Why inclusion efforts aren't keeping up with diversity on campus—and what you can do to fix it

Research predicts that the Class of 2025 will be the largest and most diverse group of students on record.

For colleges, these changing demographics mean heightened admissions efforts to increase minority enrollment. Most schools are putting a fair amount of effort into doing so through targeted marketing and recruitment.

But many students—especially minority students themselves—argue that these efforts stop short of making underrepresented students feel welcome once they arrive on campus. Improved diversity in many cases does not go hand-in-hand with improved inclusion.

The argument came to light in a recent project by Public Source, in which interviewers asked students, faculty, and staff at various colleges and universities to describe their experiences with diversity and inclusion.

One transgender student told Public Source in an interview that her school's administration is making it extremely difficult for her to change her name from her legal birth name to her corrected female name. The student explained how on paper, her school made it look as though they would readily make accommodations, but when it came down to it, administrators were reluctant to go through with her name change—and took months to do so.

At a different university, one student who is half Hispanic and identifies with the LGBTQ+ community told Public Source that a classmate told her that Spanish students do not have the same rights as white students—and that the student once spit on the Gay Straight Alliance group's table.

Through all of the interviews Public Source conducted, a common theme was the lack of required diversity training for staff members and students.

Diversity training is a common demand from student protestors

Though many schools offer diversity and inclusion training, it is usually optional or minimally enforced. But students told Public Source they believe this type of training could lead to more inclusive language among professors and students, and in turn foster a more inclusive environment.

Interviewees also suggested that schools:

  • Host more programs centered around diversity;
  • Increase diversity in faculty and staff as well as students;
  • Teach courses using updated materials that are not offensive to any group of students; and
  • Actually communicate with diverse students on a regular basis to measure how comfortable they are feeling on campus.

Writing for Education Dive, Autumn Arnett adds that to ensure an inclusive campus, "Consideration must be given to everything from cafeteria options to gender neutral dorms, locker rooms, and restrooms."

Arnett also says schools should establish absolute understanding that "any behavior that violates the right of any student to have a positive campus experience will not be tolerated" (Arnett, Education Dive, 5/9; Ervin, Public Source site, 5/8).

Related: Two best practices for increasing faculty diversity

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