To be clear, I do believe that the editing and writing consulting services I offer function as a service that does support diversity in academia. I believe that building writing skills is essential to job security in academia, and in that regard is a strategy for retention. Like I have argued in a separate blog post, I also believe that I am a resource for scholars who cannot or will not seek help inside their departments or programs.
Yet, there is more that can be done – more that I can do. The first step is providing clarity on what I mean by “diversity support.” In some respects, diversity is a complete misnomer. As we see time and time again, increasing the number of people of color in a given institution or department does not necessarily lead to inclusion or equity. It doesn’t even create meaningful social interaction. The real work isn’t in recruiting students or faculty of color – it’s in creating spaces where everyone is entitled to speak their mind, and where we can center a range of different experiences. Like Angela Davis said, “I have a hard time accepting diversity as a synonym for justice.” Further, diversity is not just about race. My experiences as a black woman inform the way I understand diversity and inclusion, and while I can support other groups, it is certainly not my place to speak for them.
So, what will “diversity consulting” look like here at Up In Consulting? For one, the name of that service, or suite of services, will probably change. Beyond that, I’ll think about the best actions I can take to work with individuals and organizations that are interested in equity and inclusion. I don’t presume to have all the answers to the problems scholars of color and women face, but I do have the skills and experience to seek solutions. I have sat on the diversity committees as a junior faculty member. In my work in the non-profit sector, I designed programs for staff to “increase diversity” – with all of the trouble attached to such programs. As a woman of color on the tenure track, I dealt with the issues that many other junior faculty members are dealing with right now. I also have the distance from the academy that enables me to speak without fear of repercussion.
The first step in developing these services is going to be to listen. I’d like to know what would best serve you. How can I help you to make sense of your place in academia, deal with colleagues who doubt your skills and expertise, or work to the best of your ability in spite of feelings of self-doubt? If the experiences I just described are not yours, perhaps you’d like to know how you could help those who do have those experiences – how to be a better ally. If you have ideas, connect with me on Twitter (@janejoann), here in the comments, or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to hear from you.