Diversity and Inclusion FAQs

We Want to Answer Your Questions

The Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has created this document to provide you with answers to commonly asked questions.

Feel free to contact DEI with any further questions that you think we should consider adding.

What is diversity?

Diversity is the presence and recognition of individual and social differences, both visible and invisible, among people.

  • Examples of individual differences include, but are not limited to, personality, prior knowledge, and life experiences.
  • Examples of social differences include, but are not limited to, identities such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, pregnancy status and genetic information.

Diversity also includes the presence and recognition of different ideas, perspectives, and values that arise based on our rich difference of origin, identity, circumstance, and thought. A culture of diversity embodies understanding ourselves and each other, moving beyond tolerance to acceptance, and wholly embracing the richness of each individual.

What is the difference between Equality and Equity?

Equality is about sameness or uniformity while equity addresses universal fairness. When systems are built on equality, they assume that everyone is starting from the same point.

Equity is the principle of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups.

As a student/faculty/staff member, why should I be concerned with diversity?

We live in a global society. Understanding and valuing people from different backgrounds, customs, and experiences better prepare us for success. Diversity fosters a more creative and inclusive environment where every person is valued. Diverse opinions lead to more informed decisions. Diversity on campuses enables learning with people from a variety of experiences which encourages collaboration and fosters innovation, thus benefitting all. Advancing diversity and inclusion improves our collective success – we are a much stronger and better community when all voices and opinions are received and valued.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity- both within and outside the curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) where which individuals might connect in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and units.

What is Inclusive Excellence?

Inclusive Excellence recognizes that a community or institution's success is dependent on how well it values, engages and includes the rich diversity of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni. At GMU, an Inclusive Excellence Plan is designed to help colleges, schools and units integrate diversity, equity, and educational quality efforts into their missions and institutional operations.

How can I positively impact the university’s mission to be a diverse and inclusive campus?

You can contribute by building collaborative and mutually beneficial working relationships with people of different backgrounds, and by referring qualified diverse job candidates to support the goal of enhancing our diversity on campus.

You can increase your own and others' awareness and acceptance of cultural differences by getting involved with campus wide diversity initiatives.

Isn’t diversity just another name for "affirmative action" or "equal employment opportunity"?

No. Affirmative Action is a legally driven mandate that government contractors take positive steps (affirmative action) to ensure the recruitment and advancement of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans, as in education and employment.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is employment practices that ensure nondiscrimination, fairness, and equity in the workplace.

Why are employees asked to designate their Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Protected Veteran Status, and Disability Status during Mason’s onboarding process?

George Mason University is a federal government contractor and is legally obligated to comply with a number of requirements and regulations. The Department of Labor (DOL) requires federal contractors to collect data on gender, race and ethnicity, disability, and veteran status. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) mandates that institutions of higher education receiving federal assistance collect and report race and ethnicity data for faculty, staff, and students using specific categories.

What do diversity and inclusion have to do with Search Committee training?

Diversity and Inclusion is integral to every stage of the recruitment process. The University has a legal obligation to ensure that the recruitment, selection and hiring process is free from discrimination. Diversity and Inclusion education is necessary to promote equal employment opportunity and eliminate any and all forms of discrimination. Per University Policy 2224, an essential role of the search committee is to ensure that all applicants are considered equitably throughout the review process. Departments are encouraged to consider candidates who are reflective of the University community.