Current Topics

Minding the Gap: The Distance Between Compositional Diversity and Institutional Transformation

by Devean R. Owens / Dec 14, 2016

On Friday, December 2, Dr. Dafina-Lazarus (D-L) Stewart spoke to a room full of eager UIUC faculty, staff, and students on the topic of Minding the Gap: The Distance Between Compositional Diversity and Institutional Transformation, as part of the College of Education's Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and OCCRL.

Dr. Stewart (pronouns: ze, zim, zir), professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, is a scholar, educator, and activist focused on empowering and imagining futures that sustain and cultivate learning, growth, and success of marginalized groups in higher education institutions in the U.S.

Stewart began the talk by juxtaposing today’s student protests with those of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Students continue to make the same demands over and over and over again:

  • "We need more faculty and staff of color and they need to be advanced through tenure and promotion and into senior-level roles.
  • We need more students of color and scholarships to help them afford to come and stay here.

  • We need faculty to have (more) training on how to deal with issues of equity in the classroom.

  • We need to reduce incidences of microaggressions on campus.

  • We need counseling center staff with competence in addressing racial battle fatigue and racial trauma.

  • We need student centers on campus where we can share, heal, and organize.

  • We need recognition of the multiple identities of students of color and the intersecting oppressions they face on this campus."

Institutions are focused on diversity and inclusion but miss the mark in regard to creating an equitable and just environment for marginalized students. Predominately white colleges and universities are focused on increasing the sheer number of racial and ethnic minorities but fail to recognize that these students are still experiencing racial microaggressions and unhappiness.

“...compositional diversity – though important – is only one factor contributing to the campus climate framework. The institution’s legacy of inclusion and exclusion, students’ perceptions of the climate, and intra/intergroup behavior dynamics also play a role. Yet, as Mitch Chang, Jeff Milem, and Anthony Antonio have pointed out, institutional systems and practices must also be accounted for. Moreover, it is my assertion that institutional transformation requires doing the work necessary to examine how our institutional norms, practices, and systems continue to reproduce the conditions that frustrate efforts to achieve equity and justice beyond diversity and inclusion.”

Attendees expressed their agreement with Stewart’s speech through snaps, claps, and verbal commentary. Stewart left the audience to ponder, “If higher education is going to make a difference, it will need to embrace revolution, not mere evolution.”

I encourage you to watch the video of Dr. Stewart's lecture and to join us in the spring semester, when the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series will feature the following five dynamic speakers.

  • Feb. 7 - Michelle Espino, University of Maryland, College Park
    Noon campus lecture, location tba
    3 p.m. fireside chat with students, faculty, and staff at Education building
    Creating strategies for inclusive institutional environments that support and empower all stakeholders and the educational experiences and trajectories
  • Feb. 14 - Lori Patton Davis Indiana University
    12:00 p.m. campus lecture, Illini Union, Room 104
    3 p.m. fireside chat at Education building
    African-Americans navigating higher education and the continued importance of university racial/ethnic culture centers to student retention and success
  • April 13 - Pamela Eddy, William & Mary School of Education
    12:00 p.m. campus lecture, Illini Union, Room 104
    3 p.m. fireside chat at Education building
    Leadership development, gender, and leadership, and how leaders frame change for campus members
  • April 18 - Stephen John Quaye, Miami University 
    12:00 p.m. campus lecture, Illini Union, Room 210
    3 p.m. fireside chat at Education building
    Strategies for students and faculty to engage in dialogue about difficult issues related to privilege, oppression, and power
  • May 3 - Linda Tillman, University of North Carolina
    12:00 p.m. campus lecture, Illini Union, Room 210
    3 p.m. fireside chat at Education Building
    Mentoring of early career and faculty of color and culturally appropriate research approaches
Load more comments
Thank you for the comment! Your comment must be approved first