Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


School of Communication

Committee Chair

John Baldwin


The Supreme Court of the United States decision on race-based affirmative action policies in higher education has impacted equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programs in higher education institutions (Gonzales, 2023; Singh, 2023; Opie & Washington, 2023). This study explores the challenges higher education institutions face when communicating and implementing EDI programs. Other studies have shown that diversity programs can be developed using ethical frameworks (van Dijk et al., 2012; Gotsis & Kortezi, 2013; Wallace et al., 2014). This study examined if ethical frameworks like deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and ethics of care are adopted in diversity programs of higher education institutions and which assessment methods are applied to measure the diversity programs' effectiveness. In-depth interviews were conducted by interviewing chief diversity officers, EDI professionals, professors, and trainers of large and mid-sized higher education institutions. The results revealed that many diversity programs do not adopt clear and specific ethical frameworks, have no consistent methods of measuring their effectiveness, and lack institutional support. This study provides key recommendations that can help institutions develop, defend, and measure the effectiveness of their diversity programs to avoid potential bans and abandonment of EDI initiatives.

KEYWORDS: Affirmative action; ethical frameworks; equity; diversity; inclusion; deontology; utilitarianism; virtue ethics; ethics of care


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