Committee on Diversity and Social Justice

Mission Statement on Diversity and Social Justice

The Committee on Diversity and Social Justice, also known as “The Committee” in this document, is committed to social justice, meaning diversity, inclusion, and equity of all under-represented and marginalized (URM) individuals and their issues in all aspects of the Health Psychology and Clinical Science (HPCS) doctoral program of the City University of New York. 

Diversity involves the range of URM individuals and issues pertaining to their disadvantaged position. Although the individuals identified as URM in the United States may change over time, they currently include anyone who is not a White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, heterosexual, abled, cisgender, middle class, and non-elderly American man, with “American” referring to anyone who is not considered an immigrant, regardless of citizenship status. Even with this caveat, all URM individuals may not have been identified. Nevertheless, all URM individuals and the groups they represent experience bias and discrimination. This acute and chronic stress has negative implications for health and other adaptation, including academic and professional success.

The Committee is cognizant of the diversity among individuals. It is sensitive to intersectional positions and the implications of such finer and nuanced diversity. The Committee is also aware that some URM individuals are more marginalized or threatened than are others. Sensitivity to a potential hierarchy of groups, by degree of marginalization, does not detract from the stress experienced by all marginalized individuals. It does mean that some URM individuals are at greater risk than are others. Many groups are marginalized in the United States, such as women, immigrants, Muslims, and sexual or gender minority individuals. Black Americans are especially vulnerable.

Although increasing diversity represents a necessary first step on the path to social justice, it is insufficient. Representation of URM individuals in any setting means little, if their voices are not heard or considered. Inclusion refers to URM individuals participating in all aspects of the setting. It necessitates a social climate that conveys to all members that URM individuals participate in the life of the setting, not more or less or differently than other members. Examples of diversity without inclusion are plentiful in organizations, such as channeling URM individuals to certain tasks, however important they may be; deferring to them in certain spheres and ignoring or diminishing their contributions in others; inviting their input after decisions or policies have essentially been developed; posting their photographs on websites and advertisements to convey a questionable inclusion.

When equity exists, all members of the setting are equivalent in their influence from the perspective of their social and personal identity or identities.1 All members are genuinely valued and URM individuals exercise legitimate power in decision making and charting a way forward. Although it seems as if inclusion accomplishes these aims, The Committee asserts that the pursuit of equity demands internal work on the part of all members. Individuals must confront and work through their prejudices, such as antisemitism, heterosexism, racism, and sexism. Both URM and non-URM individuals must engage in this work because without acknowledging one’s internalization of society’s stigmatization, one cannot undo it. This work is required by all, including URM individuals. They are both perpetrators and victims of bias, given the internalized bias is applied by the self against the self and others. For example, women are sexist, lesbian and gay individuals possess homonegative attitudes, and Black individuals are racists. Without the necessary internal work, inclusion is superficial. This will be apparent through microaggressions, stereotype threat, and, when under duress, a reemergence of the unfiltered bias. To achieve equity, individuals must be honest with themselves, confront unflattering truths about themselves, and commit to difficult work. The work may never end, but successive approximations toward its conclusion brings one closer to achieving social justice.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity also apply to URM-related issues. Diversity is represented in programmatic efforts, such as having diversity-related courses and inviting colloquia speakers to present on URM-related issues. Inclusion manifests itself when integration of URM-related issues occurs throughout the whole setting. This will happen when the concerns addressed in diversity courses infuse and manifest themselves in the rest of the curricula. It will occur when research is designed with substantive sensitivity, such as ensuring adequate power to avoid combining diverse URM populations into a single group, when such combination ignores the unique and important realities of the individual populations for the outcome under investigation. Inclusion also extends to clinical theory and practice. Both should be refracted through lens sensitive to URM-related issues and to the juxtaposition of the unfolding perspective against the theory and practice developed by those relatively ignorant of URM populations and their issues. Equity will be achieved when The Committee ceases to be needed.

As stated above, social justice is a set of three nested components. Diversity is necessary. However, diversity without inclusion is window dressing. Inclusion without equity is a comforting delusion.

The Committee is dedicated to promoting social justice throughout HPCS, with the ultimate goal of fostering and maximizing equity among the diverse community of HPCS faculty, students, and staff. It is available to HPCS to consult on designing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to further social justice. It serves as the conscience of social justice in HPCS.

Operationalization of Mission Statement

The Committee proposes that HPCS endorse and work toward realizing the following principles: 

  • To commit to social justice in recruitment and retention of students, faculty, and staff. 
  • To ensure its curricula, policies, and administration are infused and guided by social justice. 
  • To admit and learn from its mistakes and failures at social justice.
  • To harness its talents and energies to accomplish its social justice mission. 
  • To ensure that URMs in the broader community and public have equal access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services conducted by psychologists within HPCS.

These principles are The Committee’s ideals and the goals for which it strives.

HPCS can count on The Committee to assist with the social justice mission. However, The Committee cannot assume the work required to accomplish the task. Ultimate responsibility for the accomplishment of this mission resides with the full body of HPCS – the faculty and students en masse. HPCS must engage its members, set goals, and monitor progress toward social justice. 

1The Committee defines equity as providing support, tools, or other provisions necessary to compensate for the unequal distribution of benefits and costs experienced by some individuals and groups in society. Ultimately, the goal of equity is justice, in which individuals and groups who heretofore have been excluded or denied access to societal resources finally and permanently enjoy such resources without experiencing unequal costs.