This plan was approved by the All College Meeting of College of the Atlantic on May 26, 2021

Click below to jump to a section: 

 

Background and Overview

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan Task Force (DEITF) was convened in the Fall of 2019 by President Darron Collins with the charge to develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion at COA. Our task was to lay out a series of concrete actions that will help COA more effectively meet our mission through inclusive and equitable engagement with various forms of diversity within and beyond our community, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, gender, ability, sexuality, national origin, citizenship, and religion.

The charge of our task force and the scope of this plan focus on the experiences and outcomes of people of marginalized or minoritized backgrounds and identities. In the course of DEITF’s work, we have learned of numerous inequitable, unpleasant, or alienating experiences at COA. Unfortunately, we cannot address all of the issues that fall under the broad terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although this plan is not exhaustive in scope and content, we hope it will inspire and support equity and inclusivity in all regards.

Although used together as the single acronym DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are distinct notions. In brief, diversity refers to the presence of variation in a group. In this plan, diversifying means increasing the number of people with marginalized or minoritized backgrounds or identities that have been historically underrepresented at COA. Inclusion refers to the experiences of individuals within a group or organization. An inclusive community is one in which all people feel welcome, fully seen, and valued, regardless of background or identity. Equity refers to procedures and practices that allow everyone to flourish. It remedies historical and present injustices to ensure fair opportunities for all. Each of these concepts—-diversity, equity, and inclusion—-are complex and at times contested. More detailed and nuanced definitions of these and other terms are given in Appendix B.

“DEI” functions not only as an acronym, but also as a broad and sometimes vague concept. We are at times uncomfortable with this broad use of DEI. By not naming power structures and systems such as racism, White supremacy, transphobia, or classism, “DEI” risks being superficial and general. Perhaps not unlike the term “sustainability,” “DEI” can be expanded to include almost everything, limiting its ability as a concept to set priorities or frame discussions. At the same time, like sustainability, DEI is a standard, widely recognized term that signifies a constellation of related values and objectives. Below we offer a vision for a future of COA. We use the imperfect phase “DEI work” as shorthand for work that helps the college to realize this vision.

Vision for DEI at COA

All College of the Atlantic students, staff, and faculty feel welcomed and valued, fully seen and respected, and have equal access to opportunities to grow and flourish, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, gender, ability, sexuality, national origin, citizenship, and religion.

Working to understand and address racism, patriarchy, White supremacy, classism, colonialism, nationalism, heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression is a central and integral part of the college. COA demonstrates this commitment through its policies and practices, its curriculum, its allocation of resources, and its articulation of human ecology. The College community not only studies these phenomena, but we pay special attention to how they manifest within our college community and within ourselves and we take action to change oppressive systems. With a shared commitment across the College, the community energetically embraces this work while acknowledging its complexities.

Why is this work urgent and important for COA? 
  1. There is ongoing harm to community members that needs to stop, be remedied, and be prevented from occurring in the future.
  2. DEI work is human ecology work. The college cannot fulfill its mission “to investigate—and ultimately improve—the relationships between human beings and our social and natural communities” without attending to power relations, privilege, and forms of oppression. We need to grapple with this not just in the wider world, but in our college and in ourselves.
  3. We risk becoming an irrelevant institution if we fail to identify and address diversity, equity, and inclusion, both from institutional climate and curricular standpoints. It is imperative that we recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff who reflect the diversity of the places from which we originate and that we fully prepare students to engage with diverse ideas and experiences once they leave COA. Attention to DEI does not detract from COA’s traditional focus on the environment, ecology, and community development. Rather, DEI is essential to doing this work responsibly and effectively.
  4. Pursuing diversity, equity, and inclusion allows us to reflect individually and institutionally. DEI work is a means toward greater self-understanding.

Why a Strategic Plan? 

