Faculty Link: Faculty and inclusive excellence

Many of us viewed the broadcast of President Washington's first Freedom and Learning Forum on Monday Nov. 16. During the forum, members of the Mason community posed questions regarding how inclusion and diversity at Mason were being defined as we tackle historic inequities in the academy and on our campus.

Mason has the honor of educating one of the most diverse student bodies in the United States by almost any measure of diversity. However, our faculty do not reflect the same breadth and depth of diversity that our students do.

Inclusive excellence as described by President Washington and the panelists requires our students and faculty to be engaged in thinking about grand challenges, bringing in as many points of view, theoretical frameworks. methodological approaches, and epistemological origins as can be brought to bear on these challenges.

When we speak of inclusion and diversity at a university that serves the public for the public good, we speak of inclusion and diversity of theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches, and epistemological origins. We speak of disciplinary differences as well as interdisciplinary strengths. We speak of engagement with our communities in knowledge production as well as knowledge consumption.

Our faculty rightly ask hard questions, as we promised President Washington that we would. What will success look like if we make progress toward inclusive excellence among our faculty? It could mean a faculty whose demographic profile is more similar to our student demographic profile than it is different. It could also mean a faculty who publicly acknowledge that the intellectual dialogues across theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches, and epistemological origins as well as across disciplinary practices are the heart of Mason and what yields inclusive excellence among our students and faculty.

What is the faculty role, then, in moving toward inclusive excellence?

One role that we can play is to continue to be a part of the many initiatives that have arisen that are designed to work towards inclusive excellence, including participation in the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Initiative.

Our internationally renowned scholars on issues of structural inequalities, conflict mediation and resolution, and inter-cultural communication as well as those whose scholarship has documented practices and promises of change in higher education have much to teach us as we take the opportunity to see Mason as our laboratory.

Our faculty also must play the role of the critical consumer of scholarship. Whose voices are included in conversations? Whose voices are not? Whose voices carry more weight? Whose voices are not being heard? As scholars who use critical theories to engage in our own research, we ask these questions in our fields. We must also ask those questions in our own field when we as faculty work toward creating an inclusive intellectual environment whose criteria for participation is a desire to bring disciplinary frameworks to bear on problems of the world through dialogue debate and discussion at Mason.