Diversity statements have become an important element in the governance of the university. In the absence of a societal or legal consensus on norms and values, these statements represent a means of developing a coherent normative or values structure within which the expectations of conduct can be managed in the university. Not all universities have such statements, several prefer Action Plans, Strategic Plans, or incorporation within general university policy (Illinois, Washington). Others have adopted Diversity Statements through their regents (Michigan), or faculty organizations (Indiana) or within their units (Maryland, Northwestern, Minnesota), or from campus units (Minnesota-Duluth) or in administrative units (Rutgers) or in reaction to incidents (Rutgers) or more informally as statements from high officials (Chicago, Nebraska, Michigan State). Still some universities have begun to frame structure their efforts through or in connection with such statements (e.g., Purdue, Maryland, Iowa, (within their Strategic Plan), Virginia, here, and here)
But the values inherent in Diversity statements have been maturing as well. Their current expression tells us much about the values structures of universities in the context of its approach to inter-group relations within the university community. It is worth considering, then, just what values are embedded in the concept of "diversity" and the manner in which it is to be embedded in university culture--and its governance structures.
Penn State, a large multi-campus research university has just announced its adoption of a university diversity statement--Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence. This post considers the Diversity Statement in its context and for what it may tell us about the future of such statements within university culture in the United States. What emerges is that, and consistent with approaches at other comparable universities, diversity at Penn State has moved from a focus on historically based racial and ethnic marginalization to a much broader application of the concept.