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Theoretical Frameworks and Foundations

Institutional Equity grounds our work in principles of equity and social justice. Here are the key theoretical frameworks and foundations that guide our programs and practices.

Diversity: Diversity refers to the numerical representation of faculty, staff, and students who hold different social identities, backgrounds, and experiences.

Domains of Power: Black feminist scholar and sociologist Patricia Hill Collins describes four domains through which power and privilege are strictly controlled and regulated. (Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge Press.)

  • Interpersonal: daily, commonplace, and subliminal actions, behaviors, and language that reify dominant norms and beliefs
  • Hegemonic: ideologies, perspectives, beliefs, and discourses that inform personal and group consciousness
  • Disciplinary: bureaucratic procedures used to implement policies
  • Structural: institutions organize and reproduce hierarchy

Equity: Equity requires attention to disparate impact, differential access and opportunities afforded to various communities, as well as structural and systemic barriers that limit potential and possibilities.

Inclusion: Inclusion refers to the respectful treatment of all people with recognition for the multiplicity of identities and perspectives present in a diverse community.

Intersectionality: “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it locks and intersects. It is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and privilege.” (Interview with Kimberle Crenshaw, Columbia Law School,

Developed by legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality is an analytic tool to examine the interlocking and interdependent systems of power and oppression. While intersectionality is used to interrogate structural oppression, it also recognizes the multiple and simultaneous identities that individuals hold.

Liberatory Consciousness: Activist, writer, and educator Barbara Love contends that “a liberatory consciousness enables humans to live their lives in oppressive systems and institutions with awareness and intentionality, rather than on the basis of the socialization to which they have been subjected.” (Love, B. J. (2000). Developing Liberatory Consciousness, In M. Adams (Ed.), Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, (pp. 470-474). New York: Routledge Press.) Liberatory consciousness involves:

  • Awareness: Noticing, not ignoring or explaining away
  • Analysis: Think about it and theorize it
  • Action: Individual, incremental, institutional
  • Accountability: Solidarity, coalition building, and centering marginalized communities

Social Justice: We use educator Lee Anne Bell’s definition of social justice as “both a goal and a process. The goal of social justice is full and equitable participation of people from all social identity groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. The process for attaining social justice should also be democratic and participatory, respectful of human diversity and group differences, and inclusive and affirming of human agency and capacity for working collaboratively with others to create change.” (Bell, L.A. 2016. Theoretical Foundations for Social Justice Education. In Adams, M., Bell, L.A., Goodman, D.J., & Joshi, K. Y. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. New York, NY: Routledge.)