I got the latest issue of The Augustana Magazine in my mailbox this week. It’s the alumni magazine from my alma mater. I flipped through it today, paused and read about the Augustana baseball team’s national title, and was about to recycle it until the page listing new faculty hires and promotions caught my eye.
Take a look at it. What do you notice? What do all of these folks seem to have in common?
It will be 20 years this fall since I was a freshman at Augustana. At the time, it was Augustana College, a small private school in Sioux Falls, SD. As I had just finished high school in Fargo, ND, the hilarious joke at the time was that I was heading south to the more tropical Dakota.
In the past few years, Augustana College has become Augustana University. The school’s first-ever female president, Stephanie Herseth, announced recently that they would make the jump to Division I. Things are changing, she said. Expanding. Deepening. Diversifying.
The school has a sustainable garden program now, and a partnership with the dining service has students eating food they’ve grown themselves.
From what I understand, Augustana has a first Black student union for the first time now as well, and while this was a step taken at many universities 50 years ago or more, it seems to be an example of the school’s vocal commitment to diversity and continued evolution being acted out.
Its disappointing, then, to see that Augustana hired 15 people recently, and chose 15 white folks. Here we see what happens when an institution wants to change, but continues to make decisions through the same lens that created the existing imbalances and unequities — without, in other words, an intentional commitment to equity and diversity that’s backed by action. It takes a while for old habits to change, I suppose, if we’re not careful. This is from whence I came.
And it’s important to note that this is not “just” an equity issue, or just an issue affecting only the students of color, or just a matter of inequitable hiring — although it’s all those things. The research is clear that a more diverse faculty benefits the students, and that a more diverse learning environment will better prepare students for a diverse and ever-changing world.
Erin Okuno, a tireless Seattle hero for equity, has a word for this kind of thing: “Fakequity.”
Fakequity = fake equity. Fakequity is bad. It shows up as all talk and no action.
To be different requires that we do different things, or that we do things differently. New ways of being require different decisions, and thus new ways of making decisions.
It’s something for all of us to watch out for. In what ways is fakequity showing up in your life? What are you supporting with your time, your energy or your capital that you are fighting with your heart and mind?