is that the history in the special collections can help tell stories about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Having one approach to DEI is not going to work. There needs to be multiple ways to get people interested in DEI. DEI has to apply to a person to get them to think about change. The letters, journals, articles, and pictures in special collections can help get people’s attention.

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Defensiveness and Difficult Conversations

WHAT

In the past, employee development had a clear linear structure. It was common for mangers to provide feedback to their direct reports. However, the quickly changing nature of work environments has created a dearth in the way traditional feedback is given. Ferrazzi (2020) suggests that organizations adopt a structure that allows all team members to engage in the process of providing feedback. This process of peer-to-peer coaching is known as co-development. Feedback can come in three forms: idea feedback, performance feedback, and competency feedback (Ferrazzi, 2020). Regardless of the form feedback is presented, development is the responsibility of everyone. Ferrazzi (2020) presents seven stages to provide an entry point on how to begin a co-developing relationship. This post discusses the first three stages and offers suggestions as to how to implement these conversations without defensiveness.

SO WHAT

Over the past year, tourism organizations have been responding to requests to report on their key performance indicators related to diversity and inclusion. This reporting came in response to recent calls for racial justice. Key indicators included topics such as diversity among employees, conferences and tradeshows, marketing, press, and philanthropy. This very public request led many tourism organizations to reflect on their existing stance regarding this social issue and how they could/should move forward. Despite the glaring gaps in diversity and inclusion, in a number of the key performance indicators, organizational leaders found that some stakeholders were simply not interested in having these discussions. In fact, when leaders tried to discuss such topics, they often became defensive, stating that there wasn’t a diversity problem in tourism and that they should stay away from these discussions. Some stakeholders also refused to accept negative feedback about their organization or destination. Understandably, these conversations can be difficult and evoke a wide range of emotions, but they are indeed necessary. In fact, in a recent report by Russell Reynolds Associates, one respondent boldly stated that leaders must begin considering more perspectives and that failure to have a curiosity about the viewpoints of others will lead to a lack of trust.  As Ferrazzi (2020) points out, “we owe them our candid feedback and solicit their feedback” (p. 127). Instead of mandating everyone to engage in conversations and trainings, leaders who know they may have an uphill battle, will benefit from using the seven stages of co-development. They should place special attention on implementing the feedback sessions, that are designed to limit defensiveness.

Image obtained from Martech.org

NOW WHAT

Organization leaders know their staff and external stakeholders and recognize that everyone wants the destination to be seen in the best light possible. In order for this to be a consistent sentiment from travelers of all backgrounds and abilities, team members must begin having candid conversations about how their individual biases may be impacting growth. As suggested by Ferrazzi (2020), leaders should reach out to their team member, asking to offer feedback. The individual should be given the option to participate or not. If the individual declines, that’s ok; there may be future opportunities. If the individual is in agreement, approach the meeting with the future in mind; do not focus on past actions. Ferrazzi (2020) suggests using conciliatory language because this gives the person an option to do what they please with the feedback. During the meeting, the person who initiated it should ask if they have feedback for them as well. Co-development requires reciprocation. To ensure defensiveness does not become a part of the meeting’s tone remember to remain calm, ask questions, and say thank you whether you agree or not.

Reference:

Ferrazzi, K. (2020). Leading without authority: How the new power of co-elevation can break down silos, transform teams, and reinvent collaboration. Currency.

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Post number 2 Media Equity on Murder or Missing Persons Cases

What makes a murder or missing person’s case worthy of national attention? The case of Gabby Petito has circulated national news media across different networks, but what was so important about her case? The New York Times states that it is because of internet sleuthing and constant social media updates that made her case become famous. When looking at past national news media cases like Elizabeth Smart, Natalie Holloway, Casey Anthony, and Chris Watts a trend tends to appear. Most of the highly publicized cases are of privileged white people. All cases deserve attention and especially in cases of missing persons that still have the ability to be found alive. In 2019, Alicia Navarro, a 14 year old girl with special needs, had disappeared from her home and has not been seen since. Her mother, Jessica Nunez, has not stopped looking for her daughter and posts on TikTok to find her child and publicize the disappearance. The difference is her case is was not as highly publicized.

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Equity in the Military blog #1

The leaders of the United States’ armed forces try hard to have equity among its ranks. The physical readiness tests allow for differences in results based on gender and age and weight limits based on gender and height. The problem is there is a fight on whether that equity should exist. There are members of the military who say if a female cannot perform as well physically as a male then they should not be in the military.  This can lead to females having higher disability rates from the need to prove themselves. Different rules have been put in place to limit the amount anyone would have to carry by instituting 2-man lifts, but still females will have pressure to do the job by themself because someone else has done it. Females can do their job exceedingly well but due to the belief in equality instead of equity, face harder obstacles in the military.

 

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Blog #2 Coping, Classes, College (and Covid)

Young adulthood or late adolescence is a pivotal developmental stage and transitions of home, social network and support systems influence how this transitional period affects young people. Even prior to the pandemic adolescent mental health diagnoses were on the rise (Oswald, et al. 2015). Certainly this was exacerbated by the uncertainty of the past year. But how did students manage, and what can we learn from their coping that fosters change?

More students experienced higher anxiety and depressive symptoms in the past year (Son et al, 2021).  Many reported higher levels of stress related to income, work, family, and negative outcomes due to the pandemic. Social isolation, being confined from peers and forced to spend time at home was probably a difficult adjustment for many. As a student I recognized that the uncertainty of an airborne disease, the high number of deaths, and border closings made life more stressful for me. Nevertheless, I was fairly lucky to have a comfortable living space with adequate internet service. Several students in my class had increased symptoms of anxiety and depression and it really affected their confidence in their work, their motivation and ability to remain organized with school work. What appeared to work for students was having some degree of organization, having routines and access to supportive people. However, these elements are necessary for success in college anyway.

