AGRIC 2023: Diversity and Inclusivity in a VUCA World

[Ateneo Graduate Research and Innovation Conference (AGRIC), March 11, 2023]


I have been asked to speak on “Diversity and Inclusivity in a VUCA World.”

This is very broad theme that could be relevant for local, national, global, corporate, governmental and non-governmental communities.  How then limit it meaningfully for this reflection session? 

The topic is raised in the context of ADDU Graduate Research and Innovation, where Research and Innovation are viewed presumably as essential activities of the University functioning in a VUCA world.

Therefore, I thought my reflections could focus on Diversity and Inclusivity for a University culture in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, where the University is the community of academicians, students and support staff gathered to search for, share and act in truth in (VUCA) world.  I hope my reflections invite your own and occasion a dialogue among ourselves on this topic.

The Meaning of  “Diversity and Inclusivity”

I confess that thematizing Diversity and Inclusivity is new to me brought on by Dean Renante Pilapil’s request for these reflections.  From the internet I have learned:

“Diversity is about what makes each of us unique and includes our backgrounds, personality, life experiences and beliefs, all of the things that make us who we are. It is a combination of our differences that shape our view of the world, our perspective and our approach. Diversity is also about recognising, respecting and valuing differences based on ethnicity, gender, age, race, religion, disability and sexual orientation. It also includes an infinite range of individual unique characteristics and experiences, such as communication style, career path, life experience, educational background, geographic location, income level, marital status, parental status and other variables that influence personal perspectives.”  

The descriptive definition is broad, focusing on endless factors that constitute uniqueness.  Diversity gathers or classifies a selection of unique entities.

“Inclusion occurs when people feel, and are, valued and respected. Regardless of their personal characteristic or circumstance, and where they:

  • have the opportunity to fulfil their individual and combined potential
  • have access to opportunities and resources
  • can contribute their personal best in every encounter
  • can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation
  • can bring far more of themselves to their jobs
  • have a sense of belonging.”[i]

Inclusion then is a subjective experience; it is the positive experience of being welcomed and respected in diversity. But it is not a one-way street.  It includes the culture of active valuing, respecting, and communicating to diverse persons.

From Rita Mityan, the Diversity and Social Inclusion Officer of the Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Research Institute, we have the further clarifications:

Diversity is the “what”; inclusion is the “how.” Diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce — demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, just to name a few, and inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive.

“But if your culture does not embrace different perspectives, you will not be able to retain diversity. Inclusion requires that everyone’s contributions be valued, that individuals, regardless of the diversity dimension, have the opportunity to do their best work and advance

“All generations appreciate a culture of respect, fairness and inclusion — but millennials are particularly drawn to this idea.

“Having specific goals for diversity [what it is supposed to achieved] and inclusion [how it is embraced], and regularly measuring progress, is key.


However, Mityan points out:  “With all the focus on advancing diversity, organizations also run the risk of backlash from majority groups. It’s important to acknowledge this as a challenge and call out the elephant in the room. For example, white men make up only 37 percent of the population but over 70 percent of senior leadership, and it’s even higher for CEOs.”[ii]

Mitjan’s warning of a “backlash” from majority groups situates Diversity and Inclusion in a world that is in part hostile to diversity and inclusion.  Diversity and Inclusion are meaningful as complementary categories or as urgent demands for a workforce or missioned community because they are opposed by an existing demand for Sameness and Exclusion that is part of the social reality – where exclusion is not only logical but socially real – with salutary or toxic or violent implications:  if we are all Mindanawons those who come from the Visayas and Luzon are to be excluded;  if we are all brown those who are white or yellow or red are to be excluded; if we are all appropriately-educated academicians in the context of regulated higher education in the Philippines, those who lack an MA or MS are to be excluded.  Sameness and exclusion are categorizations that reveal identity, standards and ethical demands.  They also reveal prejudice and demands for relief against the unethical.  We are all human beings deserving respect and demanding social justice.  As a consequence of this standard of sameness, should law enforcement be biased for whites, “Black lives matter.”  If some women are demanding relief against rampant sexual abuse, other abused women cry, “Me too.”  If Filipinos are to be protected against drugs because they are human, the slum-dwelling poor cannot be murdered n this pursuit.

