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Dean's Diversity Lecture: "Reclaiming the Racial Justice Meaning of Equity," with speaker Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon

Champaign , USA
314B Illini Union

314B Illini Union

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Event Type: Lecture

Speaker Information: Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, University of Southern California

Equity, once viewed suspiciously as racially divisive and associated with the activism of social justice movements that academic purists disdain as “advocacy” work, is now being enthusiastically embraced within the academic scene.


But does this embrace of equity signify an embrace of its critical and anti-racist foundations? Or does the proliferation of this term instead represent the appropriation and dilution of equity?  “Equity”, however, is much more than a word to be sprinkled into educational discourse like one might sprinkle salt to give seasoning to a bland meal. To meaningfully and intelligently talk about equity and equity-mindedness, we must be clear that it is whiteness—not the achievement gap—that produces and sustains racial inequality in higher education.  The authentic exercise of equity and equity-mindedness requires explicit attention to structural inequality and institutionalized racism, and demands system-changing responses.



Estela Mara Bensimon is a professor of higher education at the USC Rossier School of Education and Director of the Center for Urban Education, which she founded in 1999. With a singular focus on increasing racial equity in higher education outcomes for students of color, she developed the Equity Scorecard— a process for using inquiry to drive changes in institutional practice and culture. Since its founding, CUE has worked with thousands of college professionals— from presidents to faculty to academic counselors, helping them take steps in

their daily work to reverse the impact of the historical and structural disadvantages that prevent many students of color from excelling in higher education. The innovative Equity Scorecard process takes a strengths-based approach starting from the premise that faculty and administrators are committed to doing “the good.” CUE builds upon this premise by developing tools and processes that empower these professionals as “researchers” into their own practices, with the ultimate goal of not just marginal changes in policy or practice, but shifts on

those campuses towards cultures of inclusion and broad ownership over racial equity. Professor Bensimon’s critical action research agenda has been supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Teagle Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The James Irvine Foundation.

Cost: no charge

Contact: Amy Summers217-333-0960