Defining DEI

The words we use can guide our personal and collective attitudes, behavior, and philosophy. The School of Public Health (SPH) Office of Diversity and Equity established the definitions below to create a shared understanding of our work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. For questions, contact Lauren Jones, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, at


At SPH, we value the richness of diversity in all areas, including race (a term we acknowledge to have no biological basis), gender, sex, religion, and many more. The concept of “diversity” is based on identities. How we identify ourselves is complex, personal, and dynamic; how others identify us can often lead to oppression and inequities. As a land-grant institution, we recognize the Indigenous histories of this land and how it was forcibly taken, while we actively use it for our learning, living, and overall benefit. The University strives to have its community better reflect the people in the neighborhoods and cities it serves. We have that same goal as a school as we strive to create equitable outcomes in education, research, and other key areas. Identities and communities that have historically been marginalized are at the center of our efforts.


Merriam-Webster defines equity as fairness or justice in the way we treat people. At SPH, this means a regular assessment of our policies and practices to make sure that we are living up to that definition and to our school’s commitment to valuing every human being. Our intentions should match our outcomes and we will ensure that people from marginalized communities are able to thrive in our school as faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and as community members connected to our research, education, and community engagement.

Inclusion and Justice

Inclusion is the practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded. We must make sure that our school seeks to hear the voices and experiences of people who are often marginalized and ignored. Such an invitation and commitment to listen is critical to achieving inclusion. We are working toward making all community members feel fully included and considered at SPH — and this goal is the responsibility of every person at our school. Justice goes a step further than inclusion and asks us to correct previous systemic and personal wrongs. We should always challenge systems of power and privilege, and continually ask how we can do better. As a top ten school of public health, our position demands that we be an example of how commitment and hard work can move a school closer to the goals of justice and inclusion.

Racism and Antiracism

Racism is based on the belief that one group of people, defined by what they look like or their ethnicity, is superior or inferior to another. Racism historically puts white people in a position of privilege. Black and Indigenous people in the U.S. have endured centuries of oppression that continues to affect them.

  • Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals and includes a person’s beliefs, attitudes, and actions toward people of color.
  • Institutional racism is racism at work in institutions, such as universities, government agencies, and social services. It is the policies, practices, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and to the detriment of people of color.
  • Structural racism is racism intentionally built into the systems that organize our society, such as law enforcement, banking, education, city planning, medicine, and housing. Structural racism can also be found in organizations that give power and provide a sense of belonging, including clubs and churches. Structural racism has a profoundly negative impact on the ability of marginalized communities to succeed and thrive.
  • Internalized racism Internalized racism is defined by Suzanne Lipsky as the personal conscious or subconscious acceptance of the dominant society’s racist views, stereotypes and biases of one’s ethnic group. It gives rise to patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that result in discriminating, minimizing, criticizing, finding fault, invalidating, and hating oneself while simultaneously valuing the dominant culture.

Antiracism is an active and conscious effort to challenge racism in any form. As an organization that is more than 75 years old, SPH recognizes the need for a fundamental shift in our views and actions. Consistent, tireless antiracism is and must always be the foundation of our DEI work. We recognize, too, that there are other kinds of oppression that harm individuals and communities (such as ableism, sexism, and homophobia) and combating all oppression is essential to our DEI work.


Anti-oppression as defined by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center refers to all of the ways an individual, community, institution or system actively prevents and challenges oppression. It is actively opposing oppressive ideas and structures, and seeking to eliminate unjust power imbalances. It is imperative that we incorporate anti-oppression in our work because the liberation of all social groups, especially communities that have been marginalized, are interconnected.


BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The term grew out of POC or People of Color which originated in the 1960s and ’70s when groups such as the Black Panther Party and Brown Berets held conversations and came together in moments of solidarity. It was an early iteration of people-first language. It was recently expanded to BIPOC to acknowledge the unique relationship that Black and Indigenous people have to whiteness. The plan acknowledges the shortcomings of the term. This is current language that will continue to evolve and change; there is no ‘one size fits all’ when talking about identity, racial or otherwise.

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