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Defining DEIJ

What are diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ)?

Read our working definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.

Diversity is the presence and recognition of difference.

Diversity is often conceptualized and operationalized as a collection of various/differing cultures, people, ideas, and traditions. In higher education, diversity usually refers to the demographics of the student population. However, diversity extends beyond percentages and mere representation of differing others. Diversity includes adapting course material and pedagogies that consider and acknowledge the various pre-college backgrounds and contexts of students. Diverse learning environments are crucial for the advancement of critical thinking as well as essential to preparing students to enter and navigate a global society. However, diversifying the student body, faculty, administration, and classroom experience is only one cog in the DEIJ “machine” conducive to creating a productive teaching and learning environment and experience. (Note: An individual is not by themself diverse, despite popular use of the term to infer the presence of diversity to the presence of members from historically marginalized and minoritized groups.)

Equity is taking account of and taking action to address (dis)advantages based on difference.

Equity involves policies, initiatives, and practices that address systemic injustices. In higher education, equity is aimed at closing the “opportunity gap” for students from groups who have been historically disadvantaged and marginalized in the learning and teaching process (e.g., minoritized racial/ethnic groups, lower socioeconomic status). Equity initiatives acknowledge and account for the broader societal factors and systems of oppressions that result in variation in college preparedness and outcomes.

Inclusion values and makes room for difference.

Inclusion describes a process as well as the culture of a community and the degree to which people from all groups are welcomed and valued for who they are. Inclusion is perhaps the most essential mechanism in the teaching and learning process and experience. A concept related to diversity, inclusion aims more to the explicit integration of various people’s lived experiences and social identities, as well as their ideas, in all aspects of the educational experience. In a classroom setting, the instructor can create an inclusive environment by being open to novel ideas, open and responsive to student feedback, and even include the students in a portion of the course design (e.g., collectively developing a classroom activity).

Justice removes barriers that prevent diversity, equity, and inclusion of difference.

Justice refers to making fair and ethical decisions about the distribution of opportunities and resources through interpersonal and institutional engagement. In higher education, a justice approach involves treating students equitably and inclusively, so that they feel safe and secure to learn. Justice also means increasing diverse representation in the classroom content as well as the learners and instructors who engage in and support student success.