Research Different from Innovation

But we are looking at Diversity and Inclusion in the context of ADDU Graduate School Research and Innovation.  But are these two activities the same?  Research, indeed “robust research,” flows from the very identity of the University to search for truth.  Innovation, on the other hand, is presumably an outcome of vibrant research which in our context of a VUCA world not only responds to it but causes it.  There was a time when you looked at a watch and its reality was that it reliably told you the time.  Innovation today allows the watch to tell you not only the time, but the state of your health, the rate of your heartbeat, the status of your blood pressure, and whether at this time due to the furious beeping of your watch you should be rushed to an emergency room.  There was a time when the world was energized by fossil fuels.  Today, under the pressures of the climate emergency, our Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technologies (CREATE) works for a world fueled by innovative renewable energy.  That changes the way we live together.  Soon instead of the old busses and jeepneys with collections of fares in cash against ticket stubs we will be riding electric cars and monorails paid for through a celphone app. Soon artificial intelligence will do our accounting for us and even our writing for us. 

Constant innovation is life’s excitement and thrill, but also a threat to life and its omnipresent terrorist.[iii]  For the regularity of life, the reliable rhythms of life, the certainties of the seasons, the worked-out understandings of the meaning of life, life in its contingency before an absolute life-giving God, including Jesus’ promise to bring us  “life to the full,” the notion of human dignity and of human rights, the nature and demands of human love, even the nature of truth are resistant to innovation.  

This is something that we must notice:  there is a presumed parity between research and innovation, as if research necessarily implies innovation.  It does.  But not in the same way.  The search for truth may search not only for new ways of doing things that could be attractive in the market, but also for preservation, a quest that yearns for or even demands intolerance of mutability and is jarred by the notion of innovation for the sake of innovation.  When our research allows us to interrogate the relationship of the human being with the Absolute, and explicitate the implications of this relationship in statements concerning the God-given dignity of the human person and the rights that flow from this, these are assertions that resist the relentless imperative to innovate.  While unending innovation suggests a world of unending flux – the dynamo of the VUCA world – unending research, rooted in the unique reflexiveness of the human being – may be a self-conscious restlessness that seeks ultimately to rest in immutability, a unique I in the diversity of I’s that is recognized and rests in an absolute Thou.

Diversity and Inclusion as Relevant to the Search for Truth?

The enduring prerogative of research to evaluate perpetual innovation noted,  we are now interested in the relationship of diversity and inclusiveness to such as research and innovation in carrying out the university’s imperative to search for truth in academic freedom.  We have however seen how the nurturance of diversity [e.g. a workforce of endless differentiation] and inclusiveness [a culture of acceptance of differentiation] reacts to a drive for sameness and exclusion.  Diversity and inclusion are meaningful only in the context of sameness and exclusion.  The acceptance of non-Mindanawons or white people or the LGTB in the diverse workforce is against a social stream that rejects and excludes them. Our question would be:  does diversity and inclusion in a University community such as the ADDU’s advance or hinder its search for truth in academic freedom?

Here, diversity and inclusion apparently cannot be an undetermined, unqualfied diversity.  The diversity and inclusion must be qualified and determined by the university mandate given to all in the diverse and inclusive group to search for truth in academic freedom.  Here, the university must determine the parameters of the diversity through the same qualifiers or the same standards that enable a member of the diverse group to search for truth in academic freedom.  These qualifiers must be the same for all in the diverse group;  sameness must exclude even when diversity includes.  For instance, to be included among the diverse group that belong to the University’s higher-education faculty community, one must be academically qualified, must not be too young nor too old to do research, must be willing not only to teach and to serve the community but to do research, must understand the standards of research and operate according to those standards.  These are the same for all in a diverse group of genders, races, nationalities, religions, without which they are excluded from the diverse group.