The DEI strategic plan is intended to:

  1. Enumerate key strategic objectives for COA to pursue as it works to achieve the vision described above.
  2. Lay out a set of concrete immediate actions that the college community will take in order to make progress on these strategic objectives.
  3. Offer some ways to conceptualize and navigate the process of implementing these actions and realize our vision more generally.
  4. Propose some structures and processes that will help COA meet the strategic goals.

Observations and Reflections on Tensions and Challenges

DEI work is not easy. Based on our observations, and our experiences individually and as a task force, we offer a few reflections on how to conceptualize and navigate the work that lies ahead.

  1. Oppression, harm, and exclusion occur on multiple timescales: a racist comment happens in minutes, but it is the result of decades of taught and learned racism in an individual, which is itself the result of centuries of colonialism and White supremacy. The solutions will also need to co-exist on multiple timescales. DEI work requires both a sense of urgency and a long view.
  2. Anger, fear, confusion, sadness, joy, and other emotions are valid, healthy responses to this work. We need to respect, engage with, and honor the full range of emotional responses experienced by our community members.
  3. Different community members have different positions and experiences in relation to the various problems we are discussing. For example, what may be an abstract problem to some may be a matter of survival for others. As we discuss issues, we need to be mindful and respectful of other community members’ identities, positions, and experiences. A relatively abstract or academic discussion about a problem may be appropriate in some settings, but such a discussion might be frustrating or harmful for someone with a direct experience of that problem. We need to be sensitive and responsive to the emotions, lived experiences, and expressed needs of our community members––some of whose very sense of dignity may be invalidated by abstract or speculative discussion, depending on the context.
  4. We have observed that at times it is challenging to hold space for conversations about racism, anti-Blackness, and White supremacy: the topic of discussion often shifts away from race to, e.g., class or gender. Conversations about classism and sexism are, of course, important and needed. At the same time, we encourage the community to be intentional about focusing attention on race and racism.
  5. In conversations about diversity at COA, one often hears the remark that “Maine is so White”. This is a true statement. At roughly 95% White, Maine is and has been for many years among the most White states in the US. Nevertheless, we suggest that we use care when deploying this phrase. Commenting on the Whiteness of Maine can erase the many POC communities that are and have been present in Maine, in some cases for centuries. Asserting Maine’s Whiteness ignores indigenous populations that have lived in Maine for millenia. Moreover, the Whiteness of Maine is not an inevitability, but is the result of past genocide and present disenfranchisement. The Whiteness of Maine can be unintentionally deployed as an excuse to not devote more resources to DEI and risks being a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy.
  6. Faculty, staff, and students are often stretched thin, and like almost all organizations, we have limited financial resources. But a culture of scarcity—a tendency to focus on limitations—can make it difficult to be expansive and creative when imagining futures for the college. For example, “How would we pay for this?” often functions, regardless of intent, to shut down conversations about alternative futures for the college.
  7. Our DIY ethos can lead to re-inventing wheels and may not serve us well when addressing challenges for which there are limited resources and expertise within our community.
  8. Many faculty, staff, and students resonate strongly with COA and its mission. In what ways might strong feelings of fondness, attachment, and connection be a barrier to implementing structural changes at COA at COA?

Timeline

This plan specifies seven strategic goals that will guide the college in the months and years to come. Following each goal are two lists.

  1. Immediate Actions. These items specify work that will occur during the 2021-22 academic year. Responsibility for each immediate action is assigned to one or more people. Many of the immediate actions serve to advance multiple goals, so the section in which an action is listed may be somewhat arbitrary.

This document is the first phase of a two-phase planning process. The DEI Oversight, Accountability, and Resource (OAR) Team (described below) will collaboratively develop a Phase II DEI Strategic Plan by Spring 2022. The Phase II proposal, which will be submitted to the ACM for approval, will cover a period of five years and will include a detailed budget and fundraising goals.

  1. Longer-term Considerations. This list includes actions and areas of attention that we believe should be considered as the college works to realize its vision for DEI. We anticipate that many of the items in these lists will be part of the Phase II Strategic Plan.

