As our campuses diversify, we are brought together into states of “churn.” Acclaimed psychologist and university leader Claude Steele uses this term to describe the mental and physical stress we can feel in a situation over possibly being seen and treated in terms of bad images of our group. Whether “our group” is white or black, high- or low-income, Christian or Muslim, LBGTQ or straight, or almost any group in relationship to another, churn captures what makes diversity uncomfortable for people. It is a state of suspended trust: Given my identity, how will I fare in this situation? Will I be valued? Treated fairly? Do I have a chance here?
In this Q&A, senior diversity officers and faculty leaders across the Faculty Advancement Network will engage Steele in the application of “churn” to faculty’s interactions at our universities—with chairs, with students, with postdocs, with search committees, with administrators, and of course, with each other. His advice is largely intended for the enfranchised, more empowered members of a setting. It is they who must first give the less empowered members of the setting sufficient grounds for trust—often in light of considerable history to the contrary. Steele’s focus in this dialog is on where and how to do that groundwork in the academic department.
Following the program, participants will have an opportunity to discuss Steele’s advice in breakout rooms with peers.