By Tara Adhikari

“You should look at a diversity audit much like a constellation in the sky,” says Jennifer Stollman, director of Consulting Services for Flexability, an equity consulting firm. In a diversity audit, there are different points, much like stars, which highlight the gaps and strengths.

Stollman, an equity and inclusion consultant, will be joining Principia College’s Equity and Inclusion Working Group for a yearlong collaboration. Under the directive of President John Williams, the group has been tasked with creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement for the college as well as conducting a diversity audit. Stollman was on campus in early November to begin the first part of the process.

Including Stollman, the EIWG is made up of thirteen representatives from various academic departments and administrative offices.

Currently, the group is concentrated on the climate survey, the first part of the diversity audit designed to gauge the campus’ success with diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and mattering. They will identify what things are working and what things are not. This is what Stollman calls an anti-deficit approach. While some equity and inclusion consultants enter a new project assuming there are only gaps, Stollman tries to paint a more complete picture. “No presumptions are made,” says Stollman.

Through interviews with students, employees, alumni, and trustees, the group aims to give all Principians the chance to share their insights. Whether people across campus believe strongly that equity and inclusion should be a focal point for the campus or not, the EIWG is very clear that they want all voices to be heard.

“This is not an outsider fix; this is an insider creation,” says Stollman in a video shared with the entire community at a Town Hall meeting on Friday, Nov. 13. “Principia will decide the inclusion and equity strengths and gaps. Principia will decide how to develop and implement an equitable, inclusive, belonging, and mattering cultural architecture”

Kemi Awosile, one of the spokespersons for the EIWG, says the group chose to bring in an outside consultant to make sure the work on campus follows best practices in the field. Stollman – who has consulted for more than 25 institutions of higher education including Stanford, Columbia, and Vanderbilt – was a natural fit. 

But the inclusion of an outside consultant is also meant to be a protection for participants, says Awosile. It allows participants to share their experiences with someone they do not see every day in the classroom or in the dining hall. To make sure the highest standards of confidentiality are maintained, all survey materials are approved by Principia’s Institutional Review Board, and all names will be removed when responses are compiled.

In addition to gauging the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, the audit will review policies, processes, recruitment, retention, and hiring.

“I call it top to bottom, 360 degrees,” says President Williams. “I don’t want anything to slip through the cracks.” Williams says he fully intends to make available to the public the report given to him by the EIWG following the audit.

Typically, a diversity audit is followed by a compilation of findings and a strategic plan outlining various recommendations, and the resources required to implement them. After elements of the strategic plan are implemented, it is standard to have survey follow ups to measure the impact on the overall climate of the campus, usually every 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months.

While the audit will likely be completed within the year, the community should not expect for that to be the end of the equity and inclusion conversation. 

 “This is an ongoing process for us as a community,” says Barry Huff, the second EIWG spokesperson. The audit is just the first step, the results of which will guide future action and serve as “a wonderful foundation for our continued growth and learning.” 

The second task the EIWG is working on is the diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. As stated in a Nov. 9 Watercooler post, “A diversity statement explains how the organization is committed to equity and inclusion for all stakeholders.” 

To put it simply it says “we care about you,” says President Williams.

Over the coming weeks, in part through the responses from the climate survey, the EIWG will get a feel for the elements that should be included in the statement.

“I want it to put us at the forefront of education institutions,” says President Williams, adding that making equity and inclusion sustainable requires that it be institutionalized as part of the policies and values of the College.

Equity and inclusion are commonly treated as complex, difficult values to implement, but David Njau, an EIWG committee member, explains how he understands equity and inclusion quite succinctly.

 They are “values of love,” he says and because of that “deeply ‘Principia’ values.” 

The work of the Equity and Inclusion Working Group in the coming year, and the Principia community at large, is centered on realizing those values more fully.

Why? Because understanding how to navigate identity differences equips people with skills that are essential in an increasingly globalized world, the very skills needed to be “the best professionals, citizens, and Christian Scientists.”

Equity and inclusion benefit everybody, says Stollman. “People thrive when they have different perspectives in their midst.” 

Featured photo by United Nations on Unsplash.