Executive Summary

PLU 2020: Affirming Diversity, Justice, and Sustainability

Based on a Report from the Ad Hoc Committee for DJS
Spring 2014

Recommendations for Common Language Around Integrating the Imperatives of Diversity, Social Justice, and Sustainability

Diversity, Social Justice, and Sustainability are not separate concerns, but instead interrelated ones, no one of which can be addressed without addressing the others. For what, exactly, is ‘social justice,’ and how can one begin to arrive at even provisional definitions of it, without including the perspectives of diverse individuals, diverse human communities, and without considering the flourishing of non-human animals and ecosystems? And what, exactly, is ‘diversity,’ and how can one arrive at even provisional definitions of it, without considering which forms of it we should justly support, and which — as potentially destructive of other communities, individuals, or environments — we should not? And what, finally, is ‘sustainability,’ and how can we arrive at even provisional definitions of it, without considering diverse perspectives on what should justly be sustained — and what not?

In modern societies, universities like PLU can and should play a unique role in cultivating and sustaining dialogues about the meanings of such terms, and the various practices intended to address them. Unlike advocacy organizations, which must often homogenize their messages in order to do battle in the marketplace of ideas, universities like PLU must above all serve as sites of dissensus on these matters, where all reasonably-argued views and perspectives are not simply welcomed but also cultivated.


“The condition of difference necessary to all life and creativity” –  Martusewicz, Edmundson, & Lupinacci, 2011

Pacific Lutheran University values Diversity because:

  • Diversity is essential to all life, creativity, vision, and innovation.
  • We learn and grow from experiencing a diversity of people, perspectives, ideas, and thoughts.  Diversity allows us to interact with a broadened understanding of each other and the social and environmental communities we inhabit.
  • Difference is not to be ignored, but acknowledged, celebrated, and respected.
  • Diversity is necessary for resilience because of the interdependency and interconnectedness of the world and its inhabitants.
  • PLU’s mission directs us is to nurture resilient graduates who can respond to and lead across a range of issues.
  • We must be open and affirming to multiple ways of knowing and learning, and cultivate an environment that is intellectually and culturally diverse.

Social Justice

“To move beyond mere appreciation or celebration into active efforts to examine and dismantle oppressive structures and policies and move toward a more equitable vision for the institution and it members” – Thompson, Hardee, & Lane, 2011

Pacific Lutheran University values Social Justice because:

  • The full and equal participation of all individuals in society where they feel safe, secured, and valued is a crucial to humanizing all individuals and environmental ecosystems.
  • Although difference and diversity is essential, it is imperative that individuals and systems of individual, institutional, and systematic power, privilege, and oppression must be recognized, named, and subverted.
  • All voices, regardless of social identities and categories, deserve to be heard.
  • Structural diversity is not enough to ensure an individual’s sense of belonging.
  • The pursuit of social justice cannot be achieved in a vacuum.
  • It is important for academics to educate students who will be fully engaged citizens in the world, who living out the PLU mission, are change agents at the micro and macro level.
  • All members of our local and global communities deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and courtesy regardless of difference.


​“Sustainability aims to create synergy among care for people, for the planet, and prosperity, both now and in the future.  These values provide meaning for all living things that have a relationship with the earth.” – Pacific Lutheran University White Paper on Sustainability

Pacific Lutheran University values Sustainability because:

  • Sustainability supports the values and goals that are inherent in PLU’s mission. The project of educating students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care for other persons, for the community, and for the Earth suggests all three legs of sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity.
  • It is a core principle of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which asserts that sustainability “summons each of us, in every aspect of our lives, to behave in ways that are consistent with the long-term sustainability of our planet.” The church also affirms the interconnection between people, planet, and prosperity, emphasizing a commitment to “the capacity of natural and social systems to survive and thrive together over the long term.”
  • The opportunity is opened to use the campus as a living laboratory where students can be a part of real world applications of the three tracts of sustainability
  • Sustainability engenders social responsibility, economic equity, and ecological consciousness, which are essential aspects of living lives as citizens of the Earth.
  • PLU values adequate preparation that will allow students to grow into members of society that serve and think of themselves as contributors to their communities.

Recommendations for Organizational Structure

What type of organizational structure can best support the initiatives and work of DJS at PLU?  If our goal is to reflect our mission-related value for diversity, social justice, and sustainability as undeniably integrated concepts, the university must be intentional in providing a framework that provides leadership and oversight to that end.

Centralized Leadership.  An administrator, with a direct reporting line to either the President or Provost, will demonstrate the value and importance of DJS to the mission and strategic goals of PLU.  This administrator would be the accountable entity for the oversight of the integration and implementation of DJS across campus.

Committed Resources.  Along with centralized leadership, a commitment to centralized resources that would support pan-university initiatives, moving beyond a series of minimally funded centers and ad hoc initiatives, to fully endorse and engage the goals of DJS.

Clear and Supportive Structure.  The Centralized Leadership calls for a structure that allows this administrator to find clear ways to involve the campus at all levels, with a high degree of accountability.

We propose a re-visioning of the University Diversity Committee to become the DJS Council, with appropriate representation from all constituencies.  The current Centers (Center for Community Engagement and Service, Diversity Center, Scandinavian Cultural Center, Sustainability Office, Center for Vocation, Wang Center for Global Education, Women’s Center) should become key members of the Council as they are at the center of many current DJS initiatives.

Recommendations for Programming

As the Programming Subcommittee embarked on completing its assigned task, we quickly recognized that the scope of our work must be broad and multifaceted in order to be effective. Accordingly, four foci for programming initiatives emerged: Curriculum, Professional Development (for both Faculty & Staff), Co-Curricular Programming, and Student Leadership Development. These foci are also central in PLU 2020, and each exists in conversation with the others to create a comprehensive matrix in which to engage the campus community in conversations and actions around DJS.

As an institution of higher learning, the curriculum serves as the foundation for all other programming recommendations. Therefore, the subcommittee’s recommendations as they relate to curriculum also include resources for curricular development; faculty, leadership, and structure; and innovative pedagogies. Recommendations include conducting a comprehensive review of GenEd Perspectives on Diversity, Including topics of DJS in the FYEP and IHON curriculum as an introduction, and allocating resources for Curricular Development on DJS pedagogies.

Improving the university’s commitment to diversity, justice and sustainability will require ongoing professional development for both faculty and staff to ensure that we are conversant in current thinking, criticism and best practices in these areas, while also allowing us to continue developing personal expertise and connection that can help us bring that commitment into our teaching, administration, curriculum development, mentoring, university service and scholarship. To that end, DJS Professional Development will need to be broad, flexible, and sustained. Recommendations include providing intentional diversity training for staff and faculty as well as bias training for all search committees and Creating an ongoing faculty/staff seminar focusing on current critical and scholarly thinking on diversity, justice and sustainability, similar in scope and implementation to the Wild Hope seminars

DJS co-curricular programming stems from collaboration among faculty, administrators, staff and students across the campus. Given the organizational structure of PLU, it is important to develop communication channels that promote purposeful programming to enhance student learning. Recommendations include Supporting collaborative work of current center directors and Creating a common calendar of DJS programs and events.

One of the outcomes of engaging the university community in meaningful and significant ways within a diverse, just, and sustainable community should be to cultivate students as leaders within these issues. Students from diverse backgrounds and majors must be empowered to engage their peers in programs involving DJS so as to become agents of positive change both within and outside of PLU. Additionally, the university must continuously and critically reflect upon the concept of leadership. Recommendations include Continue to find ways to integrate DJS components in student leadership development.