As the holidays approach, we look to celebrate inclusiveness in our work environments and the task of fostering an atmosphere of inclusion is often easier said than done.
This time of year poses a great reminder to communicate institutional and departmental values, particularly those values that align with valuing diverse members of the campus community.
While many professionals on campuses are well-intentioned, we often forget to educate ourselves about holidays that are often underrepresented in mainstream media. Forgetting about, not including, or simply not putting in the effort to boost understanding around the holidays is a missed opportunity to create meaningful relationships with staff, students, and faculty.
The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in New York, an organization working to increase education around religion and culture explains,
“There’s no month quite like December, where multiple joyous religious holidays collide with good intentions to create a potentially toxic mix of misunderstandings and intolerance.”
It’s easy to assume that a lot of people celebrate Christmas, however, we tend to disregard the depth of diversity in the U.S. because of the way society taps into the value of holidays like Christmas (malls, businesses). For this reason, the center highlights that a majority of offices and workplaces tend to focus on Christmas, causing those who don’t celebrate to be overlooked or forgotten.
Inclusive environments boost employee retention, particularly people who hold marginalized identities and celebrate holidays other than Christmas. In serving our both students and staff, it’s important to remember that campuses have a broad spectrum of of cultural, national, ethnic, and religious traditions to be celebrated.
We thought we’d help start you off to in thinking about campus and office communications as well as creating an awesome workplace atmosphere.
Creating A Campus-Wide Multicultural Calendar
Having knowledge of holidays is one aspect and communicating it to your campus is the next step of creating an inclusive environment. Implementing a campus-wide multicultural calendar communicates to a campus that everyone has a story to tell. Creating a calendar can highlight holidays and observances, therefore, providing the foundation for people to talk about their own religious beliefs and traditions.
Rochester Institute of Technology provides a campus-wide calendar called Honoring Differences to “create an environment that demonstrates respect and inclusion.” They have hopes in that students, faculty, and staff will utilize it as a resource in a number of ways:
image from www.rit.edu
When honoring diversity, a calendar brings up considerations when planning and communicating out to campus committees and students.
If you see an event or holiday on the calendar that a co-worker celebrates, ask about the significance to them. A tool that is shared widely opens up more communication and enhances understanding. As a manager, it also helps when looking at a time-off schedule with employees. Managers and faculty at institutions can take the steps to acknowledge special days through newsletters, e-mail, text messages, bulletin boards, social media, and the classroom.
When assigning due dates, faculty can provide accommodations so students don’t feel pressured to meet deadlines or submit assignments during the midst of a holiday or holy day. I’ve found that Diversity Best Practices and the Anti-Defamation League offers calendars for the upcoming year(s) that recognize many holidays and observances that educators should consider.
Not at the point where you can create a campus-wide calendar?
Consider making your own and share it with colleagues and students!
Check out the ‘Interesting Calendar’ feature on Google Calendar to include any holidays you wish to see and that way you won’t miss any holidays. Outlook has a few options for importing calendars as well. Both options are easy to implement if campuses want to create a campus-wide calendar to recognize holidays, religious observations, and traditions.
Sharing Inclusive Social Media Content
Holiday social media posts are essential in making connections with students, thinking outside-of-the-box, and humanizing your social media account with followers.
Creating a social media content calendar is an easy way to chart out holidays including celebratory, commemorative, and historical dates. A social media calendar (or a multicultural calendar mentioned above) provides a visual way to be strategic about celebrating campus diversity. At Check I’m Here, we utilize Google Calendar as a reference when pre-scheduling tweets, blog posts, or Instagram post reminders (in conjunction with the scheduling app Buffer). A few editorial calendar softwares include Hootsuite and Tweetdeck when organizing multiple social media accounts.
Consider posting social media messages and images at the beginning of the day. Posting during the middle of the day or towards the end is when your audience is most likely celebrating and you want to catch their attention for optimum engagement (which, in turn helps build relationships)!
Days that you may want to consider posting or communicating via social media articles, images, messages and/or celebrating for the remainder of 2016 and early 2017 include:
- November 24: Thanksgiving Day commemorating the Pilgrims harvest feast
- November 25: Native American Heritage Day a day in honor of Native Americans
- December 8: Bodhi Day also called “Rohatsu” and is the observance of enlightenment of the historical Buddha
- December 12: Our Lady of Guadelupe is an important religious festival in Mexico commemorating the appearance of the Blessed Virgin to an Indian boy in 1531
- December 25: Christmas commemorating the birth of Jesus
- December 25- January 1: Hanukkah the Festival of Lights celebrating the rededication of the Temple to the service of God for eight days
- December 26- January 1: Kwanzaa was started by a professor who wanted to encourage African Americans to celebrate their heritage, celebrated for seven days
- January 28: Lunar New Year celebrating the Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese New Year
Last year we recognized and celebrated holidays via social media because we recognized the value it offered in bringing together our community.
For example, we create this Happy New Year graphic and posted it early on January 1st, 2016:
However, we didn’t celebrate holidays like Lunar New Year and other holidays we could have celebrated in December/January. Most of this is due to the makeup of our team and the privileges we hold. This year we hope to implement more graphics, content, and postings around observances and holidays to best represent our team, campus partners, and the students we work with.
Don’t post social media content just to show you’re trying to be inclusive. It’s paramount that you have a goal or intention in mind.
If you’re not sure what holidays or observances to celebrate or post about, consider how you’re going to best represent your student and staff population and identities. What types of student organizations are present on campus? Reach out and ask how to best support and acknowledge various cultures and traditions. It could be retweeting them, sharing a post, or highlighting their organization throughout the holiday season.
Not sure if a co-worker, colleague, or student celebrates a specific holiday? It’s best not to assume and just ask. Even if folks around you recognize the same holiday, they may celebrate it in different ways. Encourage inclusive conversations in your work environment and show that you’re committed to creating a safe space so people feel comfortable expressing themselves authentically.
What are your strategies for creating an inclusive holiday work environment?
How do you incorporate and communicate social justice values into your role?
What are considerations we missed and should add to this post?
Looking for inclusion communication and ideas outside of the holidays? Check out these blog posts: