Introduction

Northeastern has a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are poised to lead other institutions of higher education in promoting diversity and creating a culture of inclusion within and across all missions of the university. Diversity is critical to our commitment to engage with the world, and to impart learning through our powerful experiential model.

Inclusion is essential because we value the contribution that everyone can make in our community and recognize that only as an inclusive community can we conquer society’s grand challenges—including the realities that divide us. Northeastern has the advantage of being located in the heart of a dynamic and very diverse urban neighborhood, and we are in a city going through rapid demographic change. This presents challenges and opportunities for the Northeastern community and the communities we are part of.

There is still much work to be done as we encourage diversity and inclusion in our student body, faculty, staff, and community engagement.  President Aoun recently issued a bold statement regarding the importance of diversity and inclusion at Northeastern and invited members of the Northeastern community to offer ideas. As Northeastern continually strives to create an inclusive university where difference is appreciated and understood as a source of strength, we ask for your thoughts on the following questions:

Questions for Discussion

  • How can the following description of diversity and inclusion be enhanced?
    “Diversity is an inclusive mixture of our differences and similarities represented by race, culture, color, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, genetics, religion, religious creed, disability status, veteran status, familial status, culture, language, communication, education, socioeconomic status and other dimensions of life.  Diversity is also about intergroup relations and our lived experience with each other as neighbors and citizens of the world. Northeastern strives to be an inclusive and welcoming community. We acknowledge and seek to celebrate the diversity of our community, promoting tolerance and the search for greater understanding among the many strands that make up the rich fabric of our community.” (statement based on an institutional definition of diversity that has been previously used for Northeastern)
  • Does the above statement capture your vision of diversity and inclusion?  How would you suggest improving upon it?
  • How would you finish this sentence:  Northeastern University should define diversity and inclusion as…?
  • How would you finish this sentence: We will have achieved an inclusive Northeastern community when…?
  • How do we most effectively develop a diverse population in our university community?
  • What do we need to do as a community to foster a more inclusive environment?
  • What should we be doing to foster diversity and inclusion discussions in the classroom and co-curricular activities?
  • What existing programs can we extend or new initiatives can we implement to increase diversity and promote inclusivity in our student body, faculty, and staff?
  • How can we deepen our engagement with our Boston neighbors to enhance our diversity and inclusion efforts?
  • In what ways can the commitment to diversity extend opportunities to diverse members of the surrounding community?
  • How can Northeastern lead the dialogue on race and class now underway across Boston and around the country?
21 responses on the “A Diverse and Inclusive University
  1. Northeastern University is known for its great amount of international applicants and students. It is a “go-to” destination for students all around the world. It is because of its great location and internationality that Northeastern is almost always, at least, on high school seniors’ application list.When international students come to Northeastern and see how big the international community is, this helps them feel more comfortable and welcome, which leads them to spread the word back in their countries about how NEU’s advantages. Throughout the years Northeastern’s international student rate has increased, which means that they’ve been on the right track. They have achieved their goal of encouraging, promoting, and sustaining an international community. One of the ways that northeastern has achieved this international community amongst students, is by allowing and encouraging the many different types of students clubs, where everyone can find their place. Northeastern University’s international community is composed of students from more than 100 different countries, which leaves no students left alone. There is much room for inclusion that help with obtaining the feeling of belonging that new students are usually striving for. However, students join the community in search of other students with whom they share the most characteristics, specifically targeting same language. This creates “bubbles” or groups within the community. They should try to leave behind the mentality of finding other students from where they come from or that share the same language and rather thinking about meeting as many people they can from all areas from the world.

  2. Northeastern University’s main pride is in the diversity of the campus. It has more than 7,000 international students from 126 different countries ranking it #472 of 1739 universities in ethnic diversity nationwide. Diversity is a critical element in the development of countries, especially in conquering challenges. It would provide students and faculty with a supportive environment that pushes its students to achieve the best within the university.
    One of the most evident application of this strategy is through the co-op program. Students are given a choice to either co-op locally or internationally. In both situations, students must cope with their diverse surroundings and learn how to adapt to new cultures in different corners of the globe therefore supporting diversity as a whole. Although there are many different programs within the campus that has a strong purpose to diversify, not all students are willing to be separated from their own culture and participate in various events.
    Therefore, we have prepared a few possible plans that could possibly improve the situation. First is promoting cultural events and activities through social media. There are several great events that support cultural diversity, but very few people actually attend or are aware about it. Being more active in social media would help students be more aware of what is happening around campus and be interested in joining these events. Second is making hosts of the event become more proactive and welcoming to the attendees. Making attendees feel accepted and create the inclusive atmosphere will create incentive for people to continue participating in these events. Third is recruiting a more diverse body of international students and faculty. Although Northeastern is one of the most diverse universities, it still needs to work on the composition of the diversity. In order for the university to truly embrace diversity and inclusion in the community, it should find a way to help students view and care for people of different race and culture just as themselves because diversity and inclusion are one of the most fundamental way to build a better world for the future.

  3. – “What existing programs can we extend or new initiatives can we implement to increase diversity and promote inclusivity in our student body, faculty, and staff?”

    After reading through most of the responses under “Global University” and “Diversity and Inclusion”, we are suggesting a general applicable, student-oriented, course-related and feasible way to for the university to become more inclusive and diverse university – achieving the first-step of becoming “Global”. We call it:

    Diversity & Inclusion classes (two semesters, 2 credits in total) are mandatory for all freshmen students. The main goal for this class is to help cultural integration. Even though Northeastern has a great number of students coming from overseas, we believe the university can only be described as “Global” if all international students get integrated. The university will make sure that there are adequate cultures being represented in each class. In class, students with different nationalities(cultures) are allocated to the same group. With different topics, they will communicate with each other, which is the way they could learn how to become a “global student”. More detailed explanation is the following:

    The first Diversity & Inclusion class that everyone would take is more student-oriented and discussion-based. Instructors will serve as a supervisor and play a question-answering role in class. Students are motivated and self-motivated to discuss anything from their geographic and cultural backgrounds, past experience to current cultural events in the world. The instructor will also occasionally bring up topics or news for class discussion. Students will be graded on how active they are in class discussion (participation) and how interested in learning other cultures they are in class. There will be no final exam or final project.

    The second Diversity & Inclusion class will still be discussion based but there will be more efforts in deciding what topics need to be mentioned. In the first week, instructor and students will plan out what topics they want to discuss later in the semester. They will also decide what methods they will use, for examples, debates, presentations, documentaries watching, field trip or lectures attending. In addition to the grading criteria for the previous class, there will be a final project in which each student (or in group) describes what they have learned in the 2 classes, how their cultural perspectives have changed and what they will do in the future(dialogue, international co-op, study abroad, service learning, etc.) to remain diverse and inclusive.

  4. “How can Northeastern lead the dialogue on race and class now underway across Boston and around the country?”

    I was excited by the good discussion in the town hall, and to know I will be seeing it incorporated into the NU curriculum.

    Consequently the challenge I see is not in what we practice within the university community, but in preparing our students to respond to the challenges they will encounter: most racism is subconscious, hidden in the language and systems we encounter.

    The simplest example of gracefully rejecting racist “framing” was in a 2007 Democratic debate on a Republican channel. The moderator at one point asked the candidates to “raise your hands if you think English should be the official language of the United States”. Hiding a highly controversial position (assimilation should be denied to non-native speakers ) and cornering the candidates to answer “you’re with us or against us” on an apparently innocent variant. Obama stepped forward saying “Hold on, that’s the kind of question that is designed precisely to divide us. You’re right, of course everyone who comes to this country is going to learn English. The real question is can we come up with a sensible, legal Immigration policy? But if we get distracted by divisive questions like that we do the American people a disservice.”

    It can be difficult to parry such attacks so gracefully, without taking the bait, whining about the frame, and losing before you begin, unless you get some good practice to recognize a wedge issue when it’s being thrown at you.

