Higher Ed Diversity Officers Get New Professional Standards

A group representing college and university diversity and inclusion leaders recently published a set of standards to help their members better perform their roles in increasing and promoting equality on campus.

For the first time, university and college diversity officers have a set of professional  standards to help guide them in their roles in creating inclusive campus environments.

Released last week by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the Standards of Professional Practice for Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) are intended as “guideposts meant to clarify and specify the scope, scale, and flexibility of work CDOs perform,” according to an NADOHE statement.

“Like diversity itself, chief diversity officers have proliferated across the academic landscape with often at best a vague understanding of their potential, or desired, role and impact,” said Ana Mari Cauce, provost at the University of Washington, who helped in the creation of the standards. “This important effort is the first to articulate a comprehensive set of standards that will both define and professionalize the role.”

The standards are not meant to serve as a hiring guide or template to determine who is qualified for the role or how diversity and inclusion offices should be set up, according to the document. Rather, they are intended to create a greater understanding of the role CDOs play and how they carry out their functions.

The 12 standards include skills and areas of understanding that CDOs need in order to do their job effectively, including:

  • the ability to effectively communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion within their institutions
  • an understanding of the culture, politics, and contexts that might affect diversity initiatives
  • an understanding of the barriers minority faculty may face when up for promotion or tenure
  • an understanding of how institutional data can be used to help benchmark and promote diversity initiatives

“Implemented in the right way, this document should be used as a tool to create important traction and relevance to spark the advancement of more significant and effective change on college and university campuses by prioritizing the role of the CDO in new spaces and conversations,” according to the standards document. “These standards of professional practice are intended to advance a broader understanding of the complexities inherent to the work of diversity in higher education and the interplay between CDOs and other functional units throughout higher education institutions.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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