Best Practices in Conversation

Conversation Tips

As Student Affairs professional staff, we aim to use inclusive language that is sensitive to and demonstrates awareness of the lived experiences of our students. While not comprehensive, this list of “dos and don’ts” is meant to help guide our decisions as we speak individually and in person with students, as well as when we speak collectively and publicly as teams, departments, and a division. As always, we want to speak sincerely, to listen empathetically, and to be gracious toward ourselves and others as we engage in sometimes difficult and uncomfortable conversations.


  • Name who is being affected. You can say “Black,” “Racism” and “Black Lives Matter.”
  • Call out the specific discrimination that is going on.
  • Be authentic and truthful. It’s okay to admit if you’ve had blind spots before.
  • Center Black students and their experiences.
  • Uplift Black voices (whether from your own team, or beyond).
  • Continue to acknowledge BLM in the future.
  • Cite facts.
  • Understand that racism and social injustice are complex, long-standing problems. Complex issues don’t get fixed with simplistic answers.


  • Don’t center it around yourself.
  • Don’t come from a place of guilt or shame.
  • Don’t say, “All lives matter,” “I don’t see color,” “There is no racism on our campus, we’re all one race,” “We don’t worry about the color of our skin on this campus.”
  • Don’t stay silent out of fear of saying “the wrong thing.” Our students need to hear your voice supporting them!
  • Don’t become impatient or discouraged by small progress – real change requires effort and takes time.