Back in 2004, a leading voice for diversity education at Christian institutions said in an interview, “There seems to be great potential for applying diversity training techniques used in the secular arena…”
Today, many Christian and Jewish institutions are recommitting to diversity and inclusion goals:
- The Council on Christian Colleges and Universities recently launched a new Commission on Diversity and Education.
- In December, Brandeis University announced a new plan for “Reaffirming and Accelerating Brandeis’ Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Justice.”
American Muslim institutions of higher learning, though far fewer, are expressing inclusion as integral to their educational mission. Zaytuna College states: “…We are all interconnected, and through our diverse cultural histories, we discover our shared humanity… .”
While higher education in the Abrahamic tradition has always had a basis in justice and the unity of humankind, Diversity leaders at these important institutions often hesitate to consider contemporary diversity strategies being used in secular academia. They may mistakenly hear a discord between their teachings and secular diversity concepts. These clashes are better heard as challenges.
Notes for a New Harmony
Here are some criteria for effective diversity learning that harmonize rather than clash with core tenets of faith-based institutions. Call them composer’s notes:
- Explicitly connect the faith-based mission to successful engagement with diversity.
- Teach, don’t train. Learning concrete skills for fulfilling the fundamental mission is different than being trained to comply with rules that may feel contradictory to one’s faith.
- Base diversity learning points on research rather than advocacy. Faith-based higher education is scholarly; research doesn’t conflict with faith.
- Treat issues such as full inclusion of LGBTQ as challenges. Faith-based institutions provide some of finest education in the nation. They are an excellent venue for the open exchange of profound ideas.