My perspective on EDI

Let me explain my own point of view why EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) matters.


At its core, EDI means fairness: we must ensure that individuals, or groups of individuals, are not treated less favorably because of their protected characteristics, and are recognized and respected such that they feel welcome and valued.
EDI is not limited to a specific class of people, it is a concern for all of us. But there are of course more vulnerable people which might be discriminated because of disabilities, mental health, race, religion, gender and alike (the list is not ordered and not complete).
EDI is of crucial relevance to all domains of social, economic and political life, and also campus life, of course. It should be of high importance for all of us.

A real-life example

Despite a long history of progress towards EDI at the campus, multiple forms of inequality, discrimination and exclusion continue to mark the experience of individuals across their life course.
I personally feel that discrimination at universities (these are known to attract open-minded people) mostly happens in its subtle appearance -- via the back door. Let me give you one example how discrimination enters campus life without most of us, including myself noticing.
The point I want to make is related to biases:
Biases are part of how our brains work and we all make them all the time. Yes, again, not excluding myself.
Regarding EDI they might come in various forms. For example, although we might not be conscious of being biased against people with disabilities, but most of us probably are. Now imagine I am interviewing candidates for a Ph.D. position. The process is already very competitive, but I am (or rather, my brain is) biased and sees people with disabilities as less favorable. If I am not aware of this bias, then someone with a disability has almost no chance to get the Ph.D. position.
Why does that even matter you might ask. Let me give you an example - a real story - of why that matters!
I had the oral exam for my class Algebraic Topology at the end of 2021. There were 14 students in total taking the exam, and one was stuttering. The student did reasonably well and I wrote 35/50 points on my list right after the exam. A day alter, before I made the final marks, I remembered that student and I wondered whether I treated them fair. So I rewatched the video of the exam I made (always make videos of your exams to double check!) and I realized that I indeed treated that student unfair. I change the mark to 40/50.
Sounds like a tiny bias? Indeed, it is. But it is nevertheless important to avoid such biases: Imagine you are this student. Algebraic topology was your 10th oral exam, and you always scored worse than all your friends. Will you be encourage to push further? Probably not, right? Even the smallest bias, if it happens often enough (and they happen very often!), might change the career and perspectives of students, staff and everyone actually.