Welcoming DEI and its impact on campus

Djasahn English, Managing Editor of Social Justice

Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI is the overarching term for the programs, activities, or policies that organizations put in place to harbor community and increase the participation and representation of different individuals. These differences range from differences in age, race, gender, sexual identies, cultures, religions, languages, and ethnicities. 

Lusanda Mayikana, Dean of Pluralism and Multicultural Affairs, and Alyscia Raines, CEO and lead DEI strategist at ADR Consulting, both shared what each word in the acronym stands for to them. 

On this matter, Mayikana said, “With my experience, diversity has been to look at issues around compositional diversity, simply acknowledging the fact that we have different people coming from different backgrounds isn’t enough… equity is to take into consideration everyone’s starting line… inclusion is to take action after rolling out a welcome mat. For LFA, the idea that individuals feel included and a part of this school should not be reserved for anyone” 

Following that, Raines said, “diversity is a measurement tool, when you look at a group of people, you can assess what similarities there are and what differences there are, so you can talk about race, or you could talk about gender. Equity is a tool, it is about shifting power imbalances. Inclusions really show us we do our work with equity and the outcome shows that people feel like they belong, matter, and their voices are heard.” 

Recent racially charged events have led to the rapid expansion of DEI programs. The national light and attention placed on the 2020 summer Black Lives Matter protests accelerated a period of explosive growth of DEI positions. According to Sarah Dong of Berkley GRC, “the number of DEI-related job postings increased by 123% between May and September of 2020.”

Raines also explained what she attributed this growth to saying, “Our society has grown more and more diverse, we know that the upcoming generation is the most diverse in races that we’ve ever had meaning we have multi-racial, biracial… and then there are different gender identities and sexual orrientations, I think thats leading to alot of the change and growth.”

The presence of DEI has grown over the past few decades. After Mayikina’s hiring, 19 years ago, the concept of pluralism was added to the Multicultural Department. More recently, the Head of School Equity Task Force was established in response to Black alumnus asking what LFA was doing, and pushing them to do more. Mayikana said, “as long as we don’t pat ourselves on the back and lose focus, we will continue to see growth.” 

Mayikana also elaborated on the goals she has for the impact of DEI at LFA, mentioning that “every student can walk into the world confident to have these difficult conversations because they can say ‘oh, I’m comfortable having this conversation because I’ve been having them for 4 years already.”

Lusanda Mayikana, Dean of Pluralism and
Multicultural Affairs, an essential piece to the growth of DEI on campus.