The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion exists because WVU is always striving to create the safe, diverse, welcoming community we all deserve.
Why does diversity matter?
The history of higher education in the United States is one steeped in exclusion and inequality. Though it originated as a system to educate white men to serve as clergy for Puritans migrating to New England, it has transformed over nearly 400 years to become a pathway to prosperity. The expansion of access to education has yielded new discoveries, new ways of thinking and new methodologies that have advanced technology and innovation in all fields. However, while who had access to higher education changed, it often did so at a more rapid rate than many of the attitudes and prejudices that led to individuals and communities being excluded in the first place.
Even as more and more people were allowed to pursue post-secondary study, they often did so at the expense of personal safety or wellness. In addition to achieving in the classroom, overcoming bigotry and discrimination became a part of the collegiate experience for each newly-introduced group; women, people of color, low income people, Native and Indigenous people, LGBTQIA+ people and disabled people.
Today, while the overt hatred towards different groups has greatly diminished from college campuses, many remnants of this era remain — in the form of statues and monuments, names of buildings, course material being taught and the attitudes brought by students and employees alike. Each of these tells a story and sends a message about who is or is not welcome on campus, who is or is not a part of our campus history and community.
Without diversity, our ability to excel is severely hindered; without the experiences, perspectives and approaches brought by students, instructors and staff across identities, we miss opportunities for innovation and collaboration. Without diversity, we can lack the creativity that embodies what it means to be a Mountaineer: an intrepid explorer of what could be, who is unsatisfied with what is. By bringing a diverse community to campus and supporting their experiences, West Virginia University positions itself to be a leader in the state, the country and in the world. By acknowledging our place in the history of exclusion and discrimination, it allows us to learn from the past and develop critical learners and leaders poised to tackle the next set of challenges that face our world. Students who attend West Virginia University will interact with others who have experiences that are both similar to and different from their own, learn to make meaning of these experiences and develop an appreciation for difference. Further, they will leave equipped to participate on and lead diverse teams as part of a global marketplace.
The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion seeks to provide university-wide education, support, accountability and leadership on issues relating to diversity to the campus and community. We engage in advocacy, policy development, consultation and evaluation to create a more inclusive campus community. Through our work, West Virginia University seeks to be a national leader in understanding and addressing oppression: societal inequalities that affect access to, achievement by and inclusion of marginalized people. We are committed to fostering a community that is safe and affirming for faculty, staff, students and campus visitors.
This work is actualized in a variety of ways, including:
- Establishing and consulting with Diversity Committees and Task Forces
- Hosting programming focused on both historical and contemporary issues of injustice
- Developing advocates through training, presentations and facilitated dialogues
- Collaborating with others on campus to understand campus climate, track changes based on our interventions and develop more effective outreach
- Supporting campus and community partners in addressing diversity-related questions and challenges
- Providing resources to protect the civil rights of each individual
Our philosophy of diversity is based upon an acknowledgement that discrimination — based upon race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sex, religion, disability, socioeconomic status and sexuality — is integrated into our foundation as a country and a university. Rather than viewing bias and prejudice as thoughts, statements and actions of a few bad people, we understand that our society has been built to unfairly benefit a select group. As such, WVU has created the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to move towards resolving the impacts of this inequality on our campus. Diversity Initiatives is charged with leading this effort by understanding national and local trends, gauging the campus culture of inclusion, educating the community about systemic inequality and empowering students, faculty and staff to advocate for themselves and one another.