    So I would lobby to include a couple of hours of media and political literacy in most core curricula. Marty Baron reiterated this with President Aoun, and we have some stellar faculty writing engaging op-eds on the Northeastern channel. Although it would not be practical to teach it in any depth, we could at least have a couple of modules to outline it for students so they “know that they don’t know” it, and can begin to see it.

  5. 1) What do we need to do as a community to foster a more inclusive environment?
    I have family that live in the community and they feel very uneasy about NU and the other colleges because in the past promises were made and broken. They fear gentrification and being kicked out of their neighborhoods. I believe that in order for the members of the community to feel included and heard we need to make promises we can actually keep and make sure we do what we say we’re going to do. I also want to point out that many of the students in the area are not receiving the same level of education their counterparts from the suburbs receive (for many different reasons). If we can somehow engage these students starting in elementary school through high school with tutoring and other services we can develop trust and a path for these kids to study here. Starting at the high school level may just be too late.

    2) How do we most effectively develop a diverse population in our university community?
    As a member of the NU staff, I believe that the university is making great strides at having a diverse population. Please pay attention to the number of minorities leaving and if there’s a pattern within certain departments and address it. I have worked outside of Higher Ed and I have seen these types of programs created, but nothing really comes out of it. I have faith that this program is in the right hands and we will see a difference. Most of my colleagues of color want the same opportunities as everyone else and for our opinions to be heard.

  6. Q- Does the above statement capture your vision of diversity and inclusion? How would you suggest improving upon it?

    A- As a sequitur to the prior entry, I agree that pointing out differences falls short as a pathway towards inclusion. Furthermore, I do not believe that one can speak of inclusion as a finished product, but rather as a process. Borrowing from Asian ying/yang notions, I envision the process as constantly moving, ever-adjusting with an eye towards integration, complementarity, cohesiveness.

    Q-

  7. How would you finish this sentence: We will have achieved an inclusive Northeastern community when…?

    We will achieve an inclusive Northeastern community when the diversity of our community is acknowledged and valued in all aspects of what it means to be Northeastern both as an organization in general (for example, recognizing diversity in recruitment, hiring, career progression, policies practices, etc.) and as an institution of higher education – including how we contribute to our students’ development in engaging the diversity of the various facets of their social world (including the professional, societal, political and other institutional contexts) as well as how we engage those same facets of diversity in our investment in research (both through valuing diversity and inclusion within and across disciplinary boundaries, and in valuing diversity and inclusion as important research initiatives with practical impact on many disciplinary and interdisciplinary research questions).

  8. I sincerely appreciate the comments others have made about the definition of diversity and inclusion. As the jumping off point for the next 10 years it should be clear to what definition we are aspiring, rather than simply using catchy phrases that imitate a wish for change.

    If this is to be a sincere focus of the university, what will be measured, and as a result what will be the area of demonstrated change and impact? Northeastern was founded 117 years ago, and it has done a superb job of focusing on SATs and admissions metrics. That focus has resulted in the University’s move up in national rankings. It has failed to apply even simple metrics to the issues of diversity and inclusion, and instead choose to hide to hide peer statistics to say, we are not any worse than others. Why is it good to be as a bad as another? Why is the goal not to be the leader? What would the statistics look like if we were a leader?

    What are the specific measures and outcomes that will reflect a focus on and commitment to diversity? Don’t forget, it is not just about enrollment and recruitment of students and faculty. It is also about advancement to graduate programs (for students) and need based scholarships — based not just on the need of the student, but on the need of the University to attract and engage historically underrepresented peoples for their own growth and development as an institution of higher learning. For faculty it is about plain old retention, directed mentoring, and promotion to senior leadership with voice and decision-making responsibilities.

    Embracing diversity requires accepting that you can never know the experience of people of color that you yourself have not lived and, furthermore, requires your compassion, non-judgement, and active collaboration in order to bridge the gaps that occur through natural tendencies that cause you to apply the halo effect and affiliate with others “like you” and the “horn effect” and non-affiliation towards others that are not like you.

    We, as a university, a commonwealth, or nation, will never get to that goal of inclusion, if we fail to quantify our past failures, our future goals and develop specific measurable strategies to measure our progress along the way.

