EDI Takeaways: Race Conversations, Allies and Practical Steps

EDI takeaways

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There’s a lot of discussion around Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the industry.

As such, Campus Rec Magazine hosted a special virtual roundtable about EDI on June 26, 2020. Five panelists from across the nation gathered to answer questions surrounding this topic. Here are some of the top takeaways from the discussion.

The Panel:

  • Jocelyn Hill, the director of Recreational Sports and Fitness at American University
  • Vicki Highstreet, the associate director for Recreation Programming at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Kevin Marbury, the vice president for Student Life at the University of Oregon (UO)
  • Maureen McGonagle, the director of the Campus Recreation, Centers LLC at DePaul University
  • Myrum Washington-White, the director of Athletics at St. Cyril of Alexandria School

Initiating Conversations about Race and Racism

There is a lot of pre work that goes into these conversations, as stated by McGonagle. You have to first build the foundation of trust, educate yourself and commit to listen.

Washington-White said it best: you must be comfortable with being uncomfortable. These dynamic conversations need to take place, as they can lead to change, like American University’s Antiracist Research Policy Center Hill shared about.

All in all, McGonagle said you should not wait for big events to happen in order to have these conversations. And we must meet each other where we are at, as Washington-White pointed out. Be an “ear hustler” as he called it.

Defining and Exhibiting “Ally”

The term “ally” is a label that comes from developing a relationship, shared Marbury. He viewed both McGonagle and Highstreet as allies, but noted it’s not their role to fix the existing issues.

Highstreet acknowledged she can’t decide if she is an ally; her Black colleagues must do that for her. It’s her responsibility to name her white privilege, to keep learning and to be OK with being uncomfortable.

Hill also noted all must be aware of the unconscious bias that exists in our culture. And she stated the phrase “this doesn’t affect me” does nothing to move forward the conversation on social justice.

Finally, McGonagle rounded out the answer to the question with a look ahead. She said higher education has been facing decreasing enrollment and tightening of budgets. As such, it’s going to be hard to come across money for building antiracist systems. However, this can no longer wait. It must be a priority, and you must treat it as one.

Practical Things to do on Campus

Whether it’s a book club, conversation playing cards that have race discussion prompts (i.e. “Have you ever been stereotyped for how you look? Explain”) or virtual “Dish It Up” conversations, Highstreet said they have found working with smaller groups of students in discussing EDI has been impactful.

Marbury noted having conversations with Black students and IDing their barriers has also helped move forward the EDI discussion. In fact, in recent years Black students on campus came up with 12 different items that would help further EDI at UO. Some of them include the renaming of buildings. 

Beyond students, Washington-White said you need uper administration buy-in when it comes to EDI discussions. Look at systems like your hiring practices, staff training, campus police, etc. and get the community involved in the conversation.

In fact, Marbury spoke to addressing upper administration as he is now part of it. He said when he is brought actionable items, that is powerful in getting him to say yes. And, he said it’s key to approach upper administration expecting they will say, “No.” It’s up to you to convince them otherwise. Know your audience and the scope of their power and influence, then play on that, shared Marbury.

Other topics of conversation from the roundtable included: hiring/employing students of color, tips on starting an EDI committee, resources, replacing the “white savior” mentality with something that actually works, etc.

You can watch the full roundtable here.

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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