Recently colleges and universities across the country have made adjustments to be more inclusive in response to a growing diverse student population. According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 10 percent of a sample of more than 33,000 undergraduate students identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, asexual, pansexual, or questioning. Additionally, a 2015-16 report found that 19 percent of undergraduate students reported having a disability and it’s safe to assume that number has grown since the report was published. Among the total student population is another subset; “34% of undergraduates were the first in their families to go to college.” There are several more diverse subsets within the student population to consider which has made it clear to higher education institutions that diversity and inclusion needs to be supported on campus.
A month ago, Symplicity published a survey asking Accommodate and Advocate clients to share about their experiences supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives. Several responses about these initiatives and their importance to their institution were received. Mariam Yaqub from the University of Washington Res Life said that her methods of implementation included “discussing how students’ identities impacted their conduct experience in the outline for conduct officers to follow… and increasing training for conduct officers to engage with students about their identities in the conduct process.” Another client, Emily Zaman from UC Irvine, said that she supported diversity and inclusion through the “use of inclusive language (gender pronouns, etc.) in written policy and various language changes throughout our policies and conduct practice.” These are a few examples of ways that institutions can integrate diversity and inclusion into their culture.
While support of diversity and inclusion in higher education grows, clients shared that their initiatives didn’t come without challenges. Léna Crain from Denison University said that her institution’s obstacles originated from the HR department. Crain noted that, “Early human resources issues were a minor challenge, as we needed to increase volunteers and seek training for SJ mediation and restorative justice.” Other obstacles that institutions dealt with came from the difficulty of the subject matter. At Yaqub’s institution, she discovered that “talking about identity can be uncomfortable and we found some staff weren’t doing it often or at all.” Despite the difficulty of implementation, all clients agreed on the importance of supporting these initiatives.
A number of clients shared recommendations for how other institutions can support diversity and inclusion. Robin Randall from Mount Royal University recommended that the key to success is to “be as progressive as possible. Institutional/systemic barriers are as real as physical/psychological barriers and should be treated as such.” Other clients suggested that providing more training to staff members was helpful. Crain’s recommendation for other offices interested in implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives was to “include bias mitigation training in [the] hiring process and volunteer training… include various practices outside of formal traditional conduct practices.” Many clients noted that, regardless of the challenges, the objective of these initiatives made them a worthy cause.
Higher education institutions are passionate about diversity and inclusion. Symplicity is committed to supporting these initiatives with our student services suite of products. We feel now more than ever the importance of providing a technology platform that creates the best possible, unified student experience. An important part of creating that experience is future planning and integration that focuses on effectively recruiting and retaining a student body that aligns with the institution’s mission, while also preparing them for success in their personal and professional lives beyond graduation.
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