It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since DU joined the ASPIRE IChange Network in pursuit of greater equity and justice for historically marginalized faculty in STEM. In the first year of a three-year cycle, the DU IChange leadership team focused on self-assessment and understanding the experience of faculty members in RSECS and NSM. July brought a chance for the IChange team to engage with national peers at the Annual IChange Network meeting, and we offer some highlights of the two-day virtual conference, which centered on gathering and using data in equity-minded change processes.
The first two IChange cohorts are two years into their projects. DU is part of Cohort Three, which has benefitted from other cohorts’ hard-earned lessons. After centering the conference around equity goals, facilitators asked Cohort Three to explore how the six IChange Equity Principles could inform change:
- Principle 1: Clarity in language, goals, and measures is vital to effective equitable practices.
- Principle 2: “Equity-mindedness” should be the guiding paradigm for language and action.
- Principle 3: Equitable practice and policies are designed to accommodate differences in the contexts and content of faculty work—not to treat all faculty the same.
- Principle 4: Enacting equity requires a continual process of learning, disaggregating data, and questioning assumptions about relevance and effectiveness.
- Principle 5: Equity must be enacted as a pervasive institution- and system-wide principle.
- Principle 6: Change efforts in pursuit of equity must be grounded in a relational, coalitional approach.
While all six principles are essential for the next stage of the IChange process, which involves collaborative action planning, Principle 4’s focus on data-driven decision making through an equity lens distinguished itself in relevance to DU’s stage of institutional learning. Data collection has been essential for the self-assessment process, but it is a challenge when the population and potential “N,” or sample size, is very small. Collaborations with IT, Institutional Research, and leaders in RSECS and NSM promise to improve data collection and governance, helping us disaggregate data to better understand the situation on the ground. However, we also complemented this work with focus groups seeking to understand the individual faculty experience in context and depth.
As Bensimon et al. (2016) note:
While disaggregated data are necessary to identify and prioritize problems, disaggregated data alone are insufficient to attain equity-focused change. What matters is how practitioners interpret the data. Do they interpret racialized inequities as a symptom of [faculty] deficiencies or as an indication of failed practices? The interpretive lenses through which [administrators] make sense of data are far more consequential than the collection of the data itself.
Examining and transforming the interpretative lenses we bring to inquiry into faculty lifeworlds is part of the “meaning making” stage of the IChange process, which requires multiple levels of reflection and advocacy. Please join the IChange leadership team, and the NSF-Advance CO-PIs, in this work as we enter the fall and invite broader constientnices to gather and engage our data, institutional commitments, and assumptions about the experiences of historically excluded faculty in STEM and beyond.