For my sins I get to be the DMU UNISON Representative on the University's Equality and Diversity Committee. This week I was involved in helping the group plan its strategy, considering what it was hoping to achieve and how it might get there. Obviously we are not the only institution thinking about such issues, so I was interested to read a blog post in the Inclusion Solution site which addressed the same discussion, though in more exuberantly american tones.
What would it look like?
What would a university look like if it aimed for and achieved excellence in equality and diversity? One example that came to my mind was how the various sporting groups in the university might have responded to this year's theme of 'Racism and Sport' for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Sporting groups might meet to talk through how they could respond to this theme; asking themselves if they were missing a trick by not being as diverse as they could be. March is also the month for the Varsity series of local matches with the neighbouring university, so there would be an opportunity for bringing this theme to the attention of a wide range of spectators too.
How would we get there?
Neither of the above quite happened, as far as I know, in 2013. What was missing was an activist group prepared and equipped to prompt things like that into being. You do not need many activists to achieve stuff like this, but they do need to be well informed and well connected. In fact, the Equality and Diversity Committee is well placed to take on this role. It includes people with an interest in this area, spans various parts of the institution, has expertise and connections. Granted, everyone involved also has 'a day job' to distract them, but that could also prove a strength if each took on the role of being a Diversity Champion wherever they went.
How far have we got?
There are already examples where glimpses of this vision can be seen. Events like the Religion and Belief Showcase in January 2013 did not just happen, but also set up or refined a template for further events. There are other things going on that I would like to highlight in further posts. In the mean time I would be interested in hearing of your visions of what an institution excellent in celebrating diversity would look like.