- Diversity and Inclusion by Design: A Challenge for Us All
“Engaged Scholarship: Bringing Together Research, Teaching, and Service” is the theme of the 2019 Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) conference. The aim is to start a dialogue about the ways in which our community of practice focuses on issues of public concern and is useful to, and developed in concert with, diverse audiences beyond the academy. While public engagement is not new to our field, there is increasing attention to the ways in which engaged forms of scholarship advance diversity and inclusion in higher education. Diversity and inclusion effects are mainstream and are now an integral part of many universities and colleges. Based on our review of websites, almost all U.S. institutions with an accredited landscape architecture program have offices dedicated to promoting the value of a diverse academic community while ensuring representation of underrepresented individuals on campus. Supplementing these efforts are a growing number of training courses, workshops, and other mechanisms that value diversity, while also increasing awareness and understanding of the effects of implicit/hidden bias, macro and microaggressions, and other forms of discrimination.
Whether individual faculty welcome these changes or not, attention to diversity issues and inclusion are not going away as our students are beginning to mirror the changing demographic landscape outside of the ivory tower, and as more women, international, and people of color enter the field. For example, 2017 Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board data indicate that more than 50% of all students (graduate and undergraduate) were women,1 and that individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups grew from 32% to 44% of the total student body between 2013 and 2017. In 2001, only 11% of graduating landscape architecture students were non-whites (ASLA, 2018a). Embracing these trends, prominent landscape architecture organizations, including CELA, signed a commitment to “achieve a professional profile that correlates with the 2012 population-share estimates, while working toward the longer-term goal of parity with 2016 projections for the nation as a whole” by 2025 (ASLA, 2018b. 1).
Diversifying academia will likely have a direct impact on efforts to diversify the profession. The American Society of Landscape Architecture’s (ASLA) inaugural diversity summit in 2013 revealed the lack of mentors, “and specifically mentors that looked like them,” as the greatest hurdle for recruiting underrepresented students interested in the profession. In their most recent diversity summit (2017), the ASLA established a five-year prioritized action list to meet diversity goals, including diversifying imagery and resources integrated across their website, and increasing accessibility of these resources to underrepresented minorities. In response, as landscape architecture academics, we must ask: What is being done to diversify the faculty ranks and the organizations that we lead? How is diversity and inclusion reflected when it comes to faculty recruitment and advancement, and selection of department/program chairs, as well as the composition of organizational and journal editorial boards and offices? More importantly, what additional actions need to be taken to achieve a diverse and inclusive academy?
There is evidence to suggest that institutional policy change and other top-down approaches will have minimal impact on faculty diversity. A recent study by Bradley et al. (2018) found no “significant statistical evidence that preexisting growth in diversity for under-represented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with [End Page 1] tenure, or for university administrator hires” (p. 1). This is not to suggest a causal linkage exists between hiring a diversity officer and the lack of progress being made. Other factors need to be considered such as the provision and effective use of resources and the particular institutional culture in which diversity is being advanced. Regardless, it becomes important to reflect on how and in what ways do our collective and individual behaviors either contribute to, or ameliorate, existing representation gaps. It is one thing to believe in and support diversity. It is far more difficult to break down barriers of exclusion and practice inclusion in our everyday lives. Silence is complicity when it comes to individual and collective...