Academic Freedom

Meanwhile, academic freedom is a contentious concept, which we do not have time to discuss in detail in this reflection.  My proposal is just to accept as a working description of academic freedom what is available in the internet from Britannica, namely: 

“Academic freedom, the freedom of teachers and students to teach, study, and pursue knowledge and research without unreasonable interference or restriction from law, institutional regulations, or public pressure. Its basic elements include the freedom of teachers to inquire into any subject that evokes their intellectual concern; to present their findings to their students, colleagues, and others; to publish their data and conclusions without control or censorship; and to teach in the manner they consider professionally appropriate. For students, the basic elements include the freedom to study subjects that concern them and to form conclusions for themselves and express their opinions.

“According to its proponents, the justification for academic freedom thus defined lies not in the comfort or convenience of teachers and students but in the benefits to society; i.e., the long-term interests of a society are best served when the educational process leads to the advancement of knowledge, and knowledge is best advanced when inquiry is free from restraints by the state, by the church or other institutions, or by special-interest groups.”[iv]

It may be appreciated that in this description, academic freedom is not confined to “institutional academic freedom” but includes the academic freedom not only of teachers but also of students.[v]  At the same time academic freedom is not conceived as absolute, but described as practiced under historical conditions which permit or proscribe its practice unto the achievement of truth.  Thus academic freedom is contracted under conditions where the state finds it necessary to curtail free academic inquiry; it expands when faculty members are seasoned in finding truth and when students begin to master the tools of their research and grow in disciplinal insight.  In this context, it is not only the academic institution, the individual academician, and the student who benefit from academic freedom, but human society.

Diversity and Inclusion at ADDU

In Ateneo de Davao University a study on Diversity and Inclusion would be warranted. 

Is there more diversity and inclusivity (tolerance of diversity) here or sameness (uniformity) and exclusivity (intolerance of diversity) in comparison with other HEIs.  Diversity could include:

Gender:  All male; male and female; male, female, LGBT++

Religion:  Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical), Muslim (Indigenous, Sunni, Shia,) Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist

Language:  Bisaya, Tagalog, Maguindanaw, Tausug, Maranao, Amoy Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese

Race:  Filipino, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Caucasian (American, Iranian)

Attitudes towards:  politics [democracy, autocracy,], economics [consumerism, humane consumption], attitude towards creatures and our common home [exploitation, preservation, fraternity]

Academic qualifications:  single or multiple academic degrees in single or multiple disciplines

Standing in the university:  administrator, faculty, staff, student, neophyte, workhorse, middle leadership, senior leadership, culture bearers.

Is there a culture of active acceptance of this diversity? Ought steps be taken to increase or to curb the diversity?  Is reflection and criticism of the status of diversity at ADDU a function of the HRMDO, the AIM, the AVP. the President or the Board?


The empirical description of the level of diversity and inclusion does not in itself guarantee the fruitful and responsible use of academic freedom.  Nevertheless, I would like to propose as a thesis for reflection that the diversity and inclusion in the academic community (workforce),  qualified however by the same minimum standards of research (that as explained above exclude when necessary), can promote improved research and innovation in academic freedom.   The diversity itself militates against the stagnancy of sameness, invites inquiry and discussion from different viewpoints, and richly celebrates truth when discovered.  But this thesis must be established empirically.  For the movement from diversity and inclusion to academic freedom is not mechanical, not automatic.

