Listening to the Voices of Equity

by Devean Owens / Apr 23, 2018

Last Friday, Dr. Cynthia Dillard moderated a panel discussion and gave a talk on Listening to the Voices of Equity: Towards Diversity in Recruitment and Retention. Panelists included alumnus Michael Diaz, JD, Ed.M., Executive Associate Director and Title IX Coordinator, Office for Access and Equity, UI Chicago; doctoral candidate Arielle Brown, M.S., Educational Psychology; and undergraduate students Georgina Lozano, Senior in Learning & Education Studies and Tori Susberry, Junior in Elementary Education.

The room filled quickly as students, faculty, and staff gathered from all across campus. The event began with attendees mingling as they made their way through the buffet line and found their seats. Dr. Jim Anderson welcomed everyone and introduced Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, who gave a heartfelt introduction of Dr. Dillard.

Dillard asked the panelists about their experiences within the College of Education and the University community as a whole. They cited that connecting with faculty who looked like them was extremely valuable to their experience and success. Lozano exclaimed, “Just having people of color teaching motivated me. If they're standing up there, I can stand up there one day.” On the other hand, not all programs have many faculty of color, to which Susberry spoke. She described feeling silenced by both peers and professors when attempting to discuss issues of equity in the classroom.

The collegiate journey can be extremely difficult for students of color. Diaz expressed that some students don’t know how things operate or who to go to when they have a problem or question. He specifically stated, “When you're students of color, you're pulling the Titanic through sand. It's exhausting.” Panelists also shared the advice they would give new students of color. Brown encouraged, “You don't have to do it alone, and you are important.”

Following the panel, Dillard began her talk by expressing that she would be speaking more about why universities are struggling with recruitment and retention rather than strategies. “Unless [institutions] have a moral conversation about this, it doesn't matter how many programs [they] have." In other words, universities must recognize and address the systemic institutional barriers that continue to oppress students of color. Dillard urged attendees to rethink the covenants that uphold whiteness and favor diversity over equity.

The Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series culminates with Dr. Kimberly Scott of Arizona State University. She will give a lecture entitled, To Be Unapologetically “UnGoogley”: Why STEM Diversity Fails Women of Color, Monday, April 30 at 12 pm in 104 Illini Union.