It is a universal truth that human beings are visual creatures. If we can see a problem, there is a much greater likelihood that we can understand the root causes and find solutions. Unfortunately, many of the complex challenges we face in our society and in higher education are not easily visualized.
Enrollment and graduation data tell us that students are being lost between those two points, but they do not provide a clear picture of what the specific barriers to success are and how to address them.
Another thing the data confirms is that students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students, are still graduating at lower rates than their white counterparts. While systemic racism has come to the forefront of the national conversation over the last year, do we know how to identify it in our own institutions? What does systemic racism look like?
If asked to visualize racism, you might imagine a person in a white hood, someone wearing a swastika, or a million other images that are easily accessible but difficult to forget. Systemic racism, however, stems from flaws in systems, not people, and it often exists without any malice or ill intent from the individuals who are part of those systems. It is harder to visualize, and therefore, harder to understand. This fact plagues postsecondary leaders committed to equitable student outcomes. If it is hard to see systemic racism, how do they find and fix it?