“My passion is working with students; my purpose is equity in higher education”
What I mean by saying “I’m passionate about working with students” is that I am the type of person who would be willing to meet students wherever, whenever they need me to be. So if a student group needs to meet at 9 o’clock at night because they have an important issue they want to discuss, I will be there at 9 o’clock at night. Saying “equity is my purpose” means I look at the ways institutions might be developing barriers to access and success, consciously and unconsciously, especially for Black, Indigenous, and other students of color that may inadvertently stifle their success, and keeping them from reaching their greatness! Dr. Timmit Gebru said it best when she said:
“They wanted to have my presence, but not me exactly. They wanted to have the idea of me being at Google, but not the reality of me being at Google.”
I believe there is an exhaustion that comes with having discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially for Black, Indigenous, and women in Engineering. So I consider it a part of my job (regardless of my title or position) as a highly educated cisgender male, who acknowledges that I can sometimes pass for white, to engage in discussions around DEI. I believe I have the duty to use my privilege to help academic communities unpack some of the issues that exist around DEI work, especially equity work, and help the community have some honest conversations around power and privilege and help them work through them. And here’s the thing… those are hard conversations to have because they involve “truth-telling”.
“In academia, especially for university leaders, truth-telling is difficult to say and harder to hear, especially when it comes from the most marginalized voices.”
For academic leaders, I believe Truth-telling involves looking into a mirror and acknowledging:
- We don’t know everything;
- We’ve made some mistakes;
- In some cases, we don’t even know where to begin to repair our relationships with the very people we have marginalized.
I believe if DEI is what an institution REALLY wants and it is something it REALLY is striving for, then we need to be ready to engage in that reflection and conversation, and I believe its important to work with students, faculty, staff, and community partners to be ready and willing to engage in those conversations with me.