“Enacting Racial Change by Design”

by James A. Bacon

The backlash against Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in higher-ed and the corporate world may be gathering momentum across the country, but the University of Virginia is rolling out a new DEI initiative oblivious to the shift in the national mood.

UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences has launched a program this semester entitled, “Enacting Racial Change by Design.” Participating faculty will discuss chapters from the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk to deepen understanding of “systematic racial inequity in higher education.” Participants will be able to apply for $1,000 grants to implement DEI-related projects.

The rhetoric of the memo announcing the initiative is disconnected from the national conversation now underway. The program shows not the slightest inkling that critics of DEI need be acknowledged much less engaged in dialogue. U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in admissions? Resignation of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania? Helloooo? Anyone home?

This is what happens when an academic elite is captive to DEI dogma and there is not enough diversity of thought for anyone to push back.

Here follows the memo:

Dear Colleagues,

The Office of the Dean at the College of Arts and Sciences invites applications to participate in a semester-long Faculty Lunch and Learn Community titled Enacting Racial Equity by Design. This program will support Faculty’s efforts in enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion within their curricular design and departmental culture.

The community will meet on Friday afternoons with lunch provided. Interested faculty members are invited to sign up at DEI Faculty Learning Community Application by the end of Friday January 26th. Full details follow.


There is a common desire among us to address equity in student outcomes or to close equity gaps for our underserved or underrepresented students. Many questions arise. How does racial inequity affect students’ learning outcomes? How do we identify equity gaps? How do we move from equity talk to equity walk, and eventually develop an equity-minded campus culture?

In the Spring semester, we will be engaging in conversations around Equity and Racial Justice to enhance our personal and practitioner expertise. These conversations will inform our pedagogical practices and the experience we provide in our teaching and learning environment. Faculty and instructors seeking to broaden their understanding of evidence-based practices, to close racial and other systemic and persistent performance gaps in the classroom are invited to participate in this program. No prior knowledge/experience of DEI work is required.

Meeting Details 

The community will meet four times on Fridays (12pm-1:15pm) during the Spring semester (Schedule below). All meetings are in person and lunch will be provided. Meetings will be facilitated by Gail Hunger, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Student Success Initiatives, and Fang Yi, Assistant Director of Learning Design and Technology.

Date  Tentative Topics
Friday, Feb 2 From Equity Talk to Equity Walk
Friday, Feb 23 Building an Equity-Minded Campus Culture
Friday, March 22 Using Data to Advance Equity
Friday, April 19 Developing a Practice of Equity-Minded Teaching

Book Discussions: Prior to each meeting, participants are expected to read chapters from the book “From Equity talk to Equity walk” by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, et al., and other supplemental learning materials. During the meetings, participants will engage in conversations and discussions to reflect, share experiences, and exchange thoughts. This will deepen our understanding of systematic racial inequity in higher education and explore best practices to identify and close equity gaps to achieve inclusive excellence. Books will be provided.

Action Activities: Each semester, we have facilitated this learning community to explore issues or events that have significantly impacted our work in this arena. Our aim is to create an intentional environment where we can appropriately respond to relevant and timely topics in our class, department, or institution are discussed. We may invite guest speakers to share their ideas and experiences, and/or visit sites that relate to the topic.

Participants will be partnered to work on some of the following hands-on DEI in action activities:

  • Evaluate your course materials or programs for equity minded language and practices in your department
  • Gather information on DEI definition/goals as well as past and existing DEI work at the College and University to assess the alignment of our current practices in teaching and learning
  • Investigate and analyze existing data to identify equity gaps
  • Brainstorm and develop project ideas for improving racial equity through the DEI action grant

DEI Action Grant (Exclusive to Learning Community Participants)  

The learning community will also offer the participants an opportunity to apply as working groups or individually for a small grant to implement DEI related initiatives/projects. Grant recipients will receive $1000 per person as a stipend to support their efforts. More information will be shared during the learning community meetings.


Participants should expect to attend at least three of the four sessions and to commit up to 2 hours completing reading/learning materials before each session to engage fully in discussion and hands-on work.


Participants will be any A&S faculty interested in equity and racial justice, including full-time and part-time faculty (tenured/tenure-track, AGFM), and postdocs.


This FLC is organized with generous support from A&S Learning Design & Technology and A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.


Please submit your application by Jan 26 at DEI Faculty Learning Community Application. Applicants will be contacted shortly thereafter. Please email Gail Hunger (gmh6w@virginia.edu) or Fang Yi (fy5g@virginia.edu) with any questions.