Why Students Want More from College Diversity Initiatives

Why Students Want More from College Diversity Initiatives

October 13, 2021

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In a recent BestColleges survey, over 750 undergraduate students gave their views on their schools' action steps toward a more socially just campus. In this survey, 53% indicated they wanted to participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts on campus.

Despite this statistic, colleges and universities aren't doing enough to incorporate student input while shaping campaign efforts and initiatives.

Students are asking their institutions to do more when it comes to diversity initiatives, providing additional support and resources for their education.

How Colleges Support Diversity and Inclusion

Colleges that value their students' quality of life know that diversity and inclusion initiatives are vital. They understand that acts like creating safe communities for underrepresented people on campus are essential to support these students.

Across the U.S., colleges and universities are finding different ways to expand diversity and inclusion resources. For example, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts one of the largest multicultural student buildings in the country. Additionally, Loyola University New Orleans offers mental health resources specifically for students of color.

Many students believe that their colleges have committed to celebrating diversity on campus. One such institution is The Pennsylvania State University, which holds events almost every day during Pride month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.

Having a diverse faculty is also a topic colleges are pledging to address. Seventy-three percent of students in the BestColleges survey believed that the next steps toward creating more inclusion should include recruiting and supporting the retention of a diverse staff.

Initiatives to prioritize diversity in the hiring process are increasingly common. In an effort to better support historically excluded groups, the University of Miami's law school announced recent hires that made it one of the most diverse faculty groups in the nation.

Colleges also are removing symbols of racist legacies from their campuses. These include statues of historical figures who perpetuated racist ideas and actions. In particular, the University of Texas at Austin showed its commitment to social justice by removing a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from its campus.

Diversity Initiatives That Matter to Students

Despite current college and university efforts, there is still a lot of work to do.

Students are becoming more vocal about changes they want to see on their campuses. Though many colleges have tried to provide ways for historically excluded students to feel at home on campus, their efforts can be lacking or misplaced.

Students are interested in seeing initiatives that address more than superficial levels of diversity and inclusion.

The Black Lives Matter movement has significantly affected the social justice narratives that students are engaging in. Creating tangible racial equity on campus is important to students.

Because of inequities rooted deeply in academia, learners often miss out on key perspectives and insights. The contributions from many historically underrepresented groups are not adequately covered in their education. Students are frustrated they're missing important knowledge that could allow them to better address the injustices they see happening in the world around them.

Standing up for voting rights — specifically, addressing voter inequity — is also a key issue on campuses. Young people recognize the importance of reaching out to their local communities and student populations, who may face additional obstacles when it comes to voting.

Additionally, recognition and inclusion of LGBTQ+ students on campus is also a focus of student-led initiatives. Awareness of LGBTQ+ students' issues — like anti-transgender legislation and rising student loan debt for LGBTQ+ people — is an important step to cultivating stronger support.

What Colleges and Universities Can Do Better

Committing to equity means colleges and universities must listen directly to student requests. Universities should direct action to fulfill student needs as indicated. School administrators shouldn't rely solely on their own judgment — students should also have input.

Fifty percent of students in the BestColleges survey were concerned about a lack of awareness of DEI issues on campuses. Addressing this issue is an excellent place for schools to start.

Acknowledging their history of privilege is another thing colleges can do to be more supportive. Frequently, universities have policies and procedures that reflect oppressive and outdated values. Administrations should examine inherently unjust ideologies that fuel their institutions and work to correct them.

Because they have direct control over the education of their student populations, college administrations should also reexamine their curricula. Rectifying the lack of awareness regarding DEI and other social issues, which is often present on campus, can benefit students. It can be done quickly by mandating instruction that addresses injustices.

In addition to educational content, universities should recognize that academic racism also has a role in the knowledge gap among some students. To increase retention and close the opportunity gap, institutions should offer remediation, support, and additional resources for students who belong to underrepresented groups.

Ultimately, diversity initiatives should serve a campus and its student population. When students feel included and supported, they are more likely to accomplish major feats — academic and otherwise.

Taking the time to eliminate dehumanizing behaviors, language, and ideologies from an institution's campus is essential to fostering socially aware and compassionate students.

Students are demanding a more educated, inclusive, and just society — and they want their colleges to facilitate that goal.


Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

Students are advocating for social justice on college campuses. Learn more about why these issues matter to student activists. Climate change is an urgent issue that impacts all of us. Learn what students are doing to push their campuses towards a positive, more sustainable future. A new BestColleges survey finds that students are eager to get involved in campus DEI efforts, though they're not always sure how.