COVID-19 and the Role of the CDO and
DEI Leaders in Higher Education

March 18, 2020

Dear NADOHE Colleagues:

We are all experiencing stress and unprecedented trying times.  Seemingly overnight, higher education and the world as we know it has plummeted into chaos.  But now more than ever, we are needed.  The work of diversity officers in building community and advocating for others becomes even more important in times of crisis.  We must continue to be active in speaking for those who are marginalized or left without resources financially, technologically or socially.  We must engage college and university leaders as they craft action plans and policies that may adversely affect diverse students, faculty and staff.  Our institutions and higher education need our insights and our leadership.

Handling crisis is not new to us.  As a profession we have become adept at it.  We must lend our collective voices and reason to respond to COVID-19 as we do in all situations of conflict: with respect, awareness of the experiences of others, and care for all.  This moment also gives us a great opportunity to re-envision our work in a virtual space. Crisis often moves society or an industry forward to innovation and evolution.  How can we as CDO’s and educators continue to do the important work of diversity, equity, and inclusion via technology?  How can we look at course modalities and service delivery in ways that are equitable and just?  This is our current charge and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to higher education.  To that end, below are a few best practices for your consideration.  In addition, we urge you to join in the free webinar tomorrow, from 4-5:30 EDT on COVID-19. 

Possible Action Steps

  • Confer with college and university leaders on the disparate impact that policy changes, online courses and other decisions may have on diverse students.
  • Prioritize access to inclusive academic support strategies.
  • Work with Residential Housing and Student Affairs on behalf of students who are experiencing housing insecurity due to residence hall closings as well as international students who may not be able to return home.
  • Consider ways to work with community-based organizations where appropriate to coordinate support for students.
  • Work with IT to address the needs of students, faculty and staff who do not have the resources to work remotely.
  • Work to resolve issues related to racial profiling of Asian and Asian American students, who are experiencing xenophobia.
  • Work with Financial Affairs and the CFO to guarantee that faculty, students, and staff – including those in hourly jobs and receiving financial aid – can be paid during this crisis.
  • Work with Academic Affairs and Human Resources to assist faculty and staff who are working remotely, particularly in order to assure that policies are uniformly applied and not favoring some while disadvantaging others.
  • Assist with tone of college and university messages.  Now more than ever, we need to express our compassion and concern for all in our community.


Paulette Granberry Russell
President, NADOHE

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) serves as the preeminent voice for diversity officers in higher education. Its vision is to lead higher education towards inclusive excellence through institutional transformation.