Strategic Goals and Priorities

A. Build Capacity for DEI Work

COA needs to devote significantly more resources to efforts to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive college. DEI work is difficult. It takes time, energy, emotional labor, and expertise. The College needs to provide resources and training that build the capacity of individuals at COA and the college as a whole. We observe that students have taken significant initiative in addressing structural oppression and harm on campus, and also that some students feel burdened with creating, advocating for, and implementing solutions.

We are calling for deep work that builds skills, deepens awareness, and spreads these skills and awareness across the community. We need to work with outside experts while simultaneously building capacity internally.

There are no immediate actions listed for Goal A because all of the actions proposed below will build capacity and develop skills and systems to help meet longer-term goals.

Throughout this plan there is a focus on policies and work to be done by formal structures: administrative offices and ACM committees. It is equally important to form communities of practice, small groups who meet regularly to discuss common challenges. These small, creative, brave spaces are essential for learning and growth and to catalyze the cultural change and re-orientation that is necessary to make progress on DEI. It is our hope that such small groups emerge from and are nourished by the work proposed in this plan.

B. Improve Climate and Community Accountability

We have consistently heard concerns about the climate at COA, especially for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students, international students, and those who are English language learners. There are not clear or widely understood systems and protocols for addressing incidents of bias and harm at the college, nor are there sufficient resources to support community members navigating DEI issues.

Immediate Actions

  1. The president, provost, deans, and board of trustees will consistently allocate financial and other resources for addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the College, and demonstrate that DEI is an inextricable part of human ecology and is a value that informs the operation of the college. (President)
  2. Standardize DEI as a significant part of orientation for new students, building on the model piloted in Fall 2020. (Dean of Student Life)
  3. Develop and fully articulate procedures, formal and informal, for reporting and responding to incidents of discrimination and bias involving students, faculty, and staff including but not limited to microaggressions. (Dean of Student Life, Provost, Administrative Dean)
  4. Initiate an institution-wide review process for policies and practices to identify structural racism and other forms of bias, and change policies and practices to ameliorate bias and harm. Identify two to three offices to pilot this process in the 2021-22 academic year; other offices and campus units will conduct reviews in subsequent years. (Administrative Dean)
  5. Continue to support and strengthen the COA College Opportunity and Access (COA2) program. COA2 is a strengths-based program designed for students who self-identify with the experiences of minoritized, first-generation, and/or low-income college students. COA2 will continue to offer opportunities for community members to gain understandings of how the COA experience differs depending on one’s social identity group membership and to build capacity in shifting the campus climate. COA2 will continue collecting data on student retention, persistence, and graduation rates based on race, ethnicity, parents’ educational background, and socioeconomic status. (Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching)
  6. Provide training in mediation, conflict resolution, and means for addressing bias to all staff supervisors and work-study supervisors. (Administrative Dean)

Longer-Term Considerations

  1. Address tokenization. Community members, especially BIPOC and/or international students, report experiences of tokenization that divert their time, energy, and attention.
  2. Explore ways to shift to an asset-based approach in faculty/staff/student interactions and in institutional structures, policies, and procedures.
  3. Strengthen meaningful and not tokenistic connections to the MDI and Maine community, especially to individuals and organizations from groups with similar missions and visions that are under-represented on campus.
  4. Consider partnering with local organizations who experience similar DEI challenges to COA. Consider joining coalitions such as the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance.
  5. Consider initiating an institution-wide review of compensation structures for staff, faculty, contingent faculty, and workstudy students, with attention to structural inequalities.
  6. Consider additional hires or reprioritizing responsibilities for existing positions, such as: Dean for DEI, student life position devoted to DEI, new faculty positions.
C. Achieve Greater Transparency and Intentionality in Institutional Decision-Making and Information Sharing

We have heard widespread concerns about the transparency of decision-making and information-sharing at COA. These concerns impede the college’s ability to address a number of issues, including but not limited to DEI issues.

