Two Truths and a Lie About DEI – Roger Moreano

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have become central in shaping the landscape of higher education. And, in recent years, higher education institutions have come under another wave of assault from conservatives who have launched a well-coordinated and funded political assault on DEI programs and initiatives. In doing so, they are exacerbating a decades-long culture war against any DEI efforts (in the past it was attacks on Affirmative Action, Political Correctness, etc.) on college campuses, schools, and on businesses and workplaces everywhere. 

Amidst the discourse surrounding these attacks on DEI, misinformation and misconceptions abound. So, what’s the truth? Let’s delve into two undeniable truths about DEI in academia, followed by dispelling a prevalent and misguided falsehood.

Truth #1: DEI Challenges Students with Diverse Perspectives

One of the most profound impacts of DEI programs in higher education is their ability to challenge students with diverse perspectives. Contrary to the misconception that DEI initiatives indoctrinate students, they actually encourage critical thinking and exposure to a variety of viewpoints. Rather than promoting a singular ideology, DEI efforts foster an environment where students are encouraged to engage with perspectives different from their own.

Abundant research from the last 40 years supports this notion. Studies have shown that DEI education, not just in higher education, but across sectors, prompts individuals to confront their own biases and preconceptions, leading to increased empathy and understanding across diverse backgrounds, greater critical thinking skills and measurable benefits to individuals, institutions, and society. (1)  

By exposing students to a multitude of perspectives, DEI initiatives prepare them to navigate the complexities of an increasingly diverse and interdependent world.

 

Truth #2: DEI Initiatives Benefit Students of All Backgrounds

Another truth about DEI efforts in higher education is their universal benefit to students of all backgrounds and campuses large and small. (2) 

Dr. Shaun Harper of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center has stated that DEI work not only enhances students’ preparation for life after college, he has made clear that his extensive research of over two decades overwhelmingly demonstrates that students, regardless of race, political affiliation, or ideology, feel that they are not receiving enough DEI education and want more. (3) 

Contrary to the belief that DEI programs solely cater to marginalized groups, these initiatives address systemic inequalities that affect all students. By promoting inclusivity, equity, and professional preparation, DEI efforts provide invaluable skills and knowledge to help students succeed. DEI offices also actively work to provide educational programs, inclusive policies, and social and academic support for underrepresented students. These offices play a crucial role in promoting a campus culture that fosters inclusion, safety and belonging which benefits all students.

Now, let’s address a pervasive falsehood surrounding DEI in higher education.

 

The Lie: DEI Programs Threaten Free Speech

One common misconception is that DEI programs in higher education pose a threat to free speech. However, research and real-world examples suggest that the “threats” are often exaggerated, misrepresented, or cherry picked from isolated incidents that do not reflect the whole of DEI efforts at most institutions. (4) Indeed, addressing issues of free speech does not typically fall within the purview of DEI offices. 

Not only does the argument posing DEI offices as a “threat” to free speech present a false equivalence,  it also ignores the myriad ways in which DEI offices in the United States and abroad help foster a greater exchange of ideas leading to improved critical thinking and decision making, innovation and new ideas, and ingenuity and creativity. (5) (6)

There is limited evidence to suggest that institutions with larger DEI bureaucracies in place may be correlated with “reduced tolerance of conservative speakers and increased support for disruptive action.” (4) However, this is not an indicator of causality, and it certainly does not indicate that eradicating DEI offices or initiatives in their entirety will have any impact on the climate for free speech on campuses. And, yet, anti-DEI proponents and the think tanks dedicated to “free speech” seem to, at best, miss this reality, and at worst, know the reality, but are ignoring it for political gain.

 

Getting Past the Falsehoods

It’s essential to separate fact from fiction when discussing DEI efforts in higher education and debunk the attacks and misconceptions which are often politically motivated. 

Although there are certainly opportunities to continue to evolve DEI programs and offices so they are effectively achieving their missions, eradicating them would be a huge mistake. DEI initiatives play a crucial part in fostering open dialogue and critical thinking, and ensure that all students and professionals on campuses experience the benefits that diversity brings.

Sources:

  1. The Educational Benefits of Diversity: Evidence from Multiple Sectors.PDF (stanford.edu)
  2. 5 ways that college campuses benefit from diversity, equity and inclusion programs (theconversation.com)
  3. Why diversity initiatives at colleges and companies are facing political backlash (youtube.com)
  4. Is DEI Causing the ‘Crisis of Free Speech’ on Campus? — Heterodox Academy
  5. What Is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) & Why Is It Important? (imd.org)
  6. Why Diversity In A Group May Boost Creativity : NPR

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *