What We're Reading: DEI Under Attack: A Conversation with Paulette Granberry Russell
"Across the United States, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, programs, and offices are under attack, primarily by Republican state lawmakers and Republican governors," said Isaiah Thompson for Nonprofit Quarterly. "Measures targeting DEI have been passed and signed in Florida and North Dakota and have advanced in state legislatures across the country. A report by the Associated Press found that Republican lawmakers in a dozen states have advanced at least 30 bills similarly targeting DEI measures at colleges and universities."
Amid these legislative maneuvers, some leaders in higher education and DEI are speaking out with increasing alarm, and with calls to action. Among those leaders is Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
In a conversation with NPQ, Granberry Russell makes the case that these measures represent far more than symbolic political gestures—rather, she says, they threaten to reverse decades of progress towards more equitable and inclusive colleges and universities.
Granberry Russell not only elucidates the potential harm these measures can inflict on higher education but also calls out what she characterizes as a dangerous stifling and resulting silence among leaders in higher education whose responsibilities, she argues, include speaking out against anti-DEI efforts and making public the harm they carry.
"It is not unlike if a university decided tomorrow that we’re going to eliminate our infrastructure around information systems. Now, some would say you can’t liken diversity, equity, and inclusion work to information systems and technology. We need technology," said Russell in the interview.
"So is it essential that this work be protected, that it be held up, that it be acknowledged, that we do not hide from these positions and try and situate them in spaces that really don’t give them the visibility because it makes them a target. There’s a point in time when if we are unable to defend our values and our mission, then why do we exist?"