Concerns about transparency and information-sharing manifest themselves at multiple scales. Institutionally, many are unclear about how decisions are made about important issues, such as hiring priorities or budgets. Individually, community members are unevenly aware of the opportunities available to them. More than many institutions, COA is built upon relationships and an oral culture of communication. The informal and anecdotal nature of COA enables flexibility and allows for differential treatment based on individual needs and circumstances, which in some cases increases equity. At the same time, this aspect of our college can be exclusionary since individuals do not receive the same opportunities or may not access the same information. Some people are not aware of individualized options or are uncomfortable advocating or negotiating for themselves.

Community members navigate and experience this lack of clarity differently. Uncertainty can breed mistrust and increase experiences of exclusion. The spaces between the formal structure of the college and its informal, relationship-based practices can allow for individual biases to metastasize into long-term harm. A lack of transparency can lead to misunderstandings about the motivations and intentions of others and create feelings of discomfort, frustration, and alienation.

Immediate Actions

  1. Improve materials and systems used to welcome and orient new faculty and staff. (Provost and Administrative Dean)
  2. Develop and implement a plan to be more systematic, intentional, and equitable in how we communicate to students academic and co-curricular opportunities, including the sorts of flexible and individualized options available to students. (DEI OAR Team, in collaboration with administrators.)

Longer-term Considerations

  1. Develop systems and guidelines that move the college toward being more intentional and inclusive regarding the work that is acknowledged, shared, and celebrated, in both internal and external communications and publications. Work to identify and minimize tokenization. (PR Director, in collaboration with Dean of Admission, Dean of Advancement)
  2. Consider new structures for faculty meetings and faculty decision-making.
  3. Consider new structures for staff meetings and coordination horizontally and vertically.
D. Improve Accessibility

All campus constituencies have voiced strong concern about the physical accessibility of campus. The imperative to ensure physical accessibility is deeper, and more complex, than the goal of attaining or maintaining ADA compliance: the physical spaces on campus should be welcoming. Traversing college campuses, even highly accessible ones, can present a significant burden to people with physical disabilities. At COA, the campus can be hard for newcomers to navigate, and it can be unsafe and confusing for anyone to traverse, especially at night.

We have heard appreciation and praise for COA’s support for mental health and accommodations for learning differences. At the same time, students desire additional support for mental health, and some students have conveyed frustration regarding accommodations for learning differences.

Immediate Actions

  1. Conduct a comprehensive inventory of physical accessibility issues on campus. Develop a prioritized plan for addressing physical accessibility at COA. (Director of Campus Planning, Building, and Public Safety)
  2. Build capacity among faculty and staff to better understand the experiences and perspectives of those with disabilities and learning differences so that we can be more responsive and proactive in meeting these students’ needs. (Dean of Learning and Teaching)

Longer-term Considerations

  1. The physical challenges of a largely field-based curriculum, a high percentage of students living off-campus, and a focus on internships and international experiences pose challenges to making the COA educational experience accessible to all. Explore ways to make field trips and other components of COA more accessible, building on recent experiences with remote learning, both at COA and at other colleges.
  2. Conduct further research and assess the college’s systems for supporting and accommodating students with learning differences. Identify, develop and implement strategies to address key issues.
  3. Conduct further research and assess the college’s systems for supporting students with mental health concerns. Identify key issues and develop/implement strategies to address them.
E. Widen Curriculum and Expand Inclusive Pedagogy

We have heard repeatedly from students that they want to see diversity and anti-oppression incorporated more often into our curriculum. Faculty have expressed a similar desire and have had preliminary discussions regarding an anti-racist curriculum.

