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Centre College associate vice president explores diversity, inclusion

| Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dr. Rodmon King, associate vice president of academic affairs and diversity initiatives at Centre College, spoke Tuesday at Saint Mary’s about diversity and inclusion.

King began his presentation by discussing the importance of language. He said it is necessary that we have an understanding of the words we use while discussing diversity.

“I think a lot about the indeterminacy of language, the ways in which I can say things.” he said. “When we talk about diversity I get worried that we fall into things like a fallacy of equivocation where we have sliding definitions. We use language in ways without having really thought about the meaning of the words that we’re using.”

On the surface, King said, we may have a shared meaning of common words, but if we really dig down — we could have completely different conceptions of the same words.

“When it comes to diversity we have an even greater problem,” he said. “There’s all kinds of things people think of when they think about the concept of diversity … institutionally it is important because if you’re not working with the same sort of conceptual framework in the upper administration as you are up and down the administrative latter, you will have a lot of motion but no progress.”

King said diversity is not only about the variety of people in a group, but it is about the support those different groups receive.

“Diversity is not about demographics, you can have all of these people and not get inclusion and support,” he said. “It’s not enough to open the doors of an institution without supplying networks of support.”

Creating institutions that support diversity and inclusion is not an easy thing to do, King said.

“It’s a tough, nuanced, danced, subtle thing to preserve elements of history and culture while still being innovative,” he said.

In order to make the best decisions for any institution King said, there cannot be a room of like-minded thinkers.

“You need to bring together people with a variety of different perspectives.” he said. “The worst way to make decisions is to get a homogeneous group or a set of like-thinkers together. Give them a task and they will not be as successful as a heterogeneous set of people.”

King said in college institutions there seems to be a disconnect between the mission statement and the actual practice of supporting diversity on campus.

“If you were to go over to HR and sit down and look at everyone’s job description, where would that part of the mission be clearly articulated as part of your job as a faculty member or a staff member? If [the mission] is going to part of the lived reality of community members, that is something that has to be addressed,” King said.

King said change is not something that just happens and that no one has all the answers. But thinking about diversity in your part of the process can begin the change to inclusion.

“It is more like battling an addiction to bias and privilege. Change may require us to do some difficult things, it my require and push upon our time in some ways, it may require us to shake up practices that have lasted for a long time,” he said.  “Think about your institutional structure because you’re all part of the institution. How are its processes set up intentionally and thoughtfully to address some of the deep things that are going to be barriers to success of diversity and inclusion?”

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