Documenting DEI Data

by Amanda Rea Corso, ASA Graduate Intern

This past summer, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) experts expressed concern about the overturning of Affirmative Action, primarily focused on the impact on the access and admission of students of Color. Many of us in the higher education field were also worried this decision would intensify the already rising pushback against DEI offices and initiatives across college and university campuses. Unfortunately, these concerns have been realized as a wave of legislation and initiatives have materialized since the initial overturning. As a budding scholar and doctoral student in this field, I feel disheartened, although not shocked, by the active attempts to discredit the importance of DEI.

My DEI Journey

I started engaging in DEI work after an extended reflection on my bachelor’s degree experience. Home-schooled, first generation, and from a lower socioeconomic background, I had no idea how to navigate an educational system, let alone higher education. Recognizing the barriers I faced were only a fraction of the obstacles others have to overcome, I committed myself to a career that would address systematic issues through DEI work and scholarship. At the time of this dedication, the country was in an uproar over a long history of racial and discriminatory injustices, and, in reaction, higher education institutions were pouncing on opportunities to be champions of DEI. Everywhere I looked, I saw opportunities to engage in critical conversations; being part of such a significant social movement was exciting. However, after this initial reckoning, there has been a growing disdain and active dismantling of these DEI efforts.  

Considering these significant pushbacks, working toward DEI is more crucial than ever, and institutional leaders must think of ways to demonstrate such importance. One major critique DEI opponents have is about the actual credibility of our work. Although those committed to DEI work are intrinsically aware of the value DEI work brings, the product of DEI offices and workers must be tangible, trackable, and shareable. For this reason, tools like ASA’s Equity Probing Guide can be critical tools in maintaining and advocating for DEI.

ASA’s Equity Data Tool

Part of a five-piece data guide, the Equity Probe Guide delivers ideas for an equity inquiry to identify trends and patterns in student access, progression, and outcomes. Questions are put forth to prompt a deeper inquiry, leading to conversations across campus. With students at the center of all DEI work, ASA’s probe recommends focusing on all possible student touch points: environment and culture, access, on-ramps, academic progression, completion and transfer, and employment. Once the data is gathered, campus teams can use it to identify what has been successful and what has been ineffective in improving the success rates of historically underserved students of color. From there and using the rest of the data guide, institutions can work toward scaling and expanding on successful programs and policies, improving ineffective initiatives, and showing naysayers the growth and improvement DEI initiatives have on institutional success.

In DEI professional Gary Duran’s article about Utah’s (anti-)DEI initiatives, he stresses that “policies are backed by rigorous and reputable evidence”[2]. At the same time, Dr. Shaun Harper reminds us that “culture and climate data”[3] can be used in case-making to increase leaders’ buy-in. As states across the U.S. continue to move forward with anti-DEI legislation, DEI scholars and workers should be encouraged to advance evidence-based initiatives and data demonstrating DEI’s importance. While it is easy to lose heart as the work many of us have dedicated our lives to is scrutinized, we can use this as an opportunity to demonstrate the credibility of DEI through sound data and reports.



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