Diversity and Inclusion FAQs

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

DEI has created this document to provide you with answers to commonly asked questions about Diversity and Inclusion.

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

What is Diversity?

Diversity in its most simple form can be defined as “all the similarities and differences amongst people.” In other words, it’s a combination of all the characteristics that make us individuals such as age, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, military experience, and socio-economic background; ideas, attitudes, beliefs, educational background, perspectives, values, and so on. A culture of diversity embodies understanding ourselves and each other, moving beyond tolerance to acceptance, and wholly embracing the richness of each individual.

Isn’t diversity just another fancy 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.

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.

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 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 assures conditions for optimal access and opportunity for all people, with particular focus on promoting policies, practices and procedures that do not advantage one group of people over others.

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.

What is Anti-Racism?

Anti-Racism is an on-going, conscious effort: an actionable commitment that intentionally looks at systemic levels of oppressions and challenges the paradigms, ideas, languages, and behaviors resulting from White supremacy. Anti-Racism addresses history and how it ties to the present, while recognizing that creating comfort for the privileged is not more important than seeking and speaking to justice for the oppressed. Anti-Racism is driven to examine and, when necessary, redistribute power and resources. Finally, Anti-Racism is about healing- both the brokenness caused by historical and present trauma, and the belief that growth is possible and that people can change.

How can I contribute to (make a positive impact on) 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.

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 the “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.

What are Microaggressions?

The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.