In dealing with complex issues, it can be helpful to define terms. This plan addresses strategic steps that Colgate can take toward becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive university. These terms are related, but not equivalent.
In speaking of “diversity,” we mean those aspects of identity, expressed in many ways, that can shape perspectives and thinking. A commitment to diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and appreciating our differences in an environment that supports individual and collective achievement. These differences can include, but are not limited to: race; ethnicity; gender and gender expression; sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; geographic background; national origin; culture; age; disability status; religious beliefs; veteran status, and political beliefs. Today, it is increasingly clear that these various elements of diversity can interact in complicated ways and that this reality requires a less siloed approach to inclusion than Colgate has adopted in the past. Approaches to promoting equity and inclusion should be informed by a recognition of this intersectionality of various aspects of individuals’ identities. Colgate’s history includes periods in which many of these expressions of diversity were minimally or not at all represented in the student body and among the faculty and staff. This history has led to practices and processes that require examination for their potential inequities when applied to a more diverse campus.
“Equity” refers to a system of essential fairness, including but not limited to access to opportunities and resources. The goal of equity is to eliminate disparities so that all members of a community may achieve their full potential and thrive. Working toward equity on campus requires consideration of the practical realities that impact individuals’ participation and success in our community. This includes intentional and systemic pro-equity processes, practices, and tools designed to address imbalances, and actively and meaningfully responding to bias, harassment, and discrimination. A system of fairness requires strong, dedicated leadership as well as an engaged and empowered community.
“Inclusion” requires both an awareness of personal, cultural, and institutionalized forms of discrimination as well as an active commitment to dismantling those barriers. An inclusive community respects individual differences, recognizes them as valuable, and works to build bridges across difference, so that all members of the community can contribute fully. Such an environment, it should be said, is the strongest possible foundation for excellence as a university.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be understood as working together to enrich the academic mission of the University, and as a necessary element in effectively preparing students to contribute to the wider world. The goals and action items presented herein are all aimed, one way or another, at more concretely grounding this understanding in the ongoing work of the University.