Collectively, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) refers to a broad range of individual, population, and social constructs and is adapted in the Essentials as one of the most visible concepts. Although these are collectively considered a concept, differentiation of each conceptual element leads to enhanced understanding.
Diversity references a broad range of individual, population, and social characteristics, including but not limited to age; sex; race; ethnicity; sexual orientation; gender identity; family structures; geographic locations; national origin; immigrants and refugees; language; any impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; religious beliefs; and socioeconomic status. Inclusion represents environmental and organizational cultures in which faculty, students, staff, and administrators with diverse characteristics thrive. Inclusive environments require intentionality and embrace differences, not merely tolerate them. Everyone works to ensure the perspectives and experiences of others are invited, welcomed, acknowledged, and respected in inclusive environments. Equity is the ability to recognize the differences in the resources or knowledge needed to allow individuals to fully participate in society, including access to higher education, with the goal of overcoming obstacles to ensure fairness. To have equitable systems, all people should be treated fairly, unhampered by artificial barriers, stereotypes, or prejudices. Two related concepts that fit within DEI include structural racism and social justice.
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