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to better understand how we must address the emotional and social needs of students of all ages and that their ability to cope is tied to success. We’ve also been compelled, and certainly many disability activists have been leading voices in this, to envision more expansive opportunities, better access and equity for many people who have been shut out of aspects of college life. I have hope that we won’t lose sight of all the lessons learned this past year.

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Unpacking Privilege in Academia

“Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women’s statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.”

Peggy McIntosh’s commentary, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” begins with these assertions. She continues later, after discussing how she came to understand, the concept of white privilege – that using racism as a mechanism by which Black people and other people of color were disadvantaged meant that it was also a conduit through which white people received advantages. It is true that even if we do not actively work to advance a belief system or commit harmful acts against people, even if they are not done specifically in our name we may benefit from the harm done to others. I reflect on that when I consider the many ways in which the division of labor and effort has been decidedly gendered throughout the pandemic, which no doubt, reflects these gender differences before. There have been many journalistic and academic pieces published on this. When I thought about McIntosh’s piece I reflected that these burdens are no surprise.

McIntosh says, “I have met very few men who truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance.” This year we were treated to an interesting look into the life of a department chair at a private university in Netflix’s series, “The Chair”. It deals with the personal and professional challenges of an Asian-American woman, Ji-Yoon, played by Sandra Oh, who is the first of her ethnic group (and perhaps the first woman of color) to lead the department. There are so many points I could make about this piece, but I shall leave those for another time. What I want to discuss here is the way her colleague, Bill Dobson (played by Jay Duplass) runs roughshod over her progress, feels entitled to her support, her defense and understanding, and actively undermines her, pushes her to choose between her own career and his, and is completely disruptive. Throughout the piece he is so very consumed by his own self-pity that he never stops to think of the implications of a close association with this woman given how he is acting. He rarely takes what she says seriously, and he never seems to understand that her decisions and her success have implications for more than just her, or even him. 

As academic institutions seek to diversify their spaces, I think it’s important to understand the broader implications of putting individuals in place for representation and not giving them the teams and support to be successful. If we want to create spaces that are truly diverse and where diverse leadership, such as department chairs, have longevity, there needs to be an effort not simply to put people in these positions, but to manage and hold accountable, the many individuals they will have to work with who also have considerable privilege, so that they are not undermined.

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Blog Post #2: Microaggressions

The other day I was speaking to one of my best friends about microaggressions after discussing them in class.  In talking about them, he asked me what the definition of a microaggression was and how a microaggression was different than just plain aggression. This made me realize that I am still unsure what microaggressions and how one would define them. In addition to him asking that question, he was uncertain if he had experienced microaggressions himself. To answer the question, the reading we had in class defined microaggressions as “subtle, stunning, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which [exemplified] ‘put-downs’ towards people of color.” Additionally, that same article defined racial microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color”.

This definition of intentional and unintentional made me think back to a moment that I had with that same friend years ago. About a year into our friendship, I said something along the line of “this is my gay best friend,” that same day, he asked me if I would not refer to him as this gay best friend but rather just his best friend. That movement made me realize that saying “my gay best friend” is a microaggression. It may seem harmless but adding the qualifier of gay before best friend puts them into a different category of friendship that is may be less meaningful than just being your best friend. I had no intention of demeaning or belittling him by calling him my gay best friend, but intent doesn’t matter when discussing microaggressions. 

Since having that discussion with him years ago, I realized that I may say things that I do not intend as harmful but are still a microaggression. Unfortunately, when discussing topics about microaggression, whether that be racial or otherwise, it is easy to believe that you aren’t doing anything wrong and that these discussions don’t apply to you. This makes me wonder how should we educate people on these issues to make everyone look into themselves to reevaluate what we say.

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Open Access

I am doing research within the field of animal reproductive physiology and practices, and I am hoping to get into vet school. Because of this, I chose to investigate the journal Veterinary and Animal Science. This journal is published through Elsevier. The overview does not really explain what open access is, instead it simply states that it is open access. However, when one does view the open-access statement they do find more information on it how they seek to provide permanently free viewing to the reader and still keep the cost down for writers by using additional outside funding. It does limit the reuse of the articles slightly by defining the limits of Creative Commons Attribution and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs. The journal looks to cover a variety of topics for both animal and veterinary science for many species involved in agriculture. It covers research on everything from pathology and physiology to bioinformatics and food safety.

https://www.journals.elsevier.com/veterinary-and-animal-science

https://www.elsevier.com/journals/veterinary-and-animal-science/2451-943x/open-access-journal

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Post number 2 Media Equity on Murder or Missing Persons Cases

What makes a murder or missing person’s case worthy of national attention? The case of Gabby Petito has circulated national news media across different networks, but what was so important about her case? The New York Times states that it is because of internet sleuthing and constant social media updates that made her case become famous. When looking at past national news media cases like Elizabeth Smart, Natalie Holloway, Casey Anthony, and Chris Watts a trend tends to appear. Most of the highly publicized cases are of privileged white people. All cases deserve attention and especially in cases of missing persons that still have the ability to be found alive. In 2019, Alicia Navarro, a 14 year old girl with special needs, had disappeared from her home and has not been seen since. Her mother, Jessica Nunez, has not stopped looking for her daughter and posts on TikTok to find her child and publicize the disappearance. The difference is her case is was not as highly publicized.

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