Author and Chief Educational and Youth Development Officer for the Boys & Girls Club Damon Williams recently spoke on diversity, equity and inclusion for his “Inclusive Excellence Tour” at Murray State University.
Williams said the tour was a concept he created to empower leaders and organizations to use more evidence-based approaches to leading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on college campuses and in corporate environments. He said diversity is the “greatest social challenge” and asked how people can engage in the broad conservation of diversity in the 21st century.
“No one understands that we can’t water down the incomplete and unfinished work of racial and ethnic equity,” Williams said. “We can’t make the issues of race and ethnicity the same issues of economic background. And those issues are not the same as gender equality and they’re not the same as LGBTQ dynamics. How do we have the broad conversation and the specific conversation?”
Williams said the frame of diversity has extended past headcounts of minority groups in organizations. He said this change is supported by technology and social media, the centennial generation and what he calls “Trump lash.” He said Trump lash is shifting the conversation of diversity and elevating it in new ways.
“The missives that have been offered in terms of DACA and immigration, the missives that have been offered in terms of dialing back Title IX and gender equity…” Williams said. “You can’t turn on the TV without Trump lash taking us to a conversation of diversity.”
Williams said the growing frame of diversity includes access and equity, a multicultural and inclusive campus climate, preparing students for a diverse and global world and domestic and international diversity research and scholarship.
“It’s looking at the representation of different groups,” he said. “It’s asking not only how are they represented but how many women have cracked through to department chairs. How many minorities are completing degrees in stimulated areas?”
Williams praised the university for student leadership development through the Office of Multicultural Affairs. He said, however, there is always room to do more.
“There’s 27 new faculty hires that’ll be made,” Williams said. “In what ways institutionally are you being intentional in trying to diversify those candidate pools so ultimately you have a greater opportunity of making diverse hires and keeping diverse faculty and staff at the university?”
Williams said faculty need to ask not just how they are preparing underrepresented students--but all students--including those from “rural, white and hyper-segregated backgrounds.” He said rural communities can face challenges regarding diversity but said in every community are “diverse things that are happening.”
“Any institution that is in a reasonable distance to a college or university--you can get to that campus and you can get to different types of experiences,” he said. “I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful way to have exposures.”
Williams said people can take advantage of platforms like YouTube to hear different voices and diversify their exposure to others.
Williams met with university and city officials as wells as university student, faculty and staff representatives. He has authored two books on diversity and previously worked as the Chief Officer for Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.