Campus feedback needed in creation of NIU equity statement

NIU has placed a high priority on equity, and efforts are underway to conceptualize and operationalize what that means for the university.

Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden and members of the Committee for Academic Equity and Inclusive Excellence seek input from faculty, staff, students and the community on a proposed equity statement developed by the committee.

Edghill-Walden, Ph.D., and the committee have presented “Conceptualizing Equity” to numerous members of shared governance councils, committees, commissions and organizations to inform the community about the proposed statement and gather critical feedback.  

According to the proposed statement, equity means being: “Purposefully focused on eliminating barriers that disproportionately hinder the academic achievement and socio-emotional development of underrepresented student populations in order to improve student outcomes and experiences at NIU.”

The campus community is encouraged to provide input on the statement.

The initiative grew out of strategic efforts the past several years to cultivate equity and student success and prioritize inclusion at NIU.

“Collectively, we have been doing a lot to move the needle on student success and to promote equity, and I don’t think we all have a shared understanding of what we mean by equity,” Edghill-Walden said.

“A lot of times I think equity gets confused with equality. For us to continue to do the good work we’re doing we need to be able to distinguish between the two and have a university-wide understanding,” she said. “We should be using common language and have a common understanding so we can strive towards the same goals.”

Equity gives students what they need to succeed, Edghill-Walden said, while equality gives everyone the same measure regardless of need. Equity focuses on the individuality of students.

Edghill-Walden pointed to the university’s recently announced “test-blind policy” as a “great example of equity in action.”

The policy removes the use of standardized test scores for general admission and merit scholarship decisions for students applying to NIU for the fall of 2021. It reflects well-documented findings that standardized test scores often are more reflective of a student’s socioeconomic background than academic abilities.

“Conceptualizing Equity” at NIU raises awareness on what equity means at NIU, Edghill-Walden said.

Members of the campus community are welcomed to provide their feedback on the proposed equity statement through March 6 with a goal to incorporate recommendations and present a revised, final equity statement in April.

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