By Published: April 26, 2018

Diversity and inclusion are not important just because they are useful; they are good because they are right

Broadly speaking, praising diversity and inclusion is about as provocative as espousing apple pie and the flag. But the conversation can be more challenging when it becomes more specific, particularly in these highly polarized times.


James W.C. White

This truth has become clear this school year, during which I have distributed six college-wide communiques highlighting specific issues of diversity and inclusion. I’ve hoped to spawn critical thought and discussion about these topics, and judging from your feedback, I’ve had some success in that. Here’s what I’ve talked about:

  • Respectful discourse in fractious times: On issues such as immigration, we will encounter ideas we do not share and beliefs we do not hold. Let us listen with open minds. Where there is discord, let it be harmonious.
  • One veteran’s take on diversity: Jackson Reinagel is a Navy veteran, a non-traditional student and a transgender man. Reinagel exemplifies the fact that people should not be pigeonholed and that we are all mosaics with multiple, intersecting identities that comprise who we are.
  • Harassment and abuse flout our core values: Alexander Hamilton said the first duty of society is justice. And the first step to justice is truth. As we join the national conversation about gender probity, equity and dignity, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of honest discourse among people of good will.
  • Title IX, #metoo and you: Eradicating sexual harassment and violence will not be easy, and will require that we keep diligently discussing, reporting and confronting harassment and assault. Equal opportunity is part of our Buff DNA. Striving to end abuse is what we do and who we are.
  • In praise of diverse intellectual traditions: The university hired its first visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy in 2013, and next year will host two visiting scholars. This is just the latest move by a university that has long championed the unifying power of diversity, even when such moves were unpopular.
  • Remembering Lucile and our rectitude: Slavery is America’s original sin, and sinners can be slow to repent. At CU Boulder, we hope to heed our better angels and to make amends for one of our notable shortcomings.

Beyond a desire to stimulate some thought and discussion, my objective with each message was this: to emphasize the college’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

That commitment underlies and justifies a new leadership position in the college. This month, the College of Arts and Sciences is interviewing finalists to be its first associate dean of inclusive practice. The dean will be responsible for supporting and advancing a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and cultural competence.

We are pleased to launch this new position, and it is worth noting that there are purely pragmatic reasons for it. A body of peer-reviewed research shows that, while it can be a source of friction, diversity makes us smarter, makes teams more effective and makes innovation more likely.

But diversity and inclusion are not important just because they are useful. As I have tried to make clear, they are good because they are right.

James W.C. White is interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.