Immediate Actions

  1. Continue work toward envisioning and enacting an anti-racist curriculum and pedagogy. (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Faculty Moderator)
  2. Continue faculty development opportunities for inclusive and equitable advising, teaching and learning. (Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching)
  3. Provide opportunities for staff to expand skills for inclusive work-study supervision and work with students in governance, the co-curriculum, and other interactions. (Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, Administrative Dean, Dean of Student Life)

Longer-term Considerations

  1. Consider working with one or more expert facilitators to guide faculty in a review of their syllabi and course offerings.
  2. Develop a plan to increase support for those who speak English as an additional language, and move toward an inclusive, asset-based approach to teaching writing and communication across the curriculum. (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in parallel with the Translingual Group.)
  3. Continue fundraising to support students financially as they complete their internship requirement. Investigate and ameliorate structural financial barriers, such as lab fees and other “hidden” costs, faced by students as they pursue their COA education.
  4. Consider adding one or more new faculty positions that would add new disciplinary or topical areas and/or methods and approaches relevant to DEI, e.g, Indigenous studies, Black/African-American Studies, Public Health, Language Learning.
  5. Incorporate DEI into the Core Course and/or other elements of the first-year experience. Consider a campus-wide common reading on, for example, anti-racism or de-colonization.
  6. Conduct a review of and consider adding structure to the advising system.
F. Increase Diversity of Faculty, Staff, and Students

Across the campus we have heard a strong need to increase the numbers of BIPOC and non-US staff and faculty. Additionally, students comment on the lack of advisors and mentors who understand their identities and lived experiences. The demographics of the US are changing; currently the majority of US high school students are not White. This makes it imperative that we improve our ability to attract, retain, and support a more diverse student body.

Immediate Actions

  1. Hold mandatory implicit bias training sessions for all search committee members, all staff supervisors, the admissions staff, and all cabinet members. This training will increase awareness and understanding and will build momentum for a deeper, more systematic look at hiring practices and procedures. (Provost, Administrative Dean, Dean of Admission)
  2. Develop and implement a concrete action plan for recruitment of more BIPOC students, especially non-international students. (Dean of Admission)

Longer-term Considerations

  1. Examine hiring policies, strategies, and practices using a DEI framework. Identify key issues and develop strategies to address them. Consider alternative hiring structures, e.g., target of opportunity hires, teaching fellowships for members of underrepresented groups. (Dean of Administration and Provost)
  2. Distribute resources to enable fuller implementation of recommendations by the Faculty Diversity Task Force. (Provost)
G. Reckon with our History and Traditions

Given COA’s origins and history, what aspects of the college are we willing to re-imagine, re-position, re-structure, or let go of as we work toward a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and just college?

Immediate Actions

  1. Reckon with our history and traditions: Encourage and facilitate grappling with our history forthrightly and publicly as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations and events. (Chair of the COA50 committee).
  2. Develop a land acknowledgement and expand collaborations with members of the Wabanaki confederacy. (President, in collaboration with the Indigenous Studies Working Group and others).

Longer-term Considerations

  1. Consider offering a number of full scholarships to members of the Wabanaki confederacy. (President)
  2. Reckon with COA’s intellectual roots: a White, US form of environmentalism. COA was founded in a particular place by particular people who were shaped by a particular political moment and intellectual commitments. How is it that an interdisciplinary, problem-focused college founded in the US in the early 1970s didn’t see civil rights as central to its work? How does that legacy constrain us today?
  3. There is a form of COA exceptionalism: we believe that we are unique because of our mission, size and structure. This rhetoric positions us falsely as immune to systemic issues like racism, White supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, nationalism, etc.
  4. Some of COA’s senior administrators are graduates of COA. In addition, faculty and staff who have experienced different generations of the college have absorbed different senses of the college’s history and context. This is an institutional strength and reflects a commitment to the College and its mission. At the same time, it may pose a challenge to institutional self-evaluation and make it harder to envision and enact structural change. More generally, there are multiple notions of what COA is and the roles it plays in the lives and identities of different community members.
  5. COA’s positioning of itself as environmental and “outdoorsy” may be implicitly ableist, as it relies on unnamed assumptions about what is normal to be able to do physically and mentally.
  6. The all-stakeholders-can-talk-to-each-other, New England town meeting (ACM) ethos of COA can be majoritarian and silencing for individuals who are minoritized, among others. We need to consider additional structures and systems that allow all voices to be heard.
  7. Exclusion is, by design, a key principle of US higher education: college is expensive and one has to apply to attend. COA is no exception. What would inclusivity mean in this context?
  8. To varying degrees, US colleges and universities have benefitted materially from colonialism and slavery. All of this contributes to the prestige of US higher education and has shaped the institutional structures of colleges and universities.

