written by || Abeer Syedah
Three years ago, Students United began a strategic planning process that established the organization’s goals for the future. A component of this vision was to center equity and inclusion in all the work that we do. That included hiring for a new staff position—the Director of Equity and Inclusion—and then having them conduct an internal audit of Students United focused on understanding where we can grow on the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
Equity is defined as shifting resources, removing barriers, or providing additional support in order for there to be equal access and opportunity for all; a process through which fairness and justice is achieved by ensuring everyone has what they need to start from the same place. Access/accessibility is the quality of being easily usable by everyone and a process through which resources, infrastructure, language, and behavior are designed to be of nearly equal use to all people. And inclusion is defined as the process through which all possible individuals, communities, experiences, and ideas are present in a given space, conversation, or design.
Beginning in the spring of 2018, the Students United’s staff began the process of conducting this internal audit. This included accessing feedback, ideas, and experiences from a variety of people across the organization, identifying where we needed to grow, and understanding our challenges and obstacles.
After a year of collecting feedback, reviewing all our documents, and meeting to identify obstacles and goals, we produced a report identifying 31 recommendations intended to collectively move towards a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible organization. Each recommendation identifies an ideal vision for the future and states next steps to build progress.
Some recommendations include: conducting a clarifying overhaul of the Students United governing documents, updating the conduct code and complaint process, updating our elections/hiring/selection process to have clear expectations around inclusion and equal opportunity, developing higher education advocacy 101 materials, updating the officer election process, building trust and shared commitment, and much more.
The recommendations were presented to the staff, officers, and Board of Directors in May of 2019. The board passed the recommendations which are being collectively worked on through the 2019-2020 academic year with consistent progress check ins.
Moving into the 2019-2020 academic year, all members of Students United will begin to see us making changes. From updated governing documents, to new procedures and processes, to necessary conversations and trainings. If you are interested in providing ideas or feedback or have any questions, contact Abeer Syedah at firstname.lastname@example.org!