Members of the consortium Liberal Arts Diversity Officers, or LADO, met at Whitman Oct. 8-9, 2018, to discuss how issues facing their colleges today, including building bridges with professional organizations, becoming systematically proactive before issues arise, effectively using data and brainstorming solutions.
The meeting was hosted by Whitman's Interim Dean of Students Kazi Joseph, who co-chairs the group, and Interim Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Helen Kim.
Graduates of private and smaller liberal arts colleges and universities experience disparate representation in leading private, corporate and public companies and institutions. The necessity to create a national dialog that stresses the importance of liberal arts education, critical thinking, civic and community engagement and diversity and inclusion is the purpose that is the cornerstone of LADO.
"The conversation needs to take place because the work in and of itself is about recognizing historical inequities and injustices that need to be rectified," Kim said. "This becomes increasingly important as the demographics of our student populations are changing and will continue to change."
Founded in 2007, the LADO consortium endorses best practices and leads strategies in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. LADO provides a platform for chief diversity officers of 31 select liberal arts institutions the chance to come together, engage in mutual learning and implement new tactics in higher education.
For Joshua, it is imperative that liberal arts colleges and universities continue to progress on the issues of diversity, inclusion and equity to ensure all on campus are thriving, and that institutional policies and procedures are adjusting to the realities of creating a community for diverse groups with specific needs, as well as securing leadership that are reflective of those changes who are committed to making sure all flourish during their time in college.
"Recall that colleges are transitory communities. It means every year, 25 percent of those involved are new and 25 percent have left the college. The conversation is therefore not always among the same people," Joshua said. "Different issues are emerging as the specifics of students change. Questions about gender fluidity are emerging now in ways they did not five years ago. How to include those who are undocumented is becoming more prominent. The conversation therefore doesn't have the luxury of being static. It needs to further explore whether indeed all on our campuses feel a sense of belonging."