Apply an Equity Lens

An especially good primer on diversity and equity can be found in Dowd and Bensimon (2015). The book focuses on what it means to shift from a diversity focus to an equity focus using the Equity Scorecard approach. While diversity focuses on the number of groups represented or changes overtime, an equity perspectives focuses on the processes, systems, and the roots of inequity. Being equity minded entails noticing societal inequities and understanding inequity as an institutional dysfunction of structures, policy, and practices followed by taking action to eliminate those inequities. Many institutions are seriously engaged in creating a truly equitable and inclusive educational environment across the entire campus community. If this is the case at your institution, you should be able to draw upon local experience and guidance to help you undertake a project to promote student success and to facilitate new kinds of student outcomes. You may also have access to some financial and technical support. Whether your institution has a larger, comprehensive approach or not, there will surely be some expertise on the faculty and in the support units that you can identify and tap into.

As Dowd and Bensimon (2015, p. 98) make clear, "developing the capacity to observe and notice problems, including problems of racial inequities, is a necessary step in any inquiry process." As a campus community undertakes the challenging task of examining its own values and assumptions, a key concept is that beliefs play a critical role in enabling change. It also matters what language we use to describe our work. As Eckel et al (1999) point out, it is important to frame issues carefully.

"For a change to succeed, it has to make sense to those who will implement it, and at the same time, it has to challenge values and practices that are no longer working. Well-articulated change agendas reinforce and reflect what is important to the institution and its sense of itself while pushing the institutional 'comfort zone.'" (p. 37)

Exercise: How does your campus community talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion and what efforts are underway to promote success for all students?

Consider the following questions:

  • Has your campus chosen to use an equity lens to create your campus strategic plan, to set goals?
  • Has your institution employed an equity scorecard approach to study the impact of your campus culture, policies and procedures on different members of your campus community?
  • Who are your students today? What do you know about their interests, the knowledge and experience they bring to their education and the factors in their lives that affect how they manage their education?
  • What efforts is your campus making to generate insights into how your institutional policies and the nature of your curriculum and your expectations for your students contribute to the racial and socioeconomic disparities in participation and outcomes that you see on your campus?
  • What actions are being taken to address those disparities and what assumptions and values underlie those efforts? What lessons can you draw from those efforts that you can apply to your efforts and who can you approach to get advice and support?


Dowd, Alicia C. and Estela Mara Bensimon (2015). Engaging the ''Race Question'': Accountability and Equity in U.S. Higher Education. New York: Teachers College Press. 208 pages.

Eckel, Peter, Madeleine Green, Barbara Hill and William Mallon (1999) On Change III. Taking Charge of Change. A Primer for Colleges and Universities. American Council on Education.

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