Unrealized Potential

For, unfortunately, what is a possibility is not a necessity.  Even with the most diverse and inclusive community of qualified academicians, the call to robust research can remain unheeded, or largely unheeded.  The recent Fifth Research and Publication Recognition Ceremony organized by the University Research Council (URC) was a celebration of the strength of research and publication at ADDU.  A total of 287 members of the community were honored, some for multiple contributions.  That was achieved over the last 12 years when the University adopted vibrant research as part of its Vision and Mission.  On the other hand, further analysis of the research data shows that much can be improved.  Only 21.2 percent of full-time faculty are involved in the research honored by the URC, most of whom (12.2%) are in the SAS.[vi]  Apparently, the diverse and inclusive community stagnates in unrealized potential.  The hopeful sameness of shared academic qualification in diversity sinks to a disappointing sameness of shared underachievement.

Privileged Imperative

Ultimately, I think it is not diversity and inclusion on the one hand nor even sameness and exclusion on the other hand that drives the academic freedom.   It is rather the spirited decision of the academician to pursue truth against the stagnant sameness of non-pursuit, to leave the sameness, comfort and coziness of the unquestioned now, and enter into the hostile world of diversity, discomfort, exclusion, non-truth, corruption, wrong and otherness, in order there to search for, in labor and travail, and find truth.  Truth would be those assertions of fact, not fiction, of wholeness, not abstraction, of endurance, not ephemerality, of decidedness, not fickleness, of humanity, not just materiality, of our common home not just of world, of sacredness not just profanity, in short, the truth that is the imperative of the human being to find and the privilege of the academician to obey – even at the cost of great contentiousness. What may be the objects of university research [and innovation] in a VUCA world are endless.[vii]   They may contribute to its volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, or to calmness, certainty, simplicity and clarity (CCSC).  VUCA and CCSC are not good or evil in themselves; they rather complement each other, as diversity and inclusiveness complement sameness and exclusiveness in a dynamic world. The search for truth is carried out with all the methodological tools of appropriate academic disciplines, but also with the unrelenting tenaciousness of the questioning human being even beyond these disciplines, because in questioning he or she ultimately appreciates being questioned, no matter its disruptiveness and pain, as a demand of interior vocation, not of exterior compensation.  In short it is the pursuit carried out in academic freedom – not just freedom from sundry external constraints relevant to the academic institution, the academician or the student, but especially freedom from disengaged complacency, spiritual sloth and intellectual boredom that reduce the academic pursuit – as G.W.F Hegel once said[viii] – to reheating the same old cabbage over and over again and engaging in an ever-blander tautology not a passionate argument towards the wholeness and holiness of truth. 

[i] cf.  Underscoring mine.

[ii] cf.

[iii] In Laudato Si, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis on Care for our Common Home, he warns against the “technocratic paradigm” (cf nos. 106-135) , the conviction that problems in the world are solved through technological innovation.  In a world blighted by consumerism, however, the technological paradigm seeks always to better respond to run-away human need through innovated technology.  The productive gargantuan required by the consumers’ insatiable needs abuses the planet’s resources even as it discards human beings who have become irrelevant to the productive process.  Instead of capitulating to run-away human need, one must tame and humanize human need.  Here one needs not more consumption but more fulfillment.

[iv] cf.

[v] “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (Philippine 1987 Constitution, Art. 14, Sec. 5.2).  I  interpreted this as institutional academic freedom until Supreme Court Justice and Delegate to the 1987 Constitutional Convention Adolf Ascuna explained to me that the use of the word “in” and not “by” in the provision was to allow for the academic freedom of teachers and students.  This, however, needs to be worked out so that the respective responsibilities of the institution, the teachers and the students work in favor of the fruitful exercise of academic freedom and the benefit of society.  

[vi]  The following tables further analyzing the data of those recognized against data of the university community were provided by the URC through Dr. Lourdesita-Sobrevega Chan.

Table 1

Number of Faculty Members Involved in Research by Higher Education Units and by Employment Status

(2020 January – 2022 December)

Qs. What is the percentage of faculty members (FT & PT) in the Unit who were involved in research?

