Guided Pathways to Justice and Equity?

You may not be surprised to know that within Guided Pathways we have the Equity Subcommittee. EvCC has done significant work in terms of diversity and equity in the last decade, though perhaps with a stronger emphasis on diversity.  So why do we need a special subcommittee to talk about equity?  It turns out that diversity is easier to achieve than equity.  Diversity is something we can readily quantify and measure.  How many ________ people do we have?  If the number is high enough, it’s easy to check the diversity box and think, “Mission accomplished.”  Equity goes deeper than just fulfilling a quota, though.

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart’s powerful essay looks at questions of race and diversity within academia, providing insight into ways we’ve thought about diversity and inclusion but missed genuine equity and justice. Stewart argues that in academia we’ve focused on diversity (having various minority groups present) without really paying attention to equity (making sure that the minoritized people have the same status and credence as the dominant groups.)  Stewart offers several illustrations of the difference:

  • “Diversity asks, “Who’s in the room?” Equity responds: “Who is trying to get in the room but can’t? Whose presence in the room is under constant threat of erasure?”
  • Inclusion asks, “Has everyone’s ideas been heard?” Justice responds, “Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously because they aren’t in the majority?”
  • “Diversity asks, “Isn’t it separatist to provide funding for safe spaces and separate student centers?” Equity answers, “What are people experiencing on campus that they don’t feel safe when isolated and separated from others like themselves?”

Our Guided Pathways work presents an opportunity to think about these questions (and the others in Stewart’s essay) and to examine equity and justice on campus.  As we are evaluating our programs to increase student success, this is a natural time to look at outcomes for all students and see if different groups have different outcomes.  If we find a gap in equity, we have the chance to address it.  Here’s the good news:  Increasing equity doesn’t have to be a nebulous, abstract goal.  We can make simple changes in our practices that will help all of our students to be more successful.  

One step can be to check that your web page and any documents you post online or in Canvas are ADA accessible.  John Melson, Director of Educational Technology, posts “Tuesday Tips for Accessibility” in the Daily Digest each week.  You can find an archive of these tips on the Intranet.

Does your program collect demographic information on students?  You can use this data to see if there are particular groups of students who don’t use your services as much as others do.  Who isn’t coming through your door? The EvCC website has a number of helpful demographic statistics to use as a starting point for comparison.  

There are tools and techniques available specifically for instructors. The website informED offers many suggestions on how to become a culturally sensitive educator.  Instructors can use a variety of teaching strategies and culturally relevant materials to connect better with diverse students.  You can also be on the lookout for professional development opportunities that focus on equity.

In meetings and in the classroom, you can use “amplification” like the women on Obama’s staff to make sure that minority voices are heard.  Reiterate what they say and make sure that the speaker is credited for their ideas.  

Guided Pathways has the potential, if we build it right and well, to increase equity at EvCC.  We have the opportunity to bend our arc closer to justice, going beyond diversity and coming to genuine equity.  But this kind of work does not happen just because we have nice ideas.  Our Guided Pathways work gives us the opportunity to ask important questions and reflect on our practices.   Let’s take this time of change to make sure our institution serves all our students equitably.