The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Keep the Momentum Moving Forward for DEI

In recent weeks, we’ve highlighted key takeaways from CUPA-HR’s town hall meeting, Partners in Justice — We Will Not Be Silent! Leaning into uncomfortable conversations to help lead the charge for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and addressing systemic racism and inequality on the individual, team and organizational levels are just two of the “nuggets” our panelists shared.

Now, it’s time to put these nuggets into action and keep the momentum moving forward. Panelist Pierre Joanis, vice president for human resources at Bucknell University, was clear about the importance of sustained, concerted effort to creating meaningful change. He pointed to the Montgomery bus boycott, “where folks who were in hot places, thick places, humid places decided to stop riding buses from December 1955 until December 1956 – 381 days to bring about the change they wanted.”

So how can HR sustain the momentum for change as we combat racism and bias in our campus communities?

Go Beyond Talk– Many organizations and institutions have embraced hard but necessary conversations about DEI over the past several months. Some have even shared publicly the steps they plan to take to identify, confront and combat systemic racism. HR can help propel these plans forward by ensuring that conversations are inclusive, that action items are clear and measurable, and that leaders are held accountable for the commitments they’ve made. Who among the campus community needs to be involved in these conversations (in terms of both leaders who can drive change and voices from the Black community who have yet to be heard)? How are leaders keeping track of the changes they’ve committed to?

Build Institutional Structures to Help the Black Community Thrive – Joanis shared in the town hall meeting that HR has a responsibility to shake up and redefine systems and structures to ensure that members of the Black community on campus thrive. What policy changes can your institution tackle first? Could it be promoting Black faculty, funding Black cultural centers or providing more scholarship opportunities for Black students?

Continue to Increase Your Consciousness of Black Issues to Confront “Colorblindness” – As partners in justice, HR professionals need to understand how the history of the U.S. has shaped today’s culture and recognize that racial inequalities still exist. Increasing your knowledge on the topic will help you confront racial issues and “colorblindness” in higher ed. As panelist Donna Asher, associate vice chancellor/deputy chief human capital officer at University of North Texas System, said, “When you don’t see my color, you don’t see the mistreatment that I may experience. You don’t see the microaggressions that I may experience.”

The time to act is now. Recognize the issues within yourself, your team and your institutions; lean in to uncomfortable conversations as you call out what you see; and dig deeper to maintain the momentum as you help your institution walk the talk.

Here are several CUPA-HR resources to help you along the way:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resources

CUPA-HR DEI Maturity Index, sponsored by Segal

Creating Inclusive Communities

Building a Successful, More Inclusive Search

Being Stronger Together Means We Must Move Talk to Action