Seton Hall Faculty Lead International Discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
On April 29, Director of Catholic Studies Ines Murzaku, Ph.D. moderated and moderated a discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU). This meeting took place within the framework of the programming of the IFCU working group on how to integrate the Catholic Intellectual Tradition into the study programs for all disciplines.
At the meeting, Justin Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of moral theology at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, presented his current research that represents a Catholic view of diversity. Anderson’s work on this subject should be published in Logos this summer.
Murzaku represents Seton Hall University in the leadership role of this IFCU Intercontinental Working Group. Attending the meeting were university professors and administrators from the United States, Canada, Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Scotland, Mexico and other countries. Seton Hall University – particularly through its Catholic Studies program – is seen as a model for effectively integrating the Church’s dialogue with disciplines such as history, philosophy, diplomacy, science, etc Interdisciplinarity is central to a holistic understanding of the roots of authentic appreciation of diversity in the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Both Anderson and Murzaku serve on Seton Hall committees that examine the role of diversity within the academic community, and Anderson’s research explores some of the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the value that a Catholic institution of higher education should accord to the diversity in creation, and specifically within humanity.
Speaking of diversity, Anderson emphasized that her perspective is “a Catholic perspective” — not “the Catholic perspective.” His research on diversity is rooted in the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Alasdair MacIntyre. The outline he shared with task force members provides a framework for faculty and administrators to consider issues of diversity, informed by the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Anderson explained that based on the thought of Thomas Aquinas, diversity in Creation can be understood as necessitated by the magnitude of God’s goodness. No creature can reflect all of God’s goodness; rather, each individual reflects different facets of God’s goodness in different ways. Moreover, diversity is based on the concept of wholeness – harmony is necessary for diversity. Anderson explained, “Genuine diversity that reflects the benevolent plan of the Creator is something that becomes an occasion for praise and joy.”
From this Creator-based understanding of diversity, Anderson raised issues of racial and cultural diversity, diversity of human agency, and religious diversity.
Further discussion by all participants, across five continents, began with and eventually came back to the idea of a definition of diversity. Participants discussed the need to define diversity in the context of a Catholic university, the conflicts that can arise when definitions differ, and how definitions can coalesce to produce an authentic reflection of God’s goodness in the creation. One participant suggested that approaching a definition may need to start with images that express individual elements of genuine diversity.
Speakers expressed the importance of valuing diversity as a matter of human dignity, emphasizing that diversity should not be a political issue, and they raised the question of the role of the Catholic university in this area. Participants shared their views from the ground realities of their different locations, showing that diversity issues are very different across the world, depending on social realities. They agreed that engaging in dialogue, with humility and respect, is at the heart of a Catholic university’s efforts to appreciate diversity.
“The conversation we had enlightened us all on many levels,” Murzaku said. “The meeting helped me more fully appreciate the global context of our own university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. We are very fortunate to have access, through IFCU, to these groundbreaking conversations with high-level professors and administrators from Catholic universities around the world.”
Future discussions of this working group will focus on the theme of “The identity of the Catholic school for a culture of dialogue“, a subject of great importance given the current realities of academic experience and the Vatican’s March 29, 2022 bulletin bearing this title.