The Advancement Leadership Diversity Mandate
Over the last two weeks, QuadWrangle has had the great opportunity to attend the CASE-NAIS, CASE District I and CASE District II conferences in New Orleans, Boston and Washington, DC. All in all, I'd guess we spoke to 200 different schools. It was exhausting, yes, but more than anything, energizing.
When so many people tell you, "YES - you are on the right path and we believe in this. Tell us more" it's pretty easy to power through those long (fun) days.
One of the ways we were able to engage so many folks is that we managed to arrange for a shoeshine service to setup next to our booth at each event with no cost to attendees. At CASEDI in 2014, I remembered thinking, "all these folks with nice shoes and boots are dragging through salty, dirty, snow. Someone needs to fix that." I didn't forget that.
And then someone shared with us, over Facebook, that they avoided our booth:
"There was a white, middle-aged, man (like me) sitting on a throne, while an African-American man, in uniform, was kneeling before him cleaning his shoes. Add to this the fact that this white man was conducting business with another white man sitting off to the side, and it just didn't feel right."
Naturally, we were shocked. This came from a smart guy at a smart school. And so we thought about what he said.
At QuadWrangle, we're a team that thrives on diversity. We've even described ourselves as the "Island of Misfit Toys" as we're a mishmash of northern and southern, a diabetic, a transgendered team member, one on the Autism spectrum, US and foreign born, men and women, musicians, writers, artists and a ton more. The only things we seem to have in common are a sincere desire to leave a dent in the universe and, at least for my teammates, an incredible level of intelligence. Diversity is the reason we've developed something that folks are so excited about. We don't think like any other team because we're unlike any other team.
So, we weren't personally offended because the statement, as far as we can tell, isn't really about us. But, perhaps because we started to hack engagement from the outside in, we had been absent of cultural insights.
And so this comment is poignant. I can't tell you how many times it occurred to me these last few days that advancement is a pretty homogenous space. But it's not as if we're unique. American leadership, whether in education, corporate board rooms, or elsewhere, is pretty well white and male. There are movements,