Diversity statement update underway

Alli Kolick

The current ISU diversity statement has been in place since 2006 and the University Committee on Diversity has been working on the new statement for the last year and a half.

As of 2006, the statement reads: “ISU defines diversity as that quality of its physical, social, cultural and intellectual environment which embraces the rich difference within the multiplicity of human expression and characteristics including: Age, Cultural, Ethnicity, Gender Identification and Presentation, Language and Linguistic Ability, Physical Ability and Quality, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, and Socioeconomic Status,” according to ISU Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

“We wanted to be very open and transparent and get as much feedback as possible,” said Joel Geske, associate professor of journalism and mass communication, about the process of creating the new diversity definition.

When looking at different university diversity statements, there is a wide range of definitions across the nation, each striving to include every individual on campus.

The University Committee on Diversity presented a set of diversity statements from four universities to focus groups at the Iowa State Conference On Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) conference in March 2010 to get a feeling for the current expectations for a definition of diversity.

“A lot of the feedback is that people are trying to move away from … I’m going to call them laundry lists,” Geske said. “We’re trying to move away from that a little bit and more to the idea that the whole concept of diversity is that everyone has individual talents and abilities that they bring to the table.”

Iowa State’s current statement was in the set of statements presented at the 2010 ISCORE conference and was one of the favored in the set of four. The other three universities in the set were Kent State University, Ohio State and the University of Oregon.

“I think the feedback we got on our current statement from the focus groups was quite positive,” Geske said.

Geske said the diversity statement has not been officially approved and cannot yet be released to the public.

He also said the initial presentation of the new definition did not receive the positive reaction they had hoped for.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this will pan out,” Geske said about introducing a new definition.

The committee is still looking for a list of what is included in the word “diversity.”

“The more diversity you have, the better your chances are for creative solutions to problems,” Geske said.

The committee is keeping in mind that the statement should not be too narrow or too broad. A few of the statements from other universities were not perceived well in the focus groups at ISCORE due to the fact that there was hardly a definition of the word diversity at all, but instead they generalized it as “human differences.”

Kent State University’s diversity statement presented a broad definition: “Diversity involves recognizing the value of differences and the inclusion of all members of the community including those that experience discrimination or under representation.”

“We’re hoping that the new definition will be in effect by the end of this school year,” Geske said.