Student Research on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Kexin Li, ’21 

Triggered by the racist and xenophobic attacks against international students at the University of Richmond in 2020, I centered my Jepson honor thesis research on the impact of micro-aggression and social exclusion on non-English speakers’ linguistic capacity and leadership emergence. Specifically, I looked at the Chinese community at institutes of higher education, including the University of Richmond. My conversations with fellow Chinese students around the shared experience of “I simply cannot speak English when I walk into a room that makes me feel I’m the other” inspired my research. I worked with Dr. Crystal Hoyt to design online experiments that put participants in identity-threatening or identity-safe conditions. Then I studied how participants react, engage, and articulate in the two scenarios. Through social science methods, I explored the question of whether an exclusive environment has the power to disrupt the speech of the non-privileged. 

Will Walker, ’21

Because of the changing demographics of higher education, there is a need to prepare for the increased enrollment of BIPOC and other underrepresented students. The next generation of scholars and leaders will soon enroll in American higher education institutions, and they must be supported in a way that allows them to thrive as their authentic selves. To prepare current stakeholders for this future, I am measuring and analyzing the impact that a particular framing of institutional diversity has on the promotion of an undergraduate student’s perceived sense of belonging and inclusion. While several academic domains may focus on such a topic, I am most committed to an interdisciplinary exploration of social psychology and higher education. I hope to provide higher education stakeholders with data-backed commentary about developing inclusive campus communities where diversity, equity, and inclusion are focal points of academic and social development.

Alec Greven, ’21

I argue that censoring hate speech or offensive speech is dangerous because it relies on moral principles that could justify wide-ranging and unacceptable forms of censorship. Such censorship can be turned against minority groups and can limit diversity of thought. As American author and activist Jonathan Rauch said, “Free speech is not only minorities’ best friend… it’s our only reliable friend.” Usually, governments are most responsive to majorities and powerful individuals, which often use their censorship desires against minorities and marginalized groups, limiting their ability to demand change of an unjust status quo. My research on the effectiveness of hate speech regulation abroad indicates that hate speech regulation has been actively used against minority groups. I’ve found evidence that hate speech regulation is ineffective. For the sake of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I argue that democracies must commit themselves to protecting free expression and limit censorship to very narrow circumstances where speech threatens the autonomy of individuals.