How phasing out DEI in colleges and universities is hindering learning • Kentucky Lantern

This comment was republished on The Conversation.

Just four years ago, after the murder of George Floyd, almost every college and university in the U.S. had at least one diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, program. Many of them existed much earlier. These programs included DEI-related degrees and professional training, as well as resources for culturally, linguistically and neurologically diverse students. But in the last year and a half, in almost every state 159 institutions have reduced or eliminated these programs.

New legislation in states like Texas and Florida completely banned DEI programs. In other states, institutions are preemptively closing programs to avoid political pressure. This will have lasting effects.

In Texas, several dozen professional lecturers and employees they have already been released. Minority students have lost access to social groups, cultural centers and resources. Moreover, after the Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling, race could not be taken into account when making university admission decisions, scholarships for students with diverse racial identities disappeared.

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Lawmakers can roll back DEI programs, but they cannot remove identity from the learning context. Colleges and universities continue to enroll increasingly diverse student populations. Without support programs, I believe these students are more likely to be harmed than helped by the university.

Eliminating DEI programs could have serious consequences for teaching and learning. As a researcher dealing with the relationship between identity and learningMy work has shown that inclusion is a prerequisite for students to develop their identity in relation to the content they learn. For example, learning mathematics becomes especially difficultif not impossible, if the student does not positively identify with the subject. Mathematical identity it is not based solely on competences. It is also based on social expectations, such as stereotypes about who is most likely to become a mathematician, based on demographics – including racial, ethnic and gender identity.

Why identity matters in learning

Research shows this Black students are more likely to stay in college and earn a degree if they attend a historically black institution rather than a predominantly white institution. Why? Because learning is not just about the curriculum offered. It’s also about students feeling connected to and supported by their institutions. When institutions represent one cultural identity, students with minority identities may feel excluded and have fewer opportunities to thrive.

Generally speaking, how we see ourselves depends largely on external validation. In fact, child psychologists strongly warn parents against labeling children through character traits or behavior so that their identity is not prematurely limited. For learning to take place, students must identify with the content, which becomes especially difficult when they feel that their identity is not welcomed at school. learning environment.

Effective teaching emphasizes students’ identities to make important connections to learning. We know this for example fewer women graduate in STEM fields than men. This is not because they cannot succeed in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – but because they fail to do so. likely enough to identify with the field. Much research shows that directing support to students with specific identities increases their academic performance as well as performances by other students.

More evidence of the relationship between identity and learning comes from the Gallup-Purdue Index. A large study of more than 30,000 college graduates measured the academic experiences that best prepared them for life. At the top of the results: “My professors cared about me as a person” The goal of DEI programs is to make sure everyone feels cared for as a person. Eliminating these programs means further marginalization of students with a specific identity who have experienced discrimination in the past.

Open records loopholes are closing in the Kentucky Senate. An attempt to revive the anti-DEI bill also fails.

How DEI programs provide learning opportunities for everyone

Through my research, I have found that DEI training increases educators’ awareness of diverse identities, helping them design courses that are interesting and important for everyone. DEI programs also often include creating dedicated spaces and initiatives for students to experience connection and support from other students like them, even if it seems like their identity is not welcome on campus.

A report by the Gallup and Lumina Foundation shows that black students do they feel discriminated against more often than other students, and black and Latino students were most likely to think about dropping out. If all students they don’t feel safe and welcomethey can’t learn.

Lawmakers can roll back DEI programs, but they cannot remove identity from the learning context. Colleges and universities still admit this an increasingly diverse student population. Without support programs, I believe these students are more likely to be harmed than helped by the university.