Diversity has many meanings. In Colby’s current Statement on Diversity, we make a double commitment to both educate a citizenry capable of responding to a diverse and global society and to foster a fully inclusive campus community enriched by persons of different races, gender identities, ethnicities, nationalities, economic backgrounds, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and spiritual values. In that statement, we assume a balanced and dynamic reciprocity between those two commitments—the formation of responsible citizens and the creation of inclusive community—that we have yet to achieve. If we expect to educate our students for a diverse world, then, the one in which they learn and live must fully engage in the social, political, and ethical dimensions of how we understand, teach, and practice diversity. And, if we hold diversity as a necessary condition for excellence at all levels of our institution, then how do we move toward an understanding of diversity that will enable us to create such a world?
The broad charge of the Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity begins with that fundamental question and urges us to engage, honestly and bravely, the complexity of our differences and the inequity and harm (both physical and psychological) that can result when those differences are not examined. It requires us to reexamine not only what we mean when we invoke diversity, but more importantly, how we make diversity meaningful in our lived experiences as an intellectual community. The process of that reexamination will shape the vision of what we want Colby to be in the next decade and beyond, a vision of a learning community in which diversity, inclusion, and equity are woven into the work and lives of all its citizens, asking that all its members be open to change.
Such a vision underscores the transformative potential of diversity as both a change agent for the institution and the cornerstone for excellence in academic leadership, in scholarly achievement, in civic and global engagement, and in social justice. It is a vision that values an environment fully supportive of dynamic cultural and intellectual exchanges at the intersections of diverse identities, voices, experiences, and perspectives because it is precisely where different knowledge systems meet that the deepest, most complex, and innovative questions and discoveries arise. From this aspirational perspective, diversity is a necessary condition for excellence, a driving force for new ways of thinking that ultimately define scholarly, academic, and civic excellence.
To move toward such an aspiration, however, we need a clear articulation of the relationship between our dual promise to form responsible citizens and to create inclusive community. So, with an eye toward possibility and our feet firmly planted in the present, we initiate this process of reimagining the powerful role that diversity and inclusion can play at every level of our community life. To that end, the specific charge of the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity is, first, to convene a representative group of faculty, staff, and student leaders by appointment of the president to:
- review and assess Colby’s current diversity-related policies, practices, and efforts
- seek out and consider best practices at peer institutions
- begin to define our aspirational vision for diversity as a core value necessary to achieve excellence
- develop and deliver a diversity action plan with recommendations for concrete actions aimed at enhancing and improving current efforts toward meaningful diversity.