I was at an equity summit in late February and the speaker, the incredible Dr. Luke Wood, was talking about why community colleges are struggling to support Black men (amongst other population subgroups). His definition of equity is worth sharing:
“Equity refers to a heightened focus on groups that experience disproportionate impact in order to remediate disparities in their experiences and outcomes.”
Equity is a word that I have been hearing on the radio in connection with the new CRT (critical race theory) bugbear that has emerged as a political rallying point. For people committed to educational equity, Wood’s definition is useful because it emphasizes measurable (comforting to math folks) markers (outcomes), though I don’t know that the definition above would help anyone have a conversation with folks who are questioning equity efforts.
Here is a definition I used once in a workshop:
Equity in practice is about helping ensure meaningful success for each student we encounter.
I would be open to feedback from those that have thought deeply about it or even those who are resistant to the work. My definition certainly does not give any clues as to how we will know we are moving towards equity. But I hope it opens the door to people who are new to equity as a concept or are wrestling with the practicalities of it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be on the team working to ensure meaningful success?
Inequity is such a difficult problem but there are multiple levels where faculty can engage. This fact is an opportunity as well as a challenge.
Any math instructor anywhere could be working on
- the personal level (read more- especially from voices and backgrounds that are unfamiliar, examine personal implicit biases, work to become culturally competent),
- the classroom level (recognize policies are in the way of meaningful success for all students, develop culturally responsive curriculum, question and reflect on student interactions and assessment strategies
- the departmental level (reflect on trainings and programs in the department, examine faculty support, including for adjuncts and minoritized populations)
- and the institutional level (take stock of the culture of the college, interrogate accountability structures in place and push administration to take a stand for equity, be part of institutional reviews of policies and practices, get involved in evaluating and strengthening support structures in place for students)
I hope that list offers comfort (not dismay at the size of the task ahead of us) and an invitation to get involved in equity work. I acknowledge it may feel like an insurmountable amount of change to be executed. Building equity into our institutions is like removing racism from America: something we have to believe can be done, but it will take more than the work of one lifetime. So that work requires patience and persistence. And the work progresses as each of us chooses our next action and takes it.
If you’re wondering about your next equity action, and want to support your AMATYC colleagues in their actions, the Equity Anet is a great place for you to start. Please join us in this important work!