New Tool to Measure DEI Efforts Introduced

For institutions looking to measure their DEI efforts, the tool of choice has typically been campus climate assessments, surveys of groups like faculty or students that provide an aggregate picture of the impact of a college’s endeavors. But this doesn’t give schools a comprehensive picture of their efforts, or a direct sense of how developed they are.

Isana Leshchinskaya, associate director of educational research and assessment at Brooklyn CollegeIsana Leshchinskaya, associate director of educational research and assessment at Brooklyn College“You can look and say, 'OK, students are happy with student services in the athletics area', but you don’t really see what those initiatives are that are going on behind the scenes or where they’re lacking [and could] actually get it to an even better place,” said Isana Leshchinskaya, associate director of educational research and assessment at Brooklyn College.

Leshchinskaya is part of a team from Brooklyn College and the University of Florida looking to change that with the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Institutionalization (DEII) assessment, a new instrument that allows colleges and universities to measure their DEI work at the institution level. It will be particularly useful for large, complex bureaucracies in which DEI responsibilities are dispersed among many offices.

The instrument comprises 41 items about six scales: institutional environment, faculty and staff hiring, faculty and staff retention, student admissions, student retention and completion, and curriculum. Teams from the institutions rank themselves on a four-point scale, with a “one” meaning that efforts are poor and a “four” meaning that efforts are exemplary. The items were found to be highly reliable as part of a pilot program done in the spring of 2021.

Data from 83 sample schools, which included 17 AANAPI-serving institutions, 31 HSIs, and 4 HBCU, showed that although many schools have DEI goals, they often have a long way to go towards achieving them. 73% of institutions said that their missions explicitly supported DEI, but only 21% said that they had met or exceeded expectations regarding progress toward DEI goals.

The instrument also revealed that some basic DEI practices were less common. Only 33% of schools provided professional development for faculty in understanding the experiences of diverse students in their classrooms, and only 46% were identifying obstacles to retention and completion for diverse students.

The items of the inventory sometimes provided inspiration to schools looking to broaden their DEI efforts.

“A lot of the feedback that we received was that it was a great conversation starter for their institution,” said Leshchinskaya. “Some institutions said, ‘Oh, we didn’t think about X, Y, and Z. Maybe this is something that we should implement.’”

The team is now working on a second version of the instrument, that will include a focus on budgetary considerations.

“You can have lots of initiatives going on, but if there’s no money from the institution to support them, it might be difficult to implement what you want,” said Leshchinskaya.

They hope to release the update within six months to a year.