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Our First Dialogue Series: A Take on Equity

By Julio Quintero

Our first series of conversations in the Dialogue Zone began as a sequel to an Inclusive Excellence Academy workshop held during the fall of 2019 (https://udayton.edu/diversity/initiatives/inclusive-excellence-academy.php). In this workshop—framed as an opportunity to examine the steps of an equal hiring process—participants had the chance to consider the difference between equity and equality. While equality offers a blanket solution that awards everybody the same, equity considers historical and social contexts and strives to give more to those who need it. The staff at the Dialogue Zone thought that creating a space for folks to reflect further on the issue would be a useful strategy to apply this concept to other areas of the life of the University. The idea was to inquire freely into the topic through a dialogical framework in which participants could revise and share their own ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Although in dialogue a path to action is not necessary, what we found with this series is that action might come as a seamless and natural subsequent step.

Staff and faculty from all corners of the University, with different roles, backgrounds and perspectives joined in. The fist dialogue was a general examination of the obstacles and opportunities for understanding and implementing equity in an institution of higher learning. Faculty and staff mentioned several scenarios. The first one had to do with the increasing diversity of the student body. In the second one, participants mentioned the stories about the early stages of the Marianists in France and the foundation of the University of Dayton. The third scenario referred to the diversity of philosophies and beliefs of faculty and staff. Participants reflected on the necessary actions to see each member’s perspective with an equity lens that favored each person’s history and context. Service was the fourth point of inquire. In some instances, when a group of people decides to reach out and serve, power hierarchies and preconceptions can hinder initial objectives. Serving with an equity mindset could be a good strategy to counter the risks of stereotypes.

The second dialogue focused on equity and the student body. Attendees recognized the wealth of experiences and backgrounds that students bring to the University. There are traditional students who live on campus, commuters, non-traditional students, veterans, international students, staff members who are also students, students with families, and those from underrepresented and underserved populations. Participants expressed their points of view and experiences regarding this reality and strived to understand what the notion of equity means when we consider the characteristics of individual groups.

The third and final dialogue of the equity series was an opportunity to revise the stories of the Marianist founders. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Blessed Adele de Batz, and Venerable Marie-Therese de Lamourous were individuals with very diverse characteristics in terms of status, gender, age, background, and experience. The encounter and amalgamation of the beliefs and missions of these three people created an institution for which equality, social justice, and change and adaptation became central pillars. Participants shared personal anecdotes, questions, and perspectives about what this encounter represents and how to consider it through an equity lens.

Each participant brought a different viewpoint and experience to the series. Given the complexities of the identities of each individual at the table, we were able to hear new perspectives and revise our own frameworks of reference. We realized that some of the people who attended the first dialogue returned. At the end, we had a core of participants who stayed with us during the duration of the entire series. As we closed, takeaways and next steps came naturally. At the Dialogue Zone, we expect to continue developing similar series of conversations every semester. 

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