Last week, I attended the AAC&U Modeling Equity, Engaging Difference Conference in Baltimore. The Associate Provost of Towson University in Baltimore and I put together a student panel to speak to diversity and equity. The Associate Provost and I were each responsible for identifying two students for the panel presentation, representing four different types of institutions, in total.
When I called my colleagues at two colleges to request two students to be on the panel, I only described the program and what the students would be asked to address. I did not specify any demographics about the students. While the Associate Provost and I had a phone conversation with the four students to discuss the presentation, we did not see the students until the day of the conference. One student was studying in the U.S. from Kenya; another student, the only male, was from Pakistan; and two Black students were from the Baltimore area. All of these students were leaders on their campuses and bright, ambitious, and very much engaged in their education.
The first question for the panel was, “What does diversity and equity mean to you?” I think the question is one that we as educators should ponder, and one for which we should be able to provide a response. While I was not surprised by there being no White student from the United States on the panel, a panel on diversity and equity that includes only students of color and international students may say that when we educators think of diversity and equity, we do not include White students. How can we help White students understand that diversity includes them if we do not behave as if we understand that diversity includes all of us?