As the campus moves into a new era of leadership with Dr. Na’ilah Nasir, the incoming Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion, this gives us the opportunity to take stock of why the equity and inclusion division was formed, examine the work that is still ahead of us, and the important role staff members play in these endeavors. The late Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas, a renowned pioneer of diversity and inclusion work, notably stated that “diversity is a journey not a destination.” Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau established the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion in 2007. He noticed the lack of diversity in decision-making administrative roles, and further saw that the diversity of the campus community overall did not reflect the diversity of California. Because our staff roles are in service of the needs of students and faculty, campus staff members are in a unique position to help us ensure that the campus is equitable, inclusive and that UC Berkeley is a welcoming environment for everyone on campus.
“Diversity is a journey not a destination.”
Diversity refers to all of the characteristics that make each of us unique individuals, including gender, gender identity, race, class (socioeconomic status), sexual orientation, age, ability/disability, country of origin, religion/spirituality, education level, etc. Diversity is assumed to be an appropriate descriptor for our campus community. However, the reality is that we are still a microcosm of society. The lived experiences of students, faculty and staff of color (who are presumably different from the dominant U.S. white culture) demonstrate the many ways that failing to embrace diversity can limit equal access to opportunities, information, influence and power. The 2013 campus climate survey identified that staff members experience a higher level of exclusionary behavior than faculty and students in ways such as being shunned, ignored, intimidated, or being the target of hostile (bullying, harassing) behavior. Other campus data suggest that there is a lack of equity in pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and lack of inclusion in decision-making bodies. In large part, the Staff Diversity Initiatives charge is to ensure equity and inclusion exists for all levels of staff, and to champion the contributions of staff. Chancellor Dirks supports these efforts to champion staff, and acknowledges that staff are “the unsung heroes on campus.”
The Staff Diversity Initiatives charge is to ensure equity and inclusion exists for all levels of staff, and to champion the contributions of staff.
Additionally, a growing curiosity about the multi-faceted ways that inequitable treatment from others manifests itself is encompassed in the expanded definition of class differences. In the Multicultural Education Program (MEP) workshops that SDI delivers, class is often avoided in discussions about diversity. Broadly defined, class is a continuum of access to money and power that goes from the haves to the have nots, based on your economic status (income, wealth, education), social status, position and influence. In previous decades, it was possible for individuals to move up the class continuum to higher class levels. Today, as the middle class shrinks, class mobility is declining. Class is increasingly combined with other factors such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism and all of the other “isms” to result in less access to equity and inclusion in our work lives. When these differences collide, the result can be misunderstandings, miscommunications, emotional responses, discounting others, disrespect, and harassing behaviors that may negatively impact the campus climate and work relationships.
Consider all of the ways we can think about how diversity, equity and inclusion impact our lives and what you can do to improve your life at work.
SDI invites you to take advantage of the many opportunities to learn and become more engaged in making your campus work experience more fulfilling. Here are a few options to consider: Join a staff organization: Staff Orgs: Attend Multicultural Education (MEP) training: MEP; go to the Next Opportunity at Work (NOW) Staff Career Development Conference: 2015 NOW
Sidalia (Sid) G. Reel, Ed.D.
Director, Staff Diversity Initiatives
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion