During a March 25 seminar, “Preparing the Future Professoriate” with Dr. Karen DuPauw, Dean of the Graduate School, discussed prioritizing using the word inclusivity over diversity. She said that if a college or university focuses on inclusion they probably will get more diverse. Inclusivity, she added, focuses on creating a welcoming environment while diversity focuses on quantifying physical features.
I find this idea of inclusion as a philosophy to be really helpful, especially for a white person. Some might consider philosophy as a discipline of inaction (or of thought alone), but I believe that our philosophies guide our principals, motivations, and actions. Therefore, if we grow, define, and commit to our philosophies about inclusion, they will guide our actions.
Diversity, as a concept, seems to be focused, not just on physical features, but on managing and accounting for women, people of color, people of differing abilities, and other markers of diversity. It feels like managing people or making marginalized individuals responsible for creating and maintaining diversity.
And not only does it put the responsibility on individuals who are generally excluded, it isn’t inherently concerned with the climate or culture of the activity, space, department, or university. It feels like a numbers game, and maybe that is because diversity has so long been linked with numbers.
Sara Ahmed talks about her experience doing diversity work in university settings in Living a Feminist Life. She says that often we utilize the language of diversity but that it doesn’t always translate into something experienced: “Indeed, equality and diversity can be used as masks to create the appearance of being transformed” (90).
To use a mixture of Dean DuPauw’s and Ahmed’s language, thinking about inclusiveness as a philosophy is transformative rather than creating a mask of being transformed. More than that, it asks those of us who have the privilege of taking up space to shift to the side to allow space for others. An inclusive philosophy makes whites, men, able-bodied, and heterosexual people equally (if not mostly) responsible for changing their mindset and actions, which in turn change the cultural climate.
Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.