  9. We have achieved a diverse and inclusive community, I have never witnessed a single act of discrimination on campus.

  10. One of the reasons that supporting racial diversity is so important is that unfortunately, in this country and especially in Boston, how you are treated depends on the color of you skin, the tone of your voice, and where you or your ancestors were born. Northeastern needs to be a force acting to equalize the current unequal treatments of our racial minorities, and enabling students to interact with those different from themselves to change our future society’s cultural views about race. A statement about the purposes of promoting diversity at the university level should be included in its definition.

    Furthermore, Northeastern needs to look at its enrollment patterns to be truly diverse. You cannot take a homogeneous group of students and implement programs that appreciate diversity; diversity literally depends on the makeup of the group. A student above pointed to some statistics that show that Northeastern is not currently a leader in this respect. Undoubtedly, admission of a more diverse student body (especially more socioeconomically diverse) will require a financial cost to Northeastern, but until the school accepts this cost they will not be true proponents of diversity and inclusion.

    Due to low enrollment, minority group students at Northeastern often turn to others like them for support – a perfectly normal response. But the result of that is that students are not voluntarily interacting with many students of different races, etc. Changing the culture at our school means that diversity and inclusion have to run deeper than school programs or activities. Right now, despite any school-sponsored program, students generally hang out with students who look like them. Until this changes, our culture won’t have changed.

  11. Description of diversity and inclusion needs to better reflect aspirations for the next ten years. Here are two considerations:
    1. This sentence deploys a number of vague entities (single Q marks): “Diversity is also about ‘intergroup relations’ and our ‘lived’ experience with ‘each other’ as ‘neighbors and citizens of the world.’” Does this sentence really add (“also”) to the previous one? Is it worth keeping?
    2. This phrase might be revised: “Northeastern strives to be an inclusive ..” Revision would need to project the spirit of a 10-year plan, with specific approaches and practices to make a credible statement.

  12. In order to increase diversity, while also still maintaining excellence, we also need to re-consider how we define “excellence”. By focusing so heavily on SAT scores, rather than incorporating other important metrics for admission, we miss admitting remarkable, diverse students. We must look at student enrollments in a more holistic way, particularly within Bouvé, where we are educating the healthcare providers of the future. We must have underrepresented minorities within our healthcare professions for the health of our nation.

  13. Some key comments about diversifying the faculty from the February 17 discussion in the Faculty Senate:

    We need to “examine NU reputation, not positive”
    Build “community relationship (local) to Boston”
    Make “cluster hires (of diverse faculty)”

    –what might be next steps to take to realize these ideas?

  14. Northeastern’s student body is approximately 62% white (still accurate data?) It falls behind almost every other Boston university in terms of percentage of black students.

    Northeastern also falls in the bottom 5% of four-year colleges nationwide for its low enrollment of freshmen that receive Pell Grants.

    A study at UCLA a few years back proved that minority students at schools with little diversity report experiencing more incidents of stereotyping and discrimination. They’re more likely to drop out. Is this what we want for our students?

    In addition, LatAm and AfAm departments are either already gone or slowly dwindling. Why?? Students perform better and learn better when they feel represented at NU, not like they’re being pushed out.

    1. The Pell Grant statistic can be a little misleading. The comparison here is to national Pell statistics. Those Pell numbers are influenced disproportionately by some institutions with unusually high percentages of Pell recipients; unfortunately, most of those same institutions have very low persistence rates. Northeastern’s proportion of Pell recipients has historically been in the 11-15% range and is in line with its Boston peers– recent statistics show BC at 12%, BU at 15%, Tufts at 11%. A sampling of top 100 national competitors looks very similar – Cornell at 15%, Georgetown at 13%, George Washington at 14%, UVA at 13%.

      In addition, Northeastern has made great strides with institutional financial aid. Examples include generous commitments to underrepresented communities in Boston and a recent move to fund full need for incoming freshmen. Finally, it is important to also look at graduation rates, where Northeastern has seen steady improvements and fares well by with all comparison groups.

