Dr. Christine Clark speaks on diversity in higher education

christine clark-smallMarch is Women’s History Month where events and speakers worldwide highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. As a part of the Women’s History Month lectures at Bellevue College, Dr. Christine Clark made an appearance at BC last Tuesday for two notable lectures in regards of diversity in high education and on women of color and white women. Held in room N-201 on March 12, Dr. Clark was a keynote speaker in her discussion on Occupying the Academy: Just How Important is Diversity Work in Higher Education. Dr. Clark went over the challenges of diversity in higher education and how schools need to put more emphasis on diversity and equity.

There were several main ideas that were gone over during the discussion. One of which was the highlight of the discussion: distinction between diversity and equity. Equity is the branch of law that is developed alongside common law. It is there to remedy some of its defects in fairness and justice. More often than not, equity is missing from diversity. The possibility, according to Dr. Clark, that diversity—a state of having many demographic variables in terms of race, religion, color, gender, abilities and more—is lacking the necessary quality of being fair and impartial is an issue that needs to be addressed. Equity seems to be more for need whereas diversity is more for want. There is no urgency for diversity because it will “change over time” whereas law and policy requires equity. “It focuses more on affirmative action,” said Dr. Clark, “that equity is more effective backed up by its necessity for law and order while diversity tends to have sameness persist where it ‘might’ change over time.”

Other topics included a discussion on Euro-centric education and the idea of imperial organizational development, where organizations will keep communities underdevelopment as a “laboratory” for data. Her solutions for these issues were stated in her presentation: that organizations and programs need to focus on equity and diversity, there needs to be a necessary infrastructure—as oversight, funding, authority, accountability—and ongoing programs that continue to “bombard people” with cultural emphasis. “Bellevue College is going on the right track with all of these solutions,” she praised.

“Occupying the Academy: Just How Important is Diversity Work in Higher Education” is a book that reiterates and further emphasizes her notable points in the discussion. In the book, she goes over all topics in more depth and with more focus. Given only a one-hour time slot to explain the details of equity and diversity, it wasn’t enough to get all her ideas across. However, Clark did her best to leave the audience with an overview of solutions: robust bombardment in the diversity issues, comprehensive “need to know” information on cultures and race, inspiration and motivation through shared experience and “to raise our level of thinking, refreshing our thoughts and reminding us of what we stand for”.

Clark is a professor of curriculum and instruction, senior scholar for multicultural education, and founding vice president for diversity and Inclusion at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I do this as a white woman. While there is a drag to doing this as a woman, I can only imagine the drag isn’t as severe as a woman of color. It’s like a cascading mountain of marginalization. You’re a marginalized person doing work that is marginalized in public higher education, another marginalized system.”

The events were sponsored by the Office of Equity and Pluralism, the Women’s Center, Student Programs, Multicultural Student Services and BC’s Center for Career Connections.