Group of students studying

Below are descriptions of some common terms related to equity and inclusion:

Biological Sex A medical term used to refer to the chromosomal, hormonal and anatomical characteristics that are used to classify an individual as female or male or intersex. Often referred to as simply “sex,” “physical sex,” “anatomical sex,” or specifically as “sex assigned at birth.”

Campus Climate The cumulative and continuing perception of the context in which the current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of faculty, staff, administrators, and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential are felt.

Cisgender person A person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align (e.g., man and assigned male at birth). A simple way to think about it is if a person is not transgender, they are cisgender. The word cisgender can also be shortened to “cis.”

Colonization The process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components, establishing control over the indigenous people of an area through violence.

Contextual Factors related to the underlying beliefs, policy, patterns of practice, traditions and norms.

Critical Factors related to underlying beliefs, norms and practices enacting power dynamics that marginalized specific groups, privilege others, and prevent equitable practices.

Cultural Competence Policies and practices of an organization, or the values and behaviors of an individual, that foster effective cross-cultural communication. It is a point on a continuum that ranges from cultural destructiveness to cultural proficiency. A culturally competent organization values the people who work there understands the community in which it operates, and embraces its clients as valuable members of that community. This means that the culture of the organization promotes inclusiveness and institutionalizes the process of learning about differences. Cultural competence suggests a willingness to expand the organization’s paradigm for culture. Members of an organization with cultural competence as a goal examine their own cultures to understand how they, as cultural entities, impact the perception and interaction of those who are different. This means identifying the dynamics of difference caused by historical distrust. Clearly understanding who we are and accepting how others perceive us is one of the first steps towards cultural competence. The next step is the same underlying, non-defensive examination of the organization’s culture. Culturally Relevant/Responsible – Recognizing, understanding, and applying attitudes and practices that are sensitive to and appropriate for people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

Culturally Relevant/Responsible Recognizing, understanding, and applying attitudes and practices that are sensitive to and appropriate for people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

Diversity Minnesota State Colleges and Universities recognizes and respects the importance of all similarities and differences among human beings. The system and its institutions are committed, through their programs and policies, to fostering inclusiveness, understanding, acceptance, and respect in a multicultural society. Diversity is understanding that each individual is unique, and our individual differences need to be recognized. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical/mental ability, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Dominant Culture The dominant culture is a culture that is the most powerful, widespread, or influential with a social or political entity in which multiple cultures are present. In a society [the dominant culture] refers to the established language, religion, values, rituals, and social customs. These traits are often [seen as] the norm for the society.

Educational Equity Equity in education is when school policies, practices, interactions, cultures, and resources, are representative of, constructed by, and responsive to all students such that each student has access to, can meaningfully participate, and make progress in high-quality learning experiences, resulting in positive outcomes regardless of her or his race, SES, gender, ability, religion affiliation, national origin, linguistic diversity , or other characteristics (Fraiser, 2001; Great Lakes Equity Ctr, 2011).

Equity Equity is the proportional distribution of desirable outcomes across groups. Sometimes confused with equality, equity refers to outcomes while equality connotes equal treatment. Where individuals or groups are dissimilarly situated, equal treatment may be insufficient for, or even detrimental to, equitable outcomes.

  • More directly, equity is when an individual’s race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, etc. do not determine their educational, economic, social, or political opportunities.

Ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities, such as common ancestral, language, social, cultural or national experiences. Examples of ethnic identities are Finnish, Ethiopian, Cambodian, Mexican, etc.

First Generation An individual, neither of whose parents completed a baccalaureate degree.

Gender Expression The external appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender Identity One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender Queer Someone who identifies as gender queer does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

Intersectionality The study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.

Implicit Bias The attitudes or stereotype that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. The biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individuals’ awareness.

Inclusion Inclusion promotes broad engagement, shared participation and advances authentic sense of belonging through safe, positive, and nurturing environments. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to accepting and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. Inclusion is key to eliminating systemic inequality.

(Inter) Cultural Competence An ability to learn about and interact effectively with people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This competence comprises four components: (1) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (2) attitude towards cultural differences, (3) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (4) cross-cultural skills.

Indigenous refers to groups of people defined in government documents as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations, including those that are politically and socially dominant.

Learning Communities A group of people actively engaged in learning together, from each other, and by habituation. Learning Communities often consist of two courses linked together to explore common themes and encourage partnerships with professors and peers.

Pell Eligible A student who applied for a Pell Grant and was determined to be eligible.

Power The legitimate control of, or access to, those institutions [resources and opportunities] sanctioned by the state [authorities]. (Barbara Major)

Privilege Any advantage that is unearned, exclusive, and socially conferred. (Allan Johnson)

Pronouns A pronoun is a word that refers to someone or something that is being talked about (like she, it, them, and this). Gender pronouns (like he and hers) specifically refer to people that you are talking about. You can’t always know what pronoun (she/her, he/him, they/theirs) someone uses by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s personal pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity.

Race A Social construction invented and perpetuated by society used to sort and categorize people based on phenotype or observable characteristic or traits.

Race & Ethnicity The measures are representative for the following nine race and ethnicity groups:

  • American Indian
  • Asian and Pacific Islander
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic of any race
  • Two or more races
  • All students of color and American Indian Students: includes the five categories above
  • White
  • Nonresident Alien: A student who is not permanent resident of the U.S. and consequently, is not reported within a racial or ethinic group
  • Unknown race and ethnicity

Racial Identity Racial identity, commonly defined as the significance and meaning of race and ethnicity to one’s self-concept (Phinney, 1996; Sellers, Smith, Shelton, Rowley, & Chavous, 1998). An individual’s racial identity is a sense of belonging to a community of people who share a similar, specific heritage.

Racism Economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematic and perpetuate and unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between white people and people of color (Hilliard, 1992).

Recognize Awareness and valuing of racial and ethnic differences as reflected in perspectives, practices, curricula, school cultures, and climate (Kozleski & Waitoller, 2010).

Redistribute Resources, information and power are allocated to ensure that historically marginalized students and their parents/caregivers have access to and participate in decision-making and quality learning opportunities (Kozleski & Waitoller, 2010).

Redress Inequities and marginalizing policies and practices in classrooms, schools or districts are compensated for (Kozleski & Waitoller, 2010)

Reflect Think about race in relationship to policy, practices and learning opportunities (Kozleski & Waitoller, 2010).

Representation Having a presence in educational decision making and in learning material (Mulligan & Kozleski, 2009; Chen et al, 2014).

Self-Awareness The recognition of one’s social identities and the ways in which those identities interact to shape a sense of self and experience (Diane J. Goodman).

Self-Examination Excavating how one's identities inform their understandings of experiences with complex social problems (Tania D. Mitchell).

Sexual orientation An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Transgender An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Transphobia The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of trans people, the trans community, or gender ambiguity.

Underrepresented Any individuals who are historically underrepresented in American higher education in terms of: race/ethnicity/nationality, gender, parental education level, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, or spirituality/religiosity/philosophy.

White Supremacy The conscious or unconscious belief that that white people are superior and therefore should be central in society (DiAngelo, 2016).

Whiteness A set of norms or social locations that are historically, socially, politically and culturally produced, and which are intrinsically linked to the privilege and dominance associated with white racial identity (DiAngelo, 2016; Chiariello, 2016). However, because of this dominance, whiteness is not recognized as a racial identity but as normal or natural.