Opportunity and Equity Update: Key Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Definitions Explained

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Opportunity and equity is the central focus of the 2030 Strategic Impact Plan and the lens through which the College will examine its success in all areas. In October 2020, former Valencia College President Sandy Shugart commissioned equity initiatives in four key areas to evaluate our current processes and develop recommendations for equity-minded practices. In an effort to ensure you have the most updated information on the progress, findings and recommendations of the teams involved in this work, a new Opportunity and Equity series will be published in The Grove on a bi-weekly basis. This week’s update highlights the work of the Equity-mindedness in the Employee Experience work team on the development of key terms related to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

As part of the charge to the Equity-mindedness in the Employee Experience work team, the group was tasked with developing a definition of “equity-mindedness” as an important context and foundation for its recommendations to strengthen our equity-minded practices in talent requisition, talent activation and talent retention. In developing the definition for “equity-mindedness,” it became clear that the one definition alone would be insufficient and was predicated on definitions for other key terms related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Valencia College is an amazing institution to work for that is rich in experiences both personally and professionally; how could we possibly fit everything into one definition? We quickly realized that one definition was not enough. We broke out into several small teams and came back together as a larger group to review, redo and refine our definitions. During the course of this work, I even looked at how I was defining these definitions in my own work,” shared Elvin Cruz, director, philanthropic program and recognition, Valencia College Foundation, and member of the work team.

After developing a first draft of the key term definitions, feedback was sought broadly from a variety of other groups at Valencia who were working on similar strategies to develop an equity-minded organization, such as the Peace and Justice Institute, SEED facilitators, the Valencia African Heritage Association and others listed here. Feedback from these groups was integrated into the definitions and further refinements were made by the Developing Equity-mindedness in the Employee Experience work team.

“These definitions are important as they create a groundwork foundation to a more equity-minded institution. The creation of these definitions came from researching many peer-reviewed articles that focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In addition to this research, I learned a lot from my colleagues and their experiences at the College which helped inform how we defined these key terms. Having these definitions will help faculty, staff and administrators make more equity-minded decisions, which will ultimately benefit our students’ success at the College,” shared Niraj Wagh, professor, mathematics, and member of the work team.

Each definition is presented in both a short and a long form. The team recommends using the short form when possible to build familiarity and enhance ease-of-use for all members of the Valencia community.

Diversity

  • Short form: A representation of backgrounds, identities and experiences that allows for varied and intersectional perspectives to be respected and included.
  • Long form: A representation of backgrounds, identities and experiences that, when recognized through inclusion and belonging, allows for varied and intersectional perspectives to be appreciated, respected and included on the path toward equity and change.

Equality

  • Short form: Every person receives the same opportunities and resources regardless of unique individual needs.
  • Long form: Though equity is the goal to which we aspire, equality means that all have the same opportunities, level of access, and usage of tools and resources, affirming their fundamental human rights, without fear of discrimination.

Equity

  • Short form: Every person is provided with the necessary resources and opportunities unique to their individual needs, resulting in fair and inclusive outcomes that eliminate imbalances of power.
  • Long form: Providing every person with access, experiences, opportunities, resources and support will result in fair and inclusive outcomes that eliminate imbalances of power. Equity requires that we dismantle systems that prevent the ability of every person to thrive, and in contrast to equality, means we must recognize and respond to individual needs and circumstances.

Equity-mindedness

  • Short form: Taking personal and institutional responsibility to intentionally reassess policies, practices and outcomes in light of long-standing exclusionary practices, enabling every person to thrive.
  • Long form: The lens through which we strive to dismantle systems that prevent the ability of every person to thrive, by recognizing and addressing the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in educational and community spaces. To demonstrate equity-mindedness, we must take personal and institutional responsibility to challenge ourselves and our peers to critically, intentionally, and regularly reassess our policies and practices and through a conscious reflection in relationships with others that addresses patterns of inequity and builds sustained change.

Inclusion

  • Short form: Deliberate actions taken to involve, respect and value every person.
  • Long form: The involvement and empowerment of diversity, where every person’s inherent worth and dignity is recognized. An inclusive environment exists when diverse members share a sense of belonging, mutual respect and are valued for who they are, creating a space where individuals can do their best work.

Sense of Belonging

  • Short form: A feeling that every person can be their true and complete self in relationship with others.
  • Long form: A fundamental, human emotional need and the conditions in which every person can be their authentic self without fear of judgment, leading to feeling connected and valued as a member of the community.

The definitions have been shared with the Senior Team for consideration, refinement and adoption as Valencia’s institutional definitions, which will undergird our work in equity. The definitions will be integrated into the College’s Equity Plan and available for all members of the college community to use in their work.

“You cannot fulfill what you don’t define.” In this equity work, I believe we are trying to shift our institutional culture; one that considered equity as an aspect of our previous work but not as the foundation. As we move forward with our Institutional Plan, it will be important that as a College we are on one accord as to what the key terms of equity, equality, diversity, inclusion, sense of belonging and equity-mindedness mean to us and how we should structure our plans to achieve our goals as an institution. As we were defining the terms, we continuously kept in mind that these terms were going to used by many groups across the College, so their meanings had to be applicable to employees, students and our community partners. As Amy Bosley said during one of our meetings, ‘the definitions are not perfect but we can’t let the desire to reach perfection keep us from making progress,’” shared Lauren Thomas, professor, mathematics, and member of the work team.

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