The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Recently, the Diversity Task Force, appointed by President Crawford, asked for feedback on its latest policy statement concerning diversity and inclusion at Miami, which can be found on Miami’s “Institutional Diversity” subsite. The following represents The Student’s take on this latest version:
To start, most of the issues that the statement brings up are pertinent in general terms but fall short of providing specific guidance and direction for Miami’s policy. The document states actions such as “attracting the widest array of talented students, faculty, and staff,” “deliberately designing curricula that promote deep learning and provide critical learning opportunities” and “providing support, professional development, and working conditions for students, faculty, and staff that lead to long-term retention, satisfaction, and growth” as intiatives the university is committed to undertaking.
While these actions may pass the eye test, they all lack the concrete backing that would allow Miami students and others to understand exactly how they will work in the real world. How, specifically, will Miami attract “the widest array” of talented individuals? What will be the design of curricula that will promote diverse learning? What type of support will the university provide to the Miami community in this context? These goals demand teeth to back them up if they are to convince the Miami community that change is coming.
In addition to the endogenous claims in the document, its exogenous claims lack a proper base as well. The paper cites several studies in a single footnote at the bottom. Claims that students who engage with multicultural perspectives gain more opportunities or that students who interact with diverse peers are more likely to succeed are weakened when the only backup provided in the body of the text is, “Research has repeatedly demonstrated…” This problem is amplified in the last paragraph of the statement, where no sources are provided for similar claims.
Overall, the statement focuses on the “why” and neglects the “how.” The university’s diversity statement should be a document to which the school can be held accountable. As it is now, though the goals are sound, there is no way to measure whether or not Miami is achieving them.
These problems can be addressed by making the entire statement more concise. This piece should cut down on the amount of institutional jargon it uses and focus on concrete, objective and demonstrably quantitative goals and claims that will give students a clear understanding of what the university plans to do in terms of diversity. This includes the citation of evidence in a clear and transparent manner, as opposed to hiding it in the footnotes.
The positive aspects of this statement should not be ignored. The fact that it mentions several groups that are often left out of the diversity conversation (class, diasbility, age, military status, visa status and others) is a very encouraging sign. Defining diversity, too, was a necessary addition to the statement. Additionally, the fact that the task force is asking for feedback at all demonstrates its commitment to working for the community. With the aforementioned critiques, though, it is our hope that it can be made that much better.