Diversity describes the myriad ways in which people differ, including psychological, physical, and social differences that among all individuals, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, economic class, geography, education, age, gender, sexual orientation, and learning styles. Diversity is about understanding these differences and moving from simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of our differences. Diversity transcends gender, race, and ethnicity. The level of State System diversity is manifested in the full spectrum of differences among faculty, students, staff, and experiences – within and outside of the classroom including the curriculum.
Equity refers to the concept of fairness. Equity ensures that individuals are provided the resources they need to have access to the same opportunities. While equity represents impartiality, the distribution is made in such a way to even opportunities for all people. Conversely, equality indicates uniformity, where everything is evenly distributed among people. Equity recognizes that people have different starting points in life and provides resources and opportunities and promotes policies and practices that result in equal outcomes. PASSHE will be a more equitable system of higher education when one’s group identity does not predict their success or failure. It means providing an education that meets admitted and enrolled students (faculty and staff) where they are and providing the support they need to succeed. Our focus is on equity not equality, as part of systemwide efforts to close performance gaps measured through Board Approved Metrics.
Inclusion refers to actions that foster feelings of being respected, valued, embraced in the curriculum, co-curriculum, and university community. It means authentically and intentionally bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. An inclusive State System is one where all admitted and enrolled students (faculty and staff) feel a sense of belonging. An inclusive State System promotes and “affirms the transformative power of higher education including its ability to expand knowledge, challenge assumptions, improve lives, strengthen communities, and disrupt generational poverty.”
Although the terms are different in their definition, they cannot be decoupled from a systemwide or institutional strategic approach to DEI. Diversity cannot be sustained in the absence of equity and inclusion in its policies, standards, and practices. An inclusive State System is fundamental to sustainability as well as workforce and economic development. An inclusive State System develops diverse talent pools to meet the diverse needs of students, faculty, staff, and the Commonwealth in general.