  15. According to the latest Pew population research, of all US residents ages 13 to 29: 18.5% are Hispanic; 14.2% are black; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are mixed race or other. Should the student body reflect these facts? Moreover, should not our faculty hiring practices be in tune with these massive population changes? Speaking of faculty hiring and promotional practices, should we consider university administrators when we think of these new realities?

  16. How would you finish this sentence: We will have achieved an inclusive Northeastern community when…?”regardless of a person’s ‘differences’, they feel included. Ultimately, that’s the final expression of inclusiveness. Whether it’s in class, department-level dynamics, interactions with the local community, how a department functions. It’s when all “leaders” – SLT, Deans, VPs, Dept. Chairs, walk the walk to show there’s no more room for even the more subtle signs of intolerance, racism, or any ‘ism'”. Sometimes, the more subtle undertones are the most damaging. They can plague people and drive them out of the University. The “feeling” or culture here must feel inclusive. That’s the sign of success. That is not easy to quantify but yet it’s palpable..

    What do we need to do as a community to foster a more inclusive environment? “Ensure that every person in a position of power – from the top down and the bottom up, is absolutely clear in, and demonstrates action to stop any and all forms of – and culture conducive to – intolerance, racism etc. I do believe it starts from the top. Not just a once in a while statement from the President or SVPs or SLT, but an ongoing change demonstrated by actions in behavior and cultural change. Taking direct reports aside and talking to them if necessary. Stopping the decades-old ‘old ways’ culture.”

    What existing programs can we extend or new initiatives can we implement to increase diversity and promote inclusivity in our student body, faculty, and staff? Start with a year-long theme of diversity and inclusion – complemented by special speakers, courses, events that truly are partnerships between various existing initiatives like Community Affairs + Sustainability + African American Institute + LSCC. Integrate the arts into the year-long theme: dance, visual arts, music. Vocally tie the events and special speakers back to the year-long theme. Have the President and other SLT take turns throughout the year addressing the theme of tolerance and inclusion from their own area of expertise and responsibility. 

  17. Q: Does the above statement capture your vision of diversity and inclusion? How would you suggest improving upon it?

    A: The use of “intergroup relations” in the definition suggests that there is no real inclusion:
    – a diversity policy which aims at improving “intergroup relations” acknowledges the fact that once admitted a student will first belong to a group and will be included in the community at large only if the different groups communicate.
    – if there is successful inclusion, a student should not be defined with respect to a particular group but by her status as Northeastern student.

    Q: How would you finish this sentence: Northeastern University should define diversity and inclusion as…?

    A: Diversity is the evaluation that an outsider will have of the representation of different socio-economic characteristics among admitted students. Inclusion should probably refer to the students’ ability to leverage the university resources (which include interactions with students of different characteristics). For instance, if there is a 50-50 representation of two socio-economic groups in the population and there is a 50-50 representation of these groups among admitted students, this may be defined as “diverse”. But if, following admission, each student interacts only with students in his own group, there is no inclusion.

    Q: How would you finish this sentence: We will have achieved an inclusive Northeastern community when…?

    A: “when the ability of a student to benefit from all Northeastern resources, including interaction with peers, is not a function of his or her socio-economic characteristics.”

    1. Diversity is equally an issue of staff, faculty, the university leadership. It’s also an issue of the cultures represented on campus. Students are a central part of that diversity equation, but just one part of the whole.

  18. How can we deepen our engagement with our Boston neighbors to enhance our diversity and inclusion efforts?
    Perhaps we can start by including in the “working group” people from the Boston community. The community is present in this statement on diversity, but we can make its presence more effective by engaging that community in shaping future plans.

  19. Does the above statement capture your vision of diversity and inclusion? How would you suggest improving upon it?
    Perhaps we can improve the statement by explaining that recognizing and embracing diversity, a precious goal in itself, is not a recognition or construction of difference as identities. That the ultimate goal of a truly cohesive community is moving beyond divides of race, color, national origin, religion. The “melting pot” fell short, but so might perceptions dominated by notions of difference, too.

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