UnitFull-time Faculty Members (FT)Part -time Faculty Members (PT)
No. of Faculty MembersNo. of ResearchersPercentage of ParticipationNo. of Faculty MembersNo. of ResearchersPercentage of Participation
Non- Academic Faculty3015

Table 2

Number of Completed Research and Number of Involved Faculty Members by Unit

(2020 January – 2022 December)

Q. How many are the completed research per Unit and how many of its faculty members were involved?

UnitNumber of Completed ResearchNumber of ResearchersPercentage
School of Arts and Sciences82959.18
School of Business & Governance5510.2
School of Engineering and Architecture5714.3
School of Nursing148.16
School of Education4*8.16

*For the SOE, only one is part of a research team of a completed research led by another Unit, 1-Field Supervisor of CWSS 13 & Blue Vote, and 2 are Field Interviewers of Blue Vote)

Table 3

Number of Principal and Co-researchers  with Completed Research by Total Number of those Involved in Research and by  Higher Education Units

(2020 January – 2022 December)

Q. What is the number of Principal and Co-Researchers of completed research by Higher Education Units?

No. of Faculty MembersNo. of ResearchersPercentage of ParticipationNo. of Principal and Co-ResearchersPercentage of Participation 
Non- Academic Faculty3015 

*The faculty researchers referred in this Table are the Principal and co-Researchers of the research projects

Table 4

Number of Full-time Faculty Members with Multiple Involvement in Research*

Q. How many of the  faculty researchers in the Higher Education Units have multiple involvement in research?

UnitNo. of  Faculty MembersNo. of those with Multiple InvolvementPercentage (%)

*There are no part-time faculty members with multiple involvement in research

Table 5

Number of Administrative Associate (AAs) Involved in Research by Unit

Q. How many Administrative Associate in the Unit are involved in research?*

UnitNo. of Administrative AssociateNo. of AAs Involved in ResearchPercentage (%)
Non-Academic AA’s (incl. those with Central Administration14332.10

*The Administrative Associates’  involvement in research covers the following (securing official permissions/ clearances from concerned offices where off-campus research is involved, preparation of sampling frame and its implementation (i.e. assist researchers in deployment of field personnel relative to the sampling frame for the day),  data processing, editing of instruments, serves as Field Interviewers & Field Supervisors when needed, assist the researchers in handling field operation, such as dealing with Bgy. Leaders that refused entry of the Team into their barangays despite having given a prior consent; data analysis and power point preparation)

[vii] The following list of objects of university research in academic freedom is not exhaustive, but only exemplary based on the threefold mission of the Society of Jesus that is appropriated by the Ateneo de Davao University:

Participation in the Father’s Work of Reconciliation of Humanity with the Father

The human being. As spirit and body, as knowing, loving, acting, dying, and being before the Absolute.

Health, physical and mental

Truth vs. lies, echo chambers, conspiracy theories, narratives. Part vs. whole.

Sin.  Ethical and moral transgression.

Forgiveness.  Reconciliation.

Religion(s).  Faith(s).  Atheism. Religion- or ideology-based violent extremism. 


Participation in the Father’s Work of Reconciliation of Human Beings with Fellow Human Beings

War, violence, conflict in the world today.  The yet unended quest for peace in Mindanao.

Structures of world, national and local governance

Geo-political implications of the democracy-autocracy opposition in the world today.

Social justice, the common good, transitional justice, esp. pertinent to Mindanao

Politics towards social friendship and fraternity

Consumerism, alienated economy: the technocratic paradigm, discarded human beings

Technology and the elevation/degradation of humanity

Education towards peace and justice

Participation in the Father’s Work of Reconciliation of Humanity with Creation, our Common Home

Preservation and protection of the environment

Climate change, pollution, water, loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, global inequality

Sharing the planet with other creatures in fraternity.  Habitats for biodiversity.

Consumerism and an alienated economy: the technocratic paradigm

Mining vs. agriculture vs. tourism

Coral reefs:  the rainforests of the ocean

[viii] Cf. Introduction to The Philosophy of Right.

[Photos by Gian Carlo Tancontian]


About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Address and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s