Building Community and Fostering Diversity

In an effort to expand upon the commitment to diversity contained in its Statement on Community, Inclusion, and Diversity, Illinois Tech’s Community, Inclusion and Diversity Committee has adopted a document entitled Building Community and Fostering DiversityThis document establishes a set of ten principles aimed at building and maintaining a civil, respectful, and inclusive Illinois Tech community.

Building community—one that includes students, faculty, staff, visitors, partners, and tenants—and embracing diversity requires action at the institutional as well as the personal level. From an institutional perspective, it means committing to hiring practices that result in faculty and staff who better reflect the composition of our student body. It means partnering with our neighbors and taking a leadership role in community engagement. And it means holding each member of the Illinois Tech community accountable for doing his and her part to move this agenda forward.

At the personal level, it means recognizing that some of the things we do on a daily basis also can strengthen our community and make others feel welcome, included, and valued. The following is not meant to be a comprehensive list of suggestions but rather starting points to build community and foster diversity and respect—one person and one day at a time.

  1. Ask rather than assume.
    And names are a good place to start. For example, “Do you prefer Timothy or Tim?” Then remember the preference; use the name in conversations and email; and, if necessary, apologize for mispronouncing or forgetting it.
  2. Don’t forget the please.
    Or the thank you, I’m sorry, and it’s good to see you. Being polite goes a long way to making someone feel welcomed and included. Sometimes all it takes is saying hello.
  3. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
    Assume people have a good reason for saying what they are saying – and doing what they are doing. Think the best before you assume the worst.
  4. The difference between hearing and listening is understanding.
    Communication is complicated. But it gets easier when we move from hearing what is being said to listening to the person who is saying it.
  5. Face it. There are times when you need to pick up the phone or deliver the message in person.
    But if you decide to go electronic, at least think before you hit that send button.
  6. Acknowledge your baggage.
    Some of it is worth carrying with us. Some of it should be checked. And sometimes we may not even realize we’re taking it with us. So try not to leave your bags unattended – and be aware when it may be weighing on your perceptions, actions, and responses.
  7. Consider when it’s a good thing to act – and when it’s better to watch from the sidelines.
    Don’t be content to look the other way when something unacceptable is happening.
  8. Take advantage of “talking moments.”
    Sometimes people are just unknowing rather than insensitive. And most of them will thank you for gently pointing this out. But don’t call it a teaching moment.
  9. Perception is reality.
    Keep in mind: What I hear may not be what you said. What you conclude may not be what I meant. So, asking for clarification is better than assuming.
  10. Put diversity into your daily routine.
    Add a new colleague to your committee. Seek out someone with a different point of view. Get to know someone in another office. Ask someone about his or her country. It all starts with you.

It’s time to move forward, stand up, and be counted. Let’s build community, embrace diversity, and foster respect at Illinois Tech—one person and one day at a time.