The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Become a Better Champion for DEI by Focusing on These Three Areas

The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and too many others have prompted a flood of angry voices demanding justice and radical change. Many of us have joined those voices in our communities. As higher ed HR leaders committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we are also uniquely positioned to be voices for change — and to amplify the voices already at work — on our campuses. But where do we start? We start by listening. When we actively listen to employees’ experiences, thoughts and emotions around racial injustice, we learn from their perspectives and equip ourselves with new lenses. These conversations aren’t easy, but it’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

CUPA-HR practiced this “listen first” approach by recently holding its first virtual town hall meeting, providing a platform for higher ed HR voices to be heard and personal stories to be shared. The town hall meeting served as the first of many DEI discussions CUPA-HR plans to host to inform and guide our next steps as partners in justice.

Steps You Can Take Today

Laurita Thomas, president of American Research Universities – Human Resources Institute and a town hall panelist, recommended a three-tiered approach to addressing systemic racism and inequality as an HR professional:

  • Start on an individual level – Are you checking your own biases? Are you learning from someone else’s experiences? Are you challenging yourself to reach out to others? Are you making sure the things you do as an individual and with your family make a difference for inclusion?
  • Take a look at your team – What are you doing with your team to foster learning about DEI issues? How are you encouraging them to challenge their own views? What do you do to encourage them to seek out and change problematic policies and systems?
  • Exert your influence at an organizational level – What can you specifically influence in your organization? What campus committees can you serve on outside your department? How can you create opportunities for those who are overlooked on your campus and make sure their voices are heard?

CUPA-HR leaders made a commitment to DEI many years ago. As an organization, we will continue to create and curate great resources for DEI, and we look forward to holding future town hall meetings to continue the conversation and to identify key actions we can take to help build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future. Let’s get busy!

Did you miss the virtual town hall meeting? The recording of this powerful event is now available to CUPA-HR members.

Related resources:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resources

Being Stronger Together Means We Must Move Talk to Action

DEI Maturity Index

Creating Inclusive Communities

Building a Successful, More Inclusive Search