The DEI Oversight, Accountability, and Resource Team

The college will create a group to oversee and facilitate the work specified in this plan: the DEI Oversight, Accountability, and Resource Team (DEI OAR Team). This group will be constituted as soon as possible and will begin its work early in the summer of 2021. The OAR Team will have the full ability to prioritize the tasks below in accordance to their feasibility

  • The DEI OAR Team will consist of approximately seven students, four staff, and three faculty. Students will be compensated via work-study; staff and faculty will receive summer compensation as appropriate and/or release from existing duties. Students will have the option to receive academic credit for their work via independent studies or tutorials.
  • The President, in consultation with the cabinet, will appoint one or more community members as chairs of the DEI OAR. The chairs will solicit nominations and self-nominations from community members interested in serving on the OAR and will then determine the composition of the rest of the group.
  • The OAR will receive training in both skills (such as facilitation techniques, conflict resolution, listening and deep canvassing skills, etc) and content (disability, unconscious bias, structural racism, gender violence, etc) that are pertinent to their work.
  • The DEI OAR Team will not be a policy-making body. New policies and procedures will be developed by the appropriate committee(s) of the ACM and/or administrative offices.

The DEI OAR Team will:

  1. Monitor and Report. Monitor progress and report to ACM twice a year on the progress made toward implementing this plan. Work with the various stakeholders named in this strategic plan to conduct an initial “baseline” assessment and identify indicators to measure progress/success.
  2. Help. Will serve as a resource for the ACM committees and individuals tasked with carrying out the immediate actions listed in this plan.
  3. Research. In collaboration with the Director of Institutional Research and the Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, hold additional focus groups and conduct other institutional research as needed. The DEI OAR Team should conduct systematic surveys of the campus climate at least every other year.
  4. Communicate and Clarify. Internally, ensure that the community is aware of the DEI OAR Team and other DEI groups and resources on campus, such as the DEI Working Group, COA2, and the Black Student Union, as well as new or emerging DEI groups. The DEI OAR Team should ensure that the scope and roles of different groups are widely understood, and that there is communication and collaboration among these groups, as appropriate. Externally, work with staff and faculty to share information about DEI initiatives with outside audiences (prospective students, alumnx, parents, donors, etc)
  5. Plan and Prioritize. The DEI OAR Team will develop a Phase II strategic DEI plan by spring 2022 that includes a more detailed and longer-term action plan and a detailed budget with fundraising goals. This planning will be done in collaboration with relevant ACM committees and administrators with input from the wider community.
  6. Coordinate and Facilitate. As needed, help different groups working on pre-existing and emerging DEI efforts coordinate with each other. The intent here is not to control or manage, but to avoid unneeded duplication of effort, increase transparency, and catalyze collaborations and synergies.

Appendix A: Process

The DEI Strategic Plan Task Force (DEITF) was convened in the Fall of 2019 by President Darron Collins with the charge to develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion at COA. This plan will lay out a series of concrete actions that will help COA more effectively meet our mission through inclusive and equitable engagement with various forms of diversity within and beyond our community, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, gender, ability, sexuality, national origin, citizenship, and religion.

Assisting us in this process have been two outside consultants, Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo (Fall 2019-Winter 2020) and Dr. Lynn Hernández (Spring 2020-present). Over the last year and a half we have gathered information about the climate at COA through a variety of means, including:

  • Liza Cariaga-Lo held meetings in Fall 2019 with faculty, cabinet, and a focus group of students
  • Liza Cariaga-Lo held meetings with staff and another group of students, Winter 2020
  • Lynn Hernández conducted three listening sessions with alumnx, Summer 2020
  • Climate survey administered to the entire campus community, Fall 2020. (Responses: 48 staff, 43 faculty, 154 students.)
  • DEITF members led session at Faculty Meeting, Winter 2021
  • DEITF members led session at Staff Meeting, Winter 2021
  • DEITF held informal discussions at two Monday governance sessions, Winter 2021
  • DEITF members met with the Museum Committee and the Library Staff, Winter 2021
  • DEITF member led discussion at cabinet, Spring 2021
  • Lynn Hernández conducted two focus groups, one with students who identify as BIPOC and one with students who identify as having a disability, Spring 2021

We have also drawn on work done prior to the formation of the DEITF, including the Faculty Diversity Working Group, the DEI Working Group, and the Student Persistence Working Group.

