Meghan Sanders prompted student media organizations to engage more deeply in conversations on how to implement DEI initiatives.
Student media leaders and advisers attended a workshop on diversity, equity and inclusion hosted by Meghan Sanders of Louisiana State University Feb. 9. The conversation was organized so that the six media groups could continue to engage more deeply in conversations surrounding how their organizations can implement measurable, actionable and sustainable DEI initiatives.
Sanders currently serves as an associate professor in LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and as director of the Media Effects Lab. She has also previously served as an associate dean for the Manship school and as the director of the Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy.
Immediately at the start of the workshop, Sanders emphasized the importance of having DEI-oriented conversations, noting that they should begin with introspection in the form of self-reflection.
“To be honest, it’s going to be a little painful because we learn things about ourselves that we may not necessarily be proud of,” Sanders said. “Sometimes it’s going to cut deep, sometimes it’s going to be a bit shallow, but it’s important to be clear about where you are so you can better figure out where you’d like to go and how to get there.”
Sanders noted that self-assessments and participation in diversity trainings are both feasible and effective methods of beginning this conversation. But, while individual reflection is a strong starting point on the journey toward diverse and inclusive change, interactions and conversations within larger groups are equally as crucial.
“[Make] sure that you’re doing these regularly and individually, but also as a group,” Sanders said. “This shouldn’t be a chore that you check off at the start of an academic year and then move on and never think about it again. You want to make sure that you’re continuously engaging with these conversations, seeing how you can grow, seeing how your organization can grow, and how you can adapt to make any adjustments that you need to make within your organization.”
In speaking specifically to student media on Elon’s campus, Sanders advised leaders and faculty to look at the makeup of their organizations, carefully examining the makeup of previous leadership teams as well as the physical spaces in which their organizations operate. As someone who works in a predominantly white institution as one of the few Black media psychologists, Sanders said she understands what it feels like to stand out when walking into a meeting or an office space, and so she encouraged leaders to interrogate their own working spaces.
“What spaces can you, yourself, easily work in without question?” she asked. “Is your meeting space or newsroom or studio one of those spaces? When you think about it for yourself, is it the same for other people with identities that are different from yours?”
Though she said she believes student media serve a diverse community, Sanders has noticed problems arise when groups become so tight-knit at the expense of engaging with new members. The closeness of those relationships only makes sense, of course, especially given the constant collaboration that occurs within the organizations. But the downfall to such close collaboration and intimate support of one another, she said, is the exclusion of those not involved.
“It’s hard for other people to make inroads and get connected within student media,” Sanders said. “And it may make it harder for people to apply for jobs there or, maybe, people who are already there may not feel as though it’s quite a safe space for them.”
The workshop included several breakout sessions in which students and advisers shared thoughts on the ways in which current organizational policies, practices and traditions have prevented diverse, inclusive growth. Small groups also brainstormed ways in which the language of each organization—be it physical or unspoken—can accommodate DEI principles.