Several people asked for a transcript of the remarks I gave yesterday at the awards ceremony for the Provost’s Prize.
This award recognizes the grassroots work that we can all do to nurture a more inclusive community. And I want to empower each and every one of you by quickly mentioning three aspects that I think are important.
The first is the distinction between culture and climate.
An institution’s culture is defined by how we aspire to do things. You find institutional cultural values in the form of a mission statement. These are often found online. At Diversity.jhu.edu, it starts, “Diversity of people, thought, experience, and background is fundamental to the mission of this university.” This statement comes down as policy from the top. This a pre-requisite to inclusive excellence, and I like to think of this as “talking the talk”.
In contrast, the climate we all experience is the expression of culture. We can think of this as the shared perceptions of our community. How do we all feel when we come to work each day? In the STEM fields – and probably all other male-dominated fields (law and politics come to mind) – data show that the climate is hostile to white women, to women of color, to under-represented minorities, to LGBTQ+ members of the community, to differently abled and to other so-called out-group people. So these people opt-out. I think of climate as “walking the walk”.
The key to authentic, inclusive excellence is finding the synergistic overlap between culture and climate.
My second point is how do we do this?
Well, we need to think big. We need diversity in our highest levels of leadership. We need courageous leaders to foster change away from the status quo of Hopkins past into a new Hopkins future that leads inclusive excellence. We need our prestigious endowed professorships to be roles models held by faculty with demographics proportional to their representation in the population. We need programs that incentivize change. Because nothing will change if we continue to do the “same old thing”. Instead, we are going to get the “same old outcome”.
We also need to think small, because institutions are fundamentally people. The institutional transformation we so urgently need is not the metamorphosis of a nameless, faceless entity that is someone else’s problem. Any change must come from within us – each and every one of us. And so what we can all do, one-on-one, every day, is to check our biases. We need to value our colleagues as individuals and not as members of a group. We need to listen to each other. We must be inclusive of each other. We must respect that each of us brings a different lived experience to the table. We must be better bystanders for each other. These small, daily transactions are how institutions leverage diversity.
And as faculty we must especially value diversity, equity and inclusion in our classrooms through our actions and words and through what we choose to teach because our students are the academic community of the future. We must teach them to be good to each other and to lift each other up. We must instill within them that they alone hold the amazing power to nurture the kind of inclusive community that they want to have going forward.
My third point is about the money.
Thinking big will cost money, and I hope Fenimore Fisher (our Chief Diversity Officer in the Provost’s office) has deep pockets. Or at least I hope his friends in high places have deep pockets.
But I also want to point out that thinking small can be free. We can all individually do the work of nurturing a sense of belonging. Every day. Stated another way: we can all walk the walk in our own way.
So my final challenge is for you to all to look in the mirror and ask yourselves every morning: How will I be an ally today?
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