Appendix B: Working Definitions of Key Terms

Diversity generically refers to the presence of variation in a group. In our report, diversifying refers to increasing the number of people with marginalized or minoritized backgrounds or identities that have been historically underrepresented at COA. There are concerns that a focus on diversity can be reductive; the identity categories used to analyze diversity can be limiting and ignore intersectionality and nuance. A focus solely on diversity can also lead to tokenization.

Inclusion refers to the experiences of members of a group or organization. Improving inclusion refers to working to make COA a community in which all people feel welcome, seen, and valued, regardless of background or identity. There is a concern that inclusion may imply assimilation or conformity.

Equity is concerned with procedures and practices that allow everyone to flourish. It recognizes historical and present injustices and inequalities and seeks to account for these. Equity is a process, while inclusion and diversity are outcomes.

Anti-racism is an approach that recognizes that, given the prevalence of anti-Black unconscious bias in individuals and systemic racism in almost all US institutions, anything short of active anti-racism serves to perpetuate the harmful status quo. It recognizes that it is not possible to be neutral in the struggle against racism. A passive color-blindness is not sufficient to dismantle racism and White supremacy.

Decolonization focuses on bringing to light past colonial and present neo-colonial practices and assumptions, and seeks to undo these practices and repair the harms they have caused. A key element of decolonization is decentering Whiteness and the “developed” north as norms. Colonization and neo-colonialism take many forms, and so decolonization must as well.

Intersectionality is a framework, introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw, that recognizes that different identities and categories intersect and interact. For example, a Black woman may experience both racism and sexism, but her experience can not be explained by simply adding racism and sexism together. Racism and sexism interact and compound each other.

Microaggressions are slights, insults, and indignities endured, often repeatedly, by someone because of their association with a marginalized group, the accumulation of which results in the conveyance of the target’s belittlement, objectification, or otherness. Examples abound: mistaking a female doctor for a nurse, asking a US person of color where they are “really from,”” expressing surprise that someone speaks without an accent. Microaggressions can be non-verbal as well as verbal. Many think that the term microaggression is misleading, because although perhaps seemingly minor by the perpetrator, microaggressions have a major cumulative impact on those who experience them.

Tokenization refers to an action, such as featuring a student in a college publication or hiring someone from a minoritized group, that is or feels superficial—the actions give the impression that people of certain groups are fully seen and valued, when that might not be the case.

Implicit Bias refers to unconscious negative associations people hold toward members of a group. The existence of implicit bias is a well-established fact. People of all backgrounds hold implicit biases.

Asset Based stands in contrast to deficit-based approaches to education which view individuals as lacking or incomplete. For example a student may be identified as having deficiencies in some areas such as math or writing, which then need to be remedied. The notion of deficits attaches to groups as well as individuals. In the field of education there have been decades of deficit-based approaches towards specific groups of people, especially marginalized and minoritized communities in the US. The culture, language, genetics, and family structures of such groups are often identified as inherently deficient and in need of repair. Such deficit-based approaches thus align with White supremacy, nativism, and other forms of oppression. A deficit-based approach also ignores the strengths and resilience of those who have found ways to survive and thrive in an other than majority cultural context. Asset-based approaches to education resist ordering groups and cultures into a hierarchy, and see and celebrate the worth and strength of all cultures and all people. Asset-based approaches also focus on the strengths and skills that a student already possesses, and uses these strengths as a basis from which